In the late 50s and early 60s, French filling station owner Henri Julien had a hobby racing cars. He wasn’t a great driver, and eventually took an interest in the mechanical side of things. By 1969, the filling station in the small Provencal village of Gonfaron had launched its first single-seater for Formula France and formed a small racing team to enter it, and continued into making Formula 3 chassis without much success. The company, run by Henri Julien and Belgian mechanic-designer Christian Vanderpleyn, was dubbed Automobiles Gonfaronaises Sportives.
In 1978, despite not having much luck in F3, the team moved up to F2 as one of the few teams constructing their own chassis. For two years they failed to score, but gradually made progress, winning their first race at the last race of the 1984 season with one Philippe Streiff at the wheel. In 1985, AGS moved into the new Formula 3000 series, and by 1986 thoughts had firmly turned to taking the ultimate step to F1. A toe was dipped in the water at the Italian and Portuguese Grands Prix that summer with Ivan Capelli driving a car that was a modified F3000 chassis and had been tested by Didier Pironi, the first F1 car the former Ferrari ace had driven since his 1982 accident.
By the start of 1987, the team were about to commence a full season of Formula One but were still based in a small filling station in the south of France with a maximum of 7 employees – just getting this far had been a triumph in itself. With the Ford DFZ 3.5l atmospheric engine in the back, the team wouldn’t be winning any races, but did have the Colin Chapman and Jim Clark competitions to contest.
14. Pascal Fabre
Born in Lyon in 1960, Pascal Fabre’s early racing career was in saloon rather than open-wheel racing and by 1983 he was entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans race but made the move into single-seaters shortly afterwards. He drove for AGS in Formula 2 and, although unavailable for their 1986 foray, was a natural first choice for the squad’s big move.