RIP Alain Boisnard

When I was a youngster in F1, a while back now, it was a very different world, with a much smaller group of media (although in truth the last two years have been like the old days in terms of numbers).

The different nationalities didn’t overlap much in those days. It was less international but I remember being aware of some of the big names in the French F1 media: Jabby Crombac, Johnny Rives and Jean-Louis Moncet.

I was also aware of Alain Boisnard, the archetypal French cameraman. I don’t remember if he had a cigarette dangling from his lip, but if he didn’t, he should have done. He knew how to live.

Alas, time catches us all in the end and Alain died a few days ago, at the grand old age of 87.

Boisnard was a groundbreaker in many ways, thanks in part to the money that his friend Francois Guiter of Elf paid him to produce films about racing. Alain and Guiter had worked together on underwater films and Guiter reckoned that Alain would come up with good stuff. He was right. Anyone who knows the Elf F1 films, knows Boisnard, perhaps without knowing his name. He put cameras on cars at a time when it was almost impossible to do, but he made it work. The fact that he had a day job, making movies, about cops and spies and so on, is often forgotten. At weekends he was an F1 film maker.

I was too timid of my French to ever talk to such an imposing fellow, but I was aware of his presence and his abilities. I wish now that I had because I’m sure he had a million great stories to tell. His wife Anne, who died in 2015, was also a well known figure in F1, becoming the timekeeper of the Renault F1 team, until the age of the time-keeper was over.

24 thoughts on “RIP Alain Boisnard

  1. Joe, I know his work well.
    I have a DVD “Lap Of The Gods” in which his cameras are mounted on mainly ELF cars in the 70’s on classic circuits.
    The absolute gem is one mounted on Depailller’s 6 wheeled Tyrrell, without cockpit bodywork, driving around Monaco. You can see the steering wheel, feet on pedals and all 4 front wheels reacting to the circuit.
    Lots of others including Andretti, Stewart, Mansell, Jabouille, Tambay, Pironi, Warwick, Prost, Lauda etc etc at plaves like old Osterreichring, Brands, Imola, Kyalami, Long Beach, Spa, Suzuka, Watkins Glen, Zandvoort..

    Classy stuff.. a great innovator

    1. Sounds like Prost was skipping gears on the downshifts during heavy breaking – quite different to a sequential box.

    2. Thanks for posting that! I wish the modern in car cameras did away with the image stabilisation so you can get that real feel of how the cars handle!

      1. They had a camera mounted inside (I think) Carlos Sainz’ helmet in one of the races at the tail end of 2021 which did its best to give a driver’s eye view of the proceedings. With the helmet, the halo and the general head-wobbling it looked like driving at 150 mph while squinting through a letterbox while said orifice was in a tumble drier. Anyone who can do that probably deserves every last sou of their salary 🙂

  2. This inspires a real sense of romanticism for the F1 of the 50s and 60s.
    Would love to see the films. I bet they are fit for purpose. A world away from the fast-cut slow mo sequences with music and such like that make Sky so tiresome.
    There is no need for music, or for fast edited clips, as Monsieur Boisnard would doubtless have told Joe had he conversed with him.

    1. Indeed, I have just watched a tribute to Patrick Depailler and while my French extends to Bonjour and Sava, the videography is what I watched it for. It’s 40 years old and is simply art in how it is cut together with appropriate music. Exactly the opposite of the tosh Sky generally produce, although when Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert or Damon Hill do a piece the content is decent.

  3. Strange how the brain works . I saw the headline and thought “TV guy” as the name triggered something from my miss-spent youth watching anything I could find on Motorsport, formula one in particular.

    A lovely tribute Joe.

    I am going to ask that detective agency, ” Bing, Google & Alexa” to find me some content to reminisce this morning.

  4. Joe, it appears to have been a family business. I watched a tribute to Francois Cevert and Alain Boisnard and Arthur Bousnard a credited. I searched some more, but it’s all in French!! Funny that a Frenchman writing in French. As he seemed younger, a son perhaps?

  5. Hi Joe, the Mr. Guiter you mentioned, do I remember that you wrote a fascinating article about him once? Was he the gentlemen who also reportedly a spy, or am I barking mad? I

  6. Nice words Joe. One of most personal movie from Alain is his tribute to Partrick Depailler, “Patrick Depailler, adieu l’enfant”. A bad copy is visible on YouTube. Each time you see AFAVA on a générique means images of Alain Boisnard. On board camera images on Michael Schumacher ‘ Benetton were used in Netflix documentary.

  7. One has to be philosophical as life moves on from one generation to the next. Sad but certain.
    Much early work of filming from moving cars was done by Frank Calloway of Standard-Triumph whose films were very well regarded. Mainly rallying but a bit of Le Mans also. I expect they now reside in the BL centre at Gaydon.
    Shell also had a large film library dating from well before WW2. This was bought by Nick Mason’s dad who had worked for the company. I imagine they are now part of Nick’s motoring collection.

  8. I had a great VHS box set called “The saga of Formula One” which played a huge role in getting me hooked on F1. The man behind this series was Alain Boisnard if I recall correctly.

  9. Great tribute Joe. As racing fans we spend a lot of time discussing the great drivers, and of course they’re the stars of the show, but it’s all too easy to forget the thousands of other who have made crucial contributions, either in making it happen or in immortalising it.

  10. Joe, you are right about the cigarette – look at the photograph at AutoNewsInfo dot com.
    For me, the most memorable of several short Elf films were the two in which F1 was juxaposed to a symphonic orchestra and fighter jet on an aircraft carrier respectively. Fantastic idea, excellent footage and sound/music.

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