Welcome to the beginning of a new series which explores the A-Z of Formula 1 Constructors which have long been consigned to the history books.
From AGS to Zakspeed, this series looks at some of the most obscure and often forgotten teams in F1’s legacy, whilst also injecting the occasional icon.
Automobiles Gonfaronaises Sportive (AGS) was founded in 1970 by Henri Julien in France, after considerable success as a racing car driver and builder throughout the 1960s.
It took the team sixteen years to break into the world of F1, after a mediocre era building cars for many of France’s junior single-seater categories. Initially encouraged by the success of the first AGS, the JH1, in Formule France, no championships ever materialised for the team.
In 1978, AGS were handed the opportunity to participate in Formula 2, but the team struggled in this higher level of motorsport. It took AGS over two years to build a competitive car and fully showcase its potential on track.
This was eventually accomplished in the form of a surprise win at the 1980 Pau Grand Prix courtesy of Richard Dallest. Dallest also scored a series of consecutive points finishes and ended the season in sixth. However, it was Philippe Streiff who proved to be the star driver of the AGS team.
After a series of points finishes and a victory at Brands Hatch in 1984, the Frenchman finished the season in fourth place.
After a plan to move to F1 in 1985 was dropped in favour of a year in Formula 3000, AGS finally completed the move in time for the 1986 Italian Grand Prix at Monza with the appalling JH21C. A combination of a botched Renault chassis and subpar Motori Moderni engine made produced a debut to forget for the French outlet.
In 1987 the AGS JH22 was aided by a Ford DFV engine, ubiquitous at the time. Despite this arguable improvement, the JH22 scored points just once that season, with a sixth-place finish from Roberto Moreno.
The 1988 JH23 was the first sign of genuine improvement for AGS. It continuously ran in the midfield, courtesy of the efforts of Philippe Streiff.
Unfortunately, the car was plagued with reliability issues which, combined with staff walkouts, left the team without a single point that season. Streiff’s efforts peaked that year with an eighth-place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix.
1989 started badly for AGS. Despite a vastly uprated chassis in the form of the JH23B, Streiff suffered a horrendous crash in testing and broke his neck.
His replacement, Joachim Winkelhock, failed to qualify once and so the car did not make the grid until the German was replaced by Gabriele Tarquini. His biggest achievement was an impressive sixth-place at the Mexican Grand Prix that year.
The beginning of the end for AGS started by the 1990 season, with new boss Hughes de Chaunac lasting only half of the season before quitting abruptly. In terms of on-track performance, the combination of Tarquini and Yannick Dalmas failed to qualify on most occasions in the JH24 and JH25 that year.
An Italian duo, Patrizio Cantu and Gabriele Rumi, took ownership of AGS in 1991, but shut the team down before the season was out. Not even an all-new driver line-up of Fabrizio Barbazza and Olivier Grouillard and the new JH27 car could save the team.
Following a disastrous 1991 Spanish Grand Prix, the team was closed down for good and the existence of AGS has been banished to the history books for many.