George-Francis “Johnny” Servoz-Gavin died recently, at the early age of 64, in his hometown of Grenoble. He was one of the many early graduates of the famed Magny Cours racing school and raced in the French national Coupes de Provinces where various French regions supported different drivers. His success in F3 with his Brabham got him a drive for Matra in 1966, which soon resulted in him becoming French F3 champion. He made his F1 debut at Monaco in 1967 for Matra, and then stood in for Jackie Stewart there in 1968, where he qualified 2nd and was leading until he made contact with a barrier. Servoz-Gavin went on to claim the European F2 title for Matra in 1969 and finished a career best 2nd at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1968. He was signed to drive alongside Stewart at Tyrrell for 1970, but was injured in an off-road accident where he was hit in the eye by a tree branch. When he subsequently failed to qualify at Monaco in 1970, he lost confidence and retired. Sadly, he was so badly injured in 1982, in a fire on board his boat, that he had to be resuscitated.
On a personal level, I met him a few years ago at Goodwood, and spent several days with this incredibly kind and open man, who showed no signs of the alleged “wild boy” he had been portrayed to be in the 1960s. He was immensely proud that he had been able to race at the highest levels, and yet was very self-effacing. After a few days of talking about “the old days and old friends,” he said to me: “Wow, it’s like we are brothers.” I’m very sad to see him gone.
By Ed McDonough