For my portion of today’s three-way Ligier joint effort, we’ll be looking specifically at the competition variants of the JS2. Check out Jobjoris’ post on the road cars here, and Small Scale Sydney’s great background post on the JS2 here. Jonee will be posting a detailed look at Guy Ligier and his company over on Oppo later.
Guy Ligier’s road car was always going to go racing. It would dishonor Jo Schlesser’s memory if it didn’t. To that end, the JS2 would develop the concept first seen in the JS1 racer first seen in 1969, using a strong backbone to support independent wishbone suspension all around, with the engine and transaxle in back. Also developed from Frua’s design of the JS1 was its light and aerodynamic fiberglass body with enclosed headlamps. The JS2 racers, of which there were only three made, would use a specialized aluminum version of this platform, allowed by the Group 5 rules.
As you’ve read elsewhere, the road versions were to be powered by a 2.6L Ford “Cologne” V6 as fitted to the RS 2600 Capri before Ford pulled the plug, fearing competition for their stillborn GT70 rally project. This led Ligier to Citroen’s door, where they borrowed the tax-dodging 2.7L Maserati V6 and 5-speed transaxle from the SM. The racers would receive the full 3.0L displacement and double the valves (though the road engines were 4-cams, they only had two valves per cylinder), and at first made around 270hp in racing trim before being tuned to 330hp. Good power, but it came at a price as DNFs due to mechanical failures plagued the team through 1972-3.
The cars still greatly resembled their roadgoing counterparts early on as well, with only modest flares and minimal aerodynamic addenda, painted in BP’s yellow and green livery. The aero was developed further for 1973, with the little JS2 edging closer to a proper silhouette car on its way to its final form. Competing against the likes of the mighty Porsche RSR, Lancia Stratos, DeTomaso Pantera, Ford Capris, and others, the JS2s showed great speed at the 1973 Tour Auto before tumbling down the order with ignition issues.
For 1974 the engine would be developed to 330hp while finding the necessary reliability to finish (some) races, and things started to come together with money from Citroen and Total. Guy Chasseuil would win the Le Mans 4 hours early in the 1974 season, Alain Serpaggi and Jacques Laffite would take 8th at the Le Mans 24 (#15 above), and JS2s would take the top two spots at the Tour Auto that year.
That’s the winning car above, chassis 2538 73 03, crewed by Gerard Larrousse, Johnny Rives, and Jean-Pierre Nicolas. Its sister car, #140, placed second. But perhaps 03's biggest fight lay ahead.
For 1975, Ligier eschewed the troublesome Maserati V6 for the standard-bearer Cosworth DFV (for Double Four Valve, as it was essentially two FVAs joined at the crank). Good for 460hp, this gave the fully developed JS2 the steam needed to contend for overall victory at Le Mans in Matra’s absence, and that was the goal.
They very nearly did it too, with the now Cosworth-Ford powered chassis 03 (the TdF winner) driven by Jean-Louise Lafosse and Guy Chasseuil fighting the (also DFV powered) Gulf-Mirage GR8 of Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell for the duration of the event before taking second overall only one lap behind. A remarkable result for a closed road-based car in that era. Interestingly, another French car that was continually developed and repowered to Ford would win the race only 5 years later, driven by a bearded man who also drove these on occasion. Expect that feature soon.
The TdF model above left is by IXO and was found for me by Jobjoris, you’ve seen that one before. You’ll note the accurate increased ride height for that one, as it had to deal with public roads in addition to circuit work. The #15 1974 Le Mans car (right, above) is a Spark that I was very fortunate to score on eBay for very cheap, and it’s interesting to compare the two. The Spark shows its premium nature in the wheels and paint quality in particular, but honestly when side by side it’s hard to see with the naked eye. I’m still trying to score one of the Cosworth versions.
This has been fun doing another joint post series, thanks for reading and have a great weekend!