16th February 1921 – 1st August 1959
Jean Marie Behra was born in Nice in 1921, and took up motorcycle racing in 1938. After the war he raced for Moto Guzzi, winning four French national titles between 1948 and 1951.
He also entered the 1949 Grand Prix du Salon driving a Talbot-Lago at Montlhery, he raced at the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hour in a Simca Gordini 15, and he tried his hand at Rally, driving a Simca in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1950, 51 & 52.
In 1952 Behra joined the Gordini F1 team, finishing third on his debut at Bremgarten, and fifth at Nürburgring. He stayed with the team for two more years, but the Gordini cars were underpowered by comparison with the Maseratis and Ferraris, and success was elusive.
Behra signed for Maserati in 1955, but by this time Mercedes had rejoined Formula 1, and were clearly the best team, taking all but one of the Drivers' Championship races. However, in non-championship races that year he won at Pau, Bordeaux and Bari in the Maserati 250F.
When Mercedes-Benz pulled out of racing again in 1956, Moss signed for Maserati and Behra was forced to be his number two. But Behra still scored a second place and several third places to finish fourth in the championship.
When Moss switched to Vanwall for 1957 Behra thought he might get number one status, but then Fangio appeared and once again Behra had to be the bridesmaid as Fangio swept to the World Championship.
In spite of having a poor championship season in 1957, Behra won five non championship Grands Prix at Pau, Caen, Silverstone, Modena and Ain-Diab. Two of those drives were for BRM, who went on to sign him up for the 1958 season.
Unfortunately the BRM P25 was unreliable, and Behra only managed three race finishes, a fifth place in Argentina, third place in the Netherlands, and a fourth in Portugal.
The two non championship events in 1957, the Grand Prix de Caen and the BRDC International Trophy were his only victories for the BRM team, and Behra left the team at the end of the season..
In 1959 Behra moved to Ferrari. With a win at the non championship BARC Aintree 200, and a second place in qualifying at Monaco, the season looked promising.
But his engine failed in Monaco and relations with his team were strained. Not only did Behra enrage Enzo Ferrari by entering his own Behra-Porsche Formula Two teams in direct competition with Ferrari, he actually beat them. His car driven by Hans Hermann took second place ahead of the Ferraris at the prestigious Reims F2 race.
Behra had also begun to believe that the Ferrari team manager, Romolo Tavoni, was plotting against him. Things came to a head at the French Grand Prix when he suffered piston failure having fought his way up to second. Behra was involved in a heated discussion in a restaurant in which he punched Tavoni and another patron, and was instantly dismissed from the team.
Less than a month later he crashed his Porsche RSK in rainy weather in the sports car race that preceded the German Grand Prix at AVUS, in Berlin, Germany. He was thrown from his car and fatally injured.