There are some defining occasions in life. Vital decisions, job changes, unique opportunities, a special invitation… Like any other ‘job’ in the world, motor racing faces all these circumstances and, generally, career success depends on a multitude of factors. But what happens when, in different periods of your life, one of these countless factors has a tiny, little problem? It may have no consequences, hold back your progress, open another door, or… slowly erode your chances to be among the very great. Proof of it is a rather unknown Frenchman, Patrick Gaillard.
Patrick Gaillard was born in Paris on the 12th of February, 1952, and soon experienced the smell of petrol and rubber since his father had a garage to host his van and truck rental dealership. Perhaps that environment sparked the interest in mechanical sports, and in his early teens Gaillard made his debut on the thriving motorcycle racing scene, even reaching the French National Championship, where he occasionally rode a 350cc Honda. Young Patrick was a gifted driver and his parents didn’t quite disapprove of his career choice, but motorcycle racing was far more dangerous than four-wheeled racing, so they took the opportunity of his forced career interruption for military service to persuade him that, if he was to be a racing driver, at least he should switch to cars. Thus, in 1974, Gaillard enrolled at the Volant Winfield at Magny-Cours – precisely the year when support switched from Shell to Elf – he finished as a semi-finalist. It was a good way to start, above all because, unlike most of his opponents, he had no karting or any kind of other four-wheel background. Continue reading