In 1986 AGS entered Formula 1, after obtaining reasonable success in Formula 2 and Formula 3000, with its first F1 car, the JH21. This car caused some curiosity in the press due to the fact that it was mostly made of wood. Team structure was pretty modest for that time and so the car was hand made in a shed. It would run in Italy and Portugal with its Motori Moderni engines driven by the Italian Ivan Capelli. In Italy, Capelli was qualified in 25th and in the race he retired after 31 laps with a flat tyre. Portugal wasn’t much better also starting 25th but retiring only after 6 laps with a transmission failure. The team then got cash strapped and couldn’t afford to transport all the car parts to Mexico and Australia. Following these troubles, AGS decided to not run the final races of the season and concentrate their efforts for 1987.
Weeks before AGS first race in F1, Didier Pironi tested for the French team but he decided not to race. Pironi felt he lacked pace to keep driving in F1.
In 1987 the team would finally do its first complete season on Formula 1. Since the turbo engines would be banned in 1989, AGS swapped the very weak Motori Moderni engines for the simpler and functional Ford DFZ engines. The driver would be the unknown Pascal Fabre who got a few results in Formula 3000.
The championship begins and, from what one could tell, the JH22, which was actually the 1983 Renault RE40, wasn’t similar in performance to their most direct competition (Minardi and Osella) but managed to be quite reliable finishing the first 7 races of the season, always lapped a few times. Even though he managed to bring the car home, Fabre turned out to be a very slow driver. Really, really slow. So much so that in the second half of the season, when Osella and Coloni brought only one car, AGS could not qualify for 3 races (Italy, Portugal and Mexico).
After this, AGS released Fabre and brought in his place the Brazilian Roberto Moreno. Moreno did the two final races and showed imediately that he was much faster than Fabre. He managed to do a brilliant race in Australia arriving 7th, three laps down. That result turned out to be 6th after Senna desqualification because his car was outside regulations. In the end Moreno had won AGS first point prompting huge celebrations by the team. That point meant AGS finished the season in 11th together with March and Ligier. With that result, they won the right to free transport in 1988. It also helped to bring new sponsors on board.
AGS Special: Part 2 – 1988 and 1989 seasons
With that point won in 1987 by Moreno, AGS cash flow improved for 1988. When everything pointed to keep Moreno in the racing seat, Streiff, who had just left Tyrrell along with some sponsors, ended up replacing Roberto Moreno. Once more AGS was a one car operation. Its new car, the JH23, kept the Ford Cosworth DFZ engine and had the mission of improving on 1987 results which meant to score more points.
In fact, AGS was really good that season, with its car being very good for their usual standards. The proof came when they managed to qualify for every single race incluinding 12th at Monaco, 10th at Canada and 11th in the United States. But whenever they got close to the points, the car broke down. Streiff managed to finish only 6 races, being the best of them Suzuka in 8th and Estoril in 9th. The much desired points did not came in the end and AGS finished the season scoreless again, which was a pity since they had the potential to score. All the team hopes were now turned to 1989.
In 1989 the team wanted to have the car and the performance of 88 but forget the disappointing results. In order to do that it kept the JH23 chassis, which they felt it still had room to improve and placed their hopes on the turbo engines ban, which in the meanwhile had became effective, to close the gap to the front of the grid. That gave hope to AGS but also the fact that, for the first time, they presented themselves with a second car for the championship like everyone else (excluiding Eurobrun).
The chosen drivers were Phillipe Streiff and the german Joachim Winkelhock. Unfortunately things got off to a bad start because Phillipe Streiff got seriously injured in a crash which left him paraplegic. That meant the team tried to qualify in Jacarepaguá only with Winkelhock, promptly failing to do so. Now the problem was to replace Streiff with someone as equally capable. So, Gabriele Tarquini was brought in. Tarquini was going to run for First but since they failed the FIA crash test he found himself without a drive until AGS came along and gave him the task of leading them at Imola. Tarquini didn’t disappointed and, after qualifying in 18th, managed to finish in a great 7th place, being this the best result for the team since Australia 1987. In Monaco things got even better with the 13th spot on the grid. Unfortunately it was a could have been race for AGS. Tarquini
got himself up to 5th with 4th a distinct possibility only for his car to let him down stopping with electrical problems on lap 46.
But in the next race AGS finally got what they wanted so much by scoring a point with Tarquini in Mexico after starting in 17th. With that 6th place, AGS managed its second point in their history and hoped to keep going straight into qualification and avoiding relegation to pre-qualification. In Phoenix, Tarquini qualified in 23rd and got close to score more points in the race, finishing in 7th. The team managed to qualify for two more races, Canada and France, but Tarquini didn’t finish any of those. AGS was noticing that the JH23 was quickly becoming outdated and decided to bring the new JH24 in time for the British GP. AGS also swapped one of its drivers, Winkelhock, who never managed to qualify for a single race, left his place to Yannick Dalmas who was driving for Lola at the time. With Dalmas and the new car AGS should have improved, but having a new car didn’t always translated in a step forward and so AGS results got worst. Both Tarquini and Dalmas gave everything they got but not even that made AGS to pre-qualify, having finally been forced to do it after insuficient results. This also worsened the team situation who didn’t raced again that season. If one can get some confort, AGS finished 16th in the championship with a single point and a valuable lesson: In a winning team one does not change. And in a car that works one does not change too. AGS must regret until today having made the JH24, a trully forgettable car.
AGS, at the end of 1989, tested the MGN W12 engines, created by Guy Negre, in Grand Sambuc. The engine didn’t perform and the team prefered to keep the Cosworth DFR for 1990.
I will do the final part after tomorrow (This is really the final sentence!)
Special AGS: Part 3 – 1990 and 1991 seasons
After 1989 AGS lost many sponsors and was in deep financial crisis. Even so they pushed on the preparations and kept fighting to be on the grid in 1990. In order to do this they stuck with their pair of drivers: Gabriele Tarquini and Yannick Dalmas. They also produced a whole new chassis, penned by Michel Costa, which was still powered by the Ford DFR V8. AGS trusted that this combination would work avoiding the second half of the 1989 season fiasco.
However the season started with both the drivers failing to qualify in the United States. In Brazil, though, Dalmas managed to start from 26th on the grid only to retire after 26 laps with suspension failure. After these results the team went on four races without managing to pre-qualify ending this drought in Paul Ricard, France. Dalmas, at his home race, started in 26th, again, but this time he finished the race ending in 17th although 5 laps behind the winner.
Tarquini would qualify 26th on the grid in Silverstone, retiring with engine related problems in lap 41.
In the second half of the season AGS had a small improvement in their results because Onyx, who furiously disputed qualification with AGS, folded leaving AGS without serious competition since Coloni, Eurobrun and Life were pretty hopeless taking into account the F1 level. If AGS still had hope of scoring in 1989, in 1990 things were entirely different. The team still managed to qualify for most races with only one car and often couldn’t make it altogether. In Jerez they ended up qualifying both cars though with Tarquini in 22th and Dalmas in 23th. That happened to be their best race of the season. Dalmas would finish in a respectful 9th, only a lap behind.
But in the end AGS only did 9 races from a possible 31 (counting both drivers) and the best they could make was a 9th in Spain. AGS didn’t even came close to score and that pressured even further their already delicate financial situation.
AGS was already in serious financial crisis and would go into 1991 trying to revive the good moments of 1988 and part of 1989. They still went with Tarquini but hired Stefan Johansson to be the second driver. Nevertheless the team kept the Ford DFR V8 engine and the JH25 chassis due to the lack of money to work on a new one.
In the first race of the year, in Phoenix, Tarquini managed to qualify his car in 22nd finishing the race a respectable 8th, 4 laps behind. In Brazil Tarquini put his AGS again on the grid, this time in 26th. Unfortunately, suspension troubles were already brewing and he did not even completed the first lap.
Even though Johansson never managed to qualify up to that point, AGS was still optimistic and, keeping their quest for better results, sacked Johansson bringing in his place the Italian Fabrizio Barbazza who brought with him some money, easing somewhat the AGS financial burden. After failing to qualify for San Marino, AGS managed to put a car into the grid in Monaco, with Tarquini starting in 20th. His goal was to try and get those points that escaped from his hands in 1989. However that dream ended after 9 laps when the gearbox eventually failed. AGS barely knew that this race would turn out to be their last since both Tarquini and Barbazza failed to qualify in all the other races.
After Silverstone the team was relegated to the dreaded pre-qualification session making it night-on impossible to qualify. In a final effort AGS launches the JH27 right before the Italian GP. It turned out that this new chassis wasn’t really a step forward and both pilots were still failing to qualify. After the Portuguese GP, Tarquini took his talent to Fondmetal which had a better car than AGS. To replace Tarquini, AGS picked up Oliver Grouillard who had just got the boot from Fondmetal. Nothing changed though and AGS ended up not participating in the final races of the season, finishing its venture in F1 with a less than respectable record but still having some fine, dignified moments in F1.
Today, AGS is a school for racing drivers of several grades and levels. http://www.agsformule1.com
Race weekends: 124 (Started in 47)
Best starting position: Phillipe Streiff, 10th (Canada)
Best finishing positing: 6th with Roberto Moreno and Grabriele Tarquini (Australia 1987 and Mexico 1989)
Best championship classification: 11th in 1987
Drivers who raced for the team:
Ivan Capelli (Italy)
Pascal Fabre (France)
Roberto Pupo Moreno (Brazil)
Philippe Streiff (France)
Gabriele Tarquini (Italy)
Joachim Winkelhock (Germany)
Yannick Dalmas (France)
Olivier Grouillard (France)
Stefan Johansson (Sweden)
Fabrizio Barbazza (Italy)