Considered one of the best French rally drivers of his generation, Jean-Pierre Nicolas joined Peugeot Sports in 1976 after a long career with Alpine.

For the Nicolas family, motor racing is a family affair. The father, Georges, regularly participated in regional rallies and during his childhood, Jean-Pierre, who was born on 22 January 1945 in Marseille, followed his father's exploits with an absent-minded eye. His interest in competition was aroused when he was offered an Alpine A 106 for his 18th birthday. He then learned to drive on the small roads in the hinterland of the city of Marseille and the racing virus caught him in turn...

In March 1963, his father asked him to be his teammate in the Mistral Rally on a Renault Dauphine 1093. As his passion for racing grew, Jean-Pierre abandoned his studies to work as a prospector at Renault, while seriously considering a career in sports. In 1964, after several experiences as a navigator, he took over the wheel by replacing his sick father at the Rallye Liège-Sofia-Liège. He continued to compete as a co-driver, notably in the 1964 Tour de Corse and the 1965 Monte Carlo, before becoming an official Renault driver in the 1965 Mistral Rally at the wheel of an R8 Gordini, with which he won the Touring category.

Jean-Pierre Nicolas spent the second part of his sporting career with Peugeot, first as a driver from 1976, then as Sports Director from 1984. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Peugeot

Factory driver for Alpine

During the next three years, he distinguished himself with this car, associated with the drivers of the Renault factory team such as Jean-François Piot or Jean Vinatier. He scored his first international victory at the Volta de Madeira in 1967 and his good results earned him a place on the Alpine team in 1969. He began his career with this manufacturer by coming 2nd in the Rallye de la Méditerranée. In 1969, he also won the Critérium Neige et Glace, the Lyon-Charbonnières Rally, the Mistral Rally and the Coupe des Alpes. He continued his successful career over the next two seasons, winning the Rally of Spain in 1970 and 1971, as well as the Lyon-Charbonnières, Antibes, Geneva and Portugal Rallies and the Ronde Cévenole in 1971. He soon rose to the top of the rallying elite with some fine podium finishes in renowned international rallies such as the Monte Carlo (3rd) and the Acropolis Rally (3rd) in 1970, as well as a 2nd place in the Acropolis in 1971. That year he was crowned French Rally Champion. He remained with Alpine until the end of 1975, winning more major events such as the Olympia Rally in 1972, the Tour of Corsica in 1973 (which was his first victory in a World Championship round), and the Rally of Morocco in 1974. At the same time, he won the Tour de France Automobile in a Ligier JS2, with Gérard Larrousse and Johnny Rives.

In the 1969 Lyon-Charbonnières-Stuttgart-Solitude Rally, Jean-Pierre Nicolas finished 5th in his Alpine-Renault A110. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Archives & Collections 

Second wind with Peugeot

Against all odds, given his excellent record of success, Alpine did not renew his contract for the 1976 season and Jean-Pierre Nicolas became an independent driver, choosing his races and his mounts from time to time, while running the family garage. It was at this time that he came into contact with Peugeot for whom he competed in several African rallies with a 504. At the same time, he won the 24 Hours of Chamonix in a Toyota Corolla with Jean-Luc Thérier. The following year, he continued his collaboration with the Sochaux-based brand and won the 24 Hours of Chamonix (with Henri Pescarolo) in a 104 ZS and the Mobil Economy Run in a 504 diesel. At the beginning of 1978, Jean-Pierre Nicolas won the Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche 911 Carrera RS, then triumphed in the African Safari and Bandama rallies in a Peugeot 504 V6. The following season, he competed mainly in a Peugeot 104 ZS and took a fine 2nd place in the Rallye des 1000 Pistes with Jean Todt. His career then became more irregular, his best results being 2nd in the Safari Rally in 1980 and the Rallye des 1000 Pistes in 1982.

Jean-Pierre Nicolas made his debut with the 205 Turbo 16 in the 1984 Tour de Corse where he finished 4th and won two Special Events. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Peugeot

Sporting Director of PTS

n December 1981, Peugeot Talbot Sport was created and Jean Todt was appointed Director. The following year, PTS announces its intention to enter the World Rally Championship for 1984 and the 205 Turbo 16 programme is launched. After its homologation in Group B, Jean-Pierre Nicolas is in charge of the numerous tests of the Peugeot 205 T16. And it is logically him who is designated, with Ari Vatanen, for its baptism of fire at the Tour of Corsica, at the beginning of May 1984. A few months later, in September, after finishing 5th in the San Remo Rally, Jean-Pierre Nicolas hung up his helmet to take over the management of the PTS customer competition department. He is in charge of promotional events as well as the 306 Maxi programme which will relaunch Peugeot in the World Rally Championship. In 1999, he was appointed Director of Sports Programmes and under his leadership, the 206 WRC was crowned World Champion from 2000 to 2002. In March 2005, he was appointed Director of Peugeot Sport, a position he left in August 2006 for a well-deserved retirement.

Jean-Pierre Nicolas came second in the 1969 Monte Carlo Rally in his Alpine-Renault A110.. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Archives & Collections

African successes

African rallies have regularly smiled on Jean-Pierre Nicolas who has won several times in the most prestigious events on this continent. He won the Rallye du Maroc in 1968 (Renault 8 Gordini), in 1974 (Alpine A110 1800) and in 1976 (Peugeot 504 TI). He also won the Safari Rally, as well as the Bandama Rally in the Ivory Coast in 1978 in a Peugeot 504 Coupé Group 4. In the Bandama, he had previously finished 2nd in 1976, again in a Peugeot 504. His last great performance in Africa was his 2nd place in the 1980 Safari Rally (Opel Ascona 400).

Two Le Mans participations

In the course of his sporting career, Jean-Pierre Nicolas only competed in a few circuit races, preferring instead to fight alone against the clock in rally events. However, he did contest the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1968 and 1969 for the Alpine team. The first time he was partnered by another rally driver, Jean-Claude Andruet, in a factory A220 and finished 14th overall while winning the Performance Index, as well as his 1,101 to 1,150cc class. During his second participation, he shared the wheel of an A220 with Jean-Luc Thérier and retired at the 12th hour (engine).