The firm entered the automobile business with the Ligier JS 2, a central-engined sports car for the road powered by the same Maserati V6 engine as the Citroën SM. The Maserati V6 engine had a modern design and the JS 2 was considered by many as a well designed car with a very good power-to-weight ratio. The final SMs were also produced in the Ligier factory in Vichy. The 1973 energy crisis caused such a decline in the market for the JS 2 that production ceased soon after, and the firm changed its focus to microcars. Ligier is now owned by Piaggio.
Ligier is best known for its Formula One team that operated from 1976 to 1996. Ligier entered Formula One in 1976 with a Matra V12-powered car, and won a Grand Prix with Jacques Laffite in 1977. This is generally considered to have been the first all-French victory in the Formula One World Championship.
The deal with Matra ceased in 1979 and Ligier built a Cosworth-powered wing-car the Ligier JS11. The JS11 begin the season winning the first 2 races in the hands of Laffite. However, the JS11 faced serious competition when Williams and Ferrari introduced aerodynamically modified cars. The rest of the season was less successful for the French Marque.
The JS11 and its successors made Ligier one of the top teams through the early 1980s. Despite substantial sponsorship from Talbot and public French companies - mainly SEITA and Française des Jeux (deals which François Mitterrand helped to put in place) - the competitiveness of the team began to decline around 1982; but the team survived until 1996. In the mid 1980's, the team benefitted from a "free" Renault turbo engine deal. This made them more competitive, though not a frontrunner, despite significant budgets from companies such as Gitanes, Loto and Elf. When Renault left the sport in 1986, Ligier was left without a bona fide engine supplier. An abortive collaboration with Alfa Romeo was followed by a customer engine arrangement with first BMW and then Mugen-Honda.
In the last years Ligier had little public support and lacked funds. Surprisingly the team was somewhat more competitive during this period, perhaps due to the talents of aerodynamicist Frank Dernie, whose skills had developed the Williams of Alan Jones that so regularly beat the Ligiers in the late 1970s. The talent of the young engineer Loïc Bigois may have played some role as well. But this also brings some to think that, in previous years, Guy Ligier was more worried about making money than restoring the team competitiveness. Famous for his histrionics and boisterous pitlane explosions, the recalcitrant Guy Ligier added greatly to the character of Formula One events from the mid 1970s onward, if not through the competitiveness of his teams. As one F1 commentator famously said, "You always had the feeling that even when they were winning they didn't know why..."
In 1996 the Mugen Honda-powered JS43 car turned out to be a well balanced car, if not on par with the Williams entries. It became a surprise winner as well, with the team taking the chequered flag with Olivier Panis at the Monaco Grand Prix, albeit in a race of heavy attrition. While the victory was a famous moment for French Motorsport (the first "all-french" victory at Monaco since René Dreyfus in Bugatti in 1930), it must be said it came very much against the run of play in a race in which only four cars finished the full distance.
The team was sold to Alain Prost soon after and became Prost GP in 1997. Prost GP, despite substantial financial backing by large private French companies failed to make the team competitive and went bankrupt in 2002.
Ligier JS49 (2005)Edit
In 2005, Ligier returned to sports cars with a "gentlemen driver" car, the JS49, a sport prototype .
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