Jean Rondeau

A car drawing quite a lot of attention at last weekends Walter Hayes Trophy was the Rondeau M585 driven by Thierry Boissiere.
The French car hadn’t been raced at Silverstone since 1984 when Andy Wallace won the Formula Ford Championship driving an M585. The same year that the French Formula Ford Championship was introduced.

 

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The Rondeau M585 driven by Thierry Boissiere at the Walter Hayes Trophy Photo ©Andy Fitzpatrick

The Formula Ford Rondeau was built by racing driver and constructor Jean Rondeau in 1985. The Frenchman drove in the Le Mans’s 24 Hour endurance race several times in the early 70’s but lack of results and frustration with the cars he was racing led him to build his own. He obtained sponsorship from French wallpaper firm Inaltera and under a year later an Inaltera branded Rondeau built car, achieved 8th place at Le Mans 1976 winning the GTP Class.

Financial problems hit Rondeau’s sponsorship firm, causing them to pull out leaving Rondeau without financial backing. However Rondeau managed to build a car, the M378 to compete in the 1978 Le Man’s race coming in 9th place and again winning the GTP Class. Rondeau in fact continues to be the only driver to have built and driven his own car entered in the Le Mans 24 Hour race.

Rondeau continued his quest to succeed at Le Mans throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s, winning the race in 1980 with the M379, beating closest rivals Porsche.

In 1982 Rondeau set his sites on the World Sportscar Championship, constructing a new car, the Ford backed M482. However the car was found to need further development so Rondeau entered with the M382. Porsche went on to controversially take the Championship after an FIA ruling allowed them to gather points from a privately entered car at Nurburgring.

From that point on Rondeau never achieved the results it previously had, the company finally going into liquidation in 1985. Rondeau himself continued car construction projects including the Formula Ford Chassis and working with Lancia on sportscar prototypes. Jean Rondeau died in December 1985 when his car was hit by a train.

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The Rondeau M585 driven by Thierry Boissiere at the Walter Hayes Trophy Photo ©Andy Fitzpatrick

 

Allison Remzi                                          Header photo ©Andy Fitzpatrick