Ligier JS11

Ligier JS11

by Luca Dal Monte

Between 1976 and 1978, Ligier established itself among the leading teams in Formula 1. But between January and February 1979, the French team founded by Guy Ligier suddenly became the car to beat, thanks to two victories, including a one-two finish, in the opening two races of the new world championship in Argentina and Brazil.

The mystery is soon revealed. The JS11 is the car that, more than any other, learned the aerodynamic lessons taught to everyone the previous year by Colin Chapman’s Lotus 79. But there’s more.

Ligier JS11 Image 1


Jacques Laffite: With two victories in the first two races of the season, Laffite becomes the number one contender for the 1979 World Championship title. The subsequent lack of reliability of the JS11 will greatly complicate matters. But despite the emergence of the Ferrari 312 T4 first, and then the Williams FW07, thanks to three consecutive third places in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, Jacques will remain one of the protagonists of the season until nearly the end.

Patrick Depailler: In early February 1979, Patrick finishes second in Brazil behind his teammate. At the end of April, he secures victory in the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama and rightfully enters the quest for the title. Then, after finishing fifth in Monaco, a disastrous hang-gliding accident forces him to stay away from the tracks for the rest of the season.

Jacky Ickx: The Belgian, who effectively retired from Formula 1 halfway through the previous season, returns to replace Depailler. He will achieve a sixth place at Silverstone and a fifth at Zandvoort before leaving Formula 1 for good.

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Ligier JS11 Image 2

Thanks to the abandonment of the powerful but heavy and fuel-thirsty 12-cylinder Matra engine that Ligier had been using up to that point, replaced by the lighter, smaller and narrower 8-cylinder Ford-Cosworth, French designer Gerard Ducarouge was able to fully utilize the side pods to channel airflow under the inverted wing and consequently keep the car glued to the ground. It will be by looking at the JS11 that, in that same 1979, and for the same reason, Gordon Murray will decide to get rid of the Alfa Romeo 12-cylinder boxer engine and return to the smaller and lighter Ford-Cosworth V8.

Starting triumphantly, the JS 11 suffered from various reliability issues throughout the season, forcing the drivers into frequent retirements. From an aesthetic point of view, however, the Ligier JS11 is one of the most beautiful Formula 1 cars ever. In line with Ligier tradition, the JS designation recalls driver Jo Schlesser, friend and former teammate of Guy Ligier, who died at Rouen in the 1968 French Grand Prix.

Ligier JS11 Image 3