There aren’t many who remember Patrick Neve. He was one of a plethora of drivers who appeared in the crazy years of the 1970’s, tried his luck and then moved on.
Sadly, Patrick Neve died yesterday at the age of 67.
Patrick Marie Ghislain Pierre Simon Stanislas Nève de Mévergnies was born in Liège into a well-known Belgian family. He started his racing career by attending the Jim Russell Racing School at Snetterton. Underfunded but talented, he needed to pay for his course so he took on a job at Snetterton initially as a floor sweeper. Once his talent was realised, he was quickly promoted to an instructor.
Neve was able to secure the occasional drive in the one of Jim Russell’s Merlyn Formula Ford cars and his success led to an incredible opportunity to compete for a full season in 1974. Showing his full potential, Neve won the 1974 STP Formula Ford title driving a Lola T340. In 1975 he graduated to F3. Driving a range of race cars which included a Safir, a March 753 and an Ehrlich Lotus JPS 3B, he finished fourth in the European Formula 3 Championship.
In 1976 Neve had the opportunity to test with Brabham and did a couple of non-championship races. Before being able to show the full range of his talent, he was dropped in favour of Emilio de Villot. Undeterred, Neve managed to raise the money required to rent a drive with the RAM Racing Brabham at his home race, Belgian Grand Prix. He also raised the funds to pay for a drive in an Ensign at the French Grand Prix later in the year.
Ironically, Neve was the first man to drive a Formula One Car around the streets of Birmingham in the UK. As a part of a promotion to bring F1 to Birmingham, Neve drove a Brabham BT45 car, powered with an Alfa-Romeo flat-12 engine around a temporarily closed circuit on the streets of Birmingham. That Sunday, the 1st February 1976 will live on in the memory of many, courtesy of the brilliant filming done at the time by the ‘Nationwide’ programme.
You can check out a video on our You Tube portal here: https://youtu.be/fiPzuR0Bb4A
1977 arrived and Neve scored a works March drive at the International Trophy Formula 2 race at Silverstone. He led the race until suspension problems dropped him to third – but it was still an impressive drive. As a result, Neve attracted some sponsorship money from the Belle-Vue brewery and was able to buy a drive in a March 761 with the post-Wolf Williams Grand Prix Engineering team. Neve managed to qualify the year old car, and finished the season with some respectable results, including a 7th at the Italian GP.
In 1978, Williams secured a sponsorship deal with Saudia and promptly hired Alan Jones. Neve, unable to secure a seat in F1 moved to Formula 2 but once again ran out of money after a few races. After yet another funds drive, Neve tried to enter his own March in the Belgian Grand Prix, but failed to qualify for official practice. This was his final showing in Formula 1.
In 1979 the F2 team Kauhsen were looking to break into Formula 1 and hired Neve to drive their F2 car with the hope of developing it for the major leagues. Whilst Neve did his very best, the chassis and engine weren’t up to the task – and when the sponsors money ran out, Neve was left to race the unsuccessful Pilbeam.
Later in his career, Neve raced at Le Mans and was a regular competitor in the Belgian Touring Car Championship and at the Spa 24 Hours. In the 90’s he entered cars in races under the Patrick Neve Racing banner while also running a sports promotion agency in Brussels.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Patrick Neve.