Born to a Paris butcher and his wife in April 1937, the late Jean-Pierre Beltoise had won the incredible number of 11 French national motorcycle racing championships, in three years, by the time he was 28. After that, he made a profession out of being a champion of many forms of four-wheel motor sport until he retired at the end of 1974. It didn’t stop there, however, because he took the job of tester for the infant Ligier team in the mid-’70s and had high hopes of driving the car in anger until Jacques Lafitte was chosen in his place. He also took up other forms of motor sport and became champion of them.
The diminutive Beltoise was a French motorcycle champion from 1961 to 1964, winning the 50-cc, 125-cc, 250-cc and 500-cc class titles. He competed in World Championship events on Moto Morini, Kreidler and Bultaco bikes during the same years, but with much less success. Throughout, Jean-Pierre had his eye on racing cars, which he started to do in 1963 with co-driver Claude Bobrawski, coming 11th in the year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Renault-Gordini-powered René Bonnet Aerodjet LM6, beating Monte Carlo Rally winner Paddy Hopkirk in the process. But then Beltoise had a huge accident in a Matra MS1-Ford/Holbay, which he rolled wildly in the 12 Hours of Reims in July ’63. He was thrown out as his blazing car jerked and turned through the air, but severely broke his left arm. Beltoise was out of motor racing for some months while the arm healed, before returning in 1965 with little movement in that left arm. Still, he won the 1965 French Formula Three Championship in a Matra MS5-Ford.