Henri Julien

Henri Julien was born in Gonfaron, France on the 18th September 1927 and is best known as the founder of the AGS team that ran in Formula 1 between 1986 and 1991. But he started in the French 500cc movement. In the late 1940s, Julien was running a small garage and filling station, the Garage de l’Avenir in the Provencal village of Gonfaron.

In 1950 he built a Simca-engined special that may have been called the JH1 (some sources suggest the JH name only began with the formation of AGS). A sequence of chassis were built over the next ten years, variously powered by Panhard and BMW engines, though the later chassis were built to Formula Junior specification. Details are sketchy, and we have no results for Julien.

Henri poses with JH1

 


In 1960 he purchased an Alpine Formula 3 car, but was not successful and finally retired in 1965. But the arrival of Formula France in 1969 tempted him back as a constructor. Julien established Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives with his former apprentice Christian Venderpleyn, who would remain the team’s designer until 1988.

AGS continued with Formula France (renamed Formula Renault) and expanded into Formula 3 with a series of rising French stars. In 1978 he progressed to Formula 2 with Richard Dallest and later Philippe Streiff and Pascal Fabre. The team scored several podiums, and a victory in the European Formula 2 Championship in 1984.

Finally, Julien realised his ambition of Formula 1 at Monza in 1986, running an old Renault chassis fitted with a Motori Moderni engine and called the JH21C. The Ford-powered JH22 was a reasonable car, scoring the team’s first point, but the team was under funded and small – legend has it that they had only seven mechanics, and were still operating from the Garage de l’Avenir.

In 1988, Philippe Streiff returned to the team. He drove well, but in testing for the 1989 season he was paralysed in an accident in Brazil. Julien sold the team later that year. It carried on until 1991. It now operates an F1 driving experience programme at the Circuit du Var in Luc-en-Provence, and close to the original garage. Julien is honorary president.

Julien was drawn back to his roots and became president of the Club Racer 500. In 1997 Julien and Bernard Boyer built a new 500cc car and established new world record for class I at 222.557kmh (139mph) over one hour, finally beating the record set by John Brise at Montlhéry in October 1953 in the Arnott streamlined car.

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