The former Williams driver Patrick Neve has died aged sixty-seven on Monday. The Belgian was the team’s first Grand Prix winner and was seen by some as the natural successor to Jacky Ickx.
Born Patrick Marie Ghislain Pierre Simon Stanislas Neve de Mevergnies in 1949, the Belgian gave up his privileged background to work at the Jim Russell Racing Drivers’ School in Britain, where his duties included sweeping up before he graduated to the role of instructor.
He then made his way into Formula Ford making twelve starts between 1970 and 73 where he made twelve starts earning a drive with Lola, with the help of Bernie Ecclestone’s right-hand man at the Formula One Constructors’ Association.
He then moved into Formula Three, driving the Safir that was designed by Ray Jessop, who had worked at Brabham before conceiving Ron Dennis’s stillborn Formula 1 Rondel project (reborn as the Token in ’74). He finished fourth, despite using the older Ford twin-cam powerplant, but impressed with his handling winning at Knockhill and second in Monaco.
He moved into F1 in 1976, debuting at the non-championship round at Brands Hatch before racing at the Belgian Grand Prix and replacing Chris Amon at Ensign for the French GP.
With Frank Williams having split with Walter Wolf after a disastrous liaison in 1976, Williams bounced back with his new team in ’77, buying what he thought was a one-year-old March and recruiting Neve to drive.
Neve has a starting role in the in the International Trophy European Formula 2 round. Driving the works March development car, he romped away from the pack, before a pitstop caused by a loose wheel dropped him to third.
However his F1 season was not great, a struggling Williams team meant his best finish was at Monza with seventh place. From 1979, he signed for Kauhsen which withdrew mid-season.
Outside F1 he won the 24 Hours of Spa in 1978 in a BMWi and the 1977 Zolder round of the European Touring Car Championship with Dieter Quester in an Alpina BMW CSL.