After the fiasco of 1987’s engine deals (Alfa-Romeo flouncing off after criticism from Arnoux, replacement Megatrons being a millstone), Ligier are another team switching early to normally-aspirated engines in the hope of gaining a year’s experience before everyone else has to as well. Ligier are another team using John Judd’s engine and Michel Tetu has drawn a neat chassis to put it in. The JS31 is ultra low and mounts two fuel tanks astride the engine, whose cylinder heads area exposed above the bodywork.Inside, the car mounts power steering which will drain engine power but should help on twisty circuits in particular.
Joining Arnoux is his erstwhile replacement at Ferrari, Stefan Johansson, who found himself out of a drive with Senna’s move to McLaren. Undoubted talent there, but Ligier don’t want to become a rest home for drivers past their prime.
25. René Arnoux
Ligier’s 1987 car was best described as a catastrophe on wheels, and it was Arnoux who scored its only point on its second race, in Belgium. After that, it was just one failure after another and Arnoux and Ghinzani put together 10 finished between them. Despite all this, there is a sense that Arnoux is phoning it in now, and despite his undoubted pedigree you have to wonder how many young French drivers would do better in that seat – or at least would appreciate the chance more.
26. Stefan Johansson
Johansson’s career has been an odd one, to say the least. From the obscurity of Spirit-Honda through subsitute appearances for Tyrrell and Toleman, then suddenly into a Ferrari for two years, then a further year in a McLaren, during which time he appeared on the podium 12 times, but could never quite mount the top step. Then, as suddenly as he dropped into a top team, he dropped out again. He would hope that a season with Ligier would just be a sabbatical before resuming his career, but there must be an uncomfortable sensation that it might not.