Thursday, 6 June 2013

Benoit Froger

I was saddened to hear recently of the death of Benoit Froger, following a long illness.

Benoit was, in a sense, one of the founding fathers of Radio Le Mans, and certainly helped establish the radio station in the late 1980's and into the 1990's.

At that time he was the marketing manager for the ACO, and was extremely supportive of Radio Le Mans in the early days. In effect, if we wanted to do anything, it was Benoit that sorted it out, whether it was arranging for telephone lines from France Telecom, radio frequencies from the French Government, car passes from the ACO, or the allocation of commentary booths amongst a variety of radio broadcasters.

He was usually ready to help, although he could at times be stubborn and intransigent: this was due as much as anything to his having to make compromises to keep as many people as possible as happy as possible for as much of the time as possible.

He left the ACO in 1995 and spent the rest of his career working for GM, providing a valuable link for the Corvette Racing and Cadillac teams with his many friends at the ACO.

His legacy was much broader than that though. During the 1970's it was Froger that encouraged many of the American teams to cross the Atlantic and come to Le Mans. Closely allied with Bill France of NASCAR, one wonders what would become of USCR if Benoit were still involved in the process.

It was also Froger that developed the marketing potential of the TV coverage of the race. Don't forget that during the 1970's the Le Mans 24 hours was seen as a something of a drudge. Contemporary sports-prototypes were not reliable, there were fuel shortages and the race was generally at a low ebb. With the arrival of Group C came increased interest from manufacturers, and Froger saw the potential of a world-wide TV audience for the race.

A man whose vision and enthusiasm is already missed.

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