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Villeneuve to drive 1979 Ferrari on 30th anniversary of father’s death
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Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Apr 2012   |  2:09 pm GMT  |  16 comments

Ferrari has revealed plans to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of one of its most revered drivers, Gilles Villeneuve, next month with a special event at its Fiorano test track.

The Canadian legend’s son Jacques, the 1997 world champion, will drive the 312T4 with which Gilles and team-mate Jody Scheckter contested the 1979 drivers’ title, the crown going to the latter by four points as Ferrari also won the constructors’ championship.

The elder Villeneuve won three grands prix in that particular car – South Africa, Long Beach and Watkins Glen – and it was also the challenger he was driving when he was involved in one of the most thrilling F1 racing sequences of all time at that year’s French GP, when he and Rene Arnoux engaged in a ferocious wheel-banging duel in the closing laps of the race.

F1 lost one of its most exciting ever stars when Villeneuve was killed in qualifying for the Belgian GP at Zolder three years later, but his memory has lived on through future generations at Ferrari. The team’s statement announcing the Fiorano event summed up his legacy: “His memory is still vivid and alive in the minds of many at Maranello; his talent, his speed, his bravery which bordered on recklessness, all go to make his name still hugely popular with our fans, even among younger ones who have only been able to see him on replays of his races or read about him in stories written by journalists.”

Jacques has previously driven one of his father’s Ferraris at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2004, but driving a red car at the Italian marque’s famous test track is sure to be a particularly poignant occasion for both team and son when the event takes place on Tuesday 8 May.

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16 Comments
  1. James Norman says:

    I definitely fall into the category of being a massive fan, through many enjoyable hours spent searching youtube for clips of his legendary antics. Wish I could be there when this happens, these cars are such fun to watch.

  2. goferet says:

    Amazing that it’s been 30 years since Gilles passed. R.I.P.

    And yes this is a nice gesture by Ferrari by honouring Gilles’ memory by giving his son a spin in his father former car.

    Unfortunately, am one of those people that didn’t watch Gilles & Co race but looking at footage of the cars from the past, believe me, I would take the 2012 stepped noses any day over those ugly ducklings from that bygone era —> Eww…

    But say, is it just me? Why do I get the feeling since Schumi & Todt left Ferrari that the Red team has been more open of late to the point of being friendly e.g. They opened up their car archives to Brundle to film that Sky documentary and then there’s the access to the team radio + granting permission to the drivers to join the social network sites etc

    Yeah, well done Ferrari, this is one sure way to win more fans over.

    P.s.

    From the looks of it, it seems Formula 1 loves the aggressive, mental drivers (with a couple of screws loose) e.g. Gilles, Senna & Schumi

    From that, I can conclude that Lewis Hamilton’s place in the memory & imagination of F1 fans looks to be set even though he were not to win another title e.g. Germany 2011.

    Yes F1 is show business at the end of the day.

  3. Patrick Byrne says:

    For me, it is hard to separate fact from myth when assessing Gilles Villeneuve. Clearly he was fast, had great car control and was rated by contemporaries but I sometimes wonder if journalists (such as Nigel Roebuck who had enormous personal respect for the man) blow the myth out of proportion.

    Looking at stats, he didn’t massively blow team-mates away in qualifying for example (in fairness high calibre drivers such as Reutemann & Scheckter) and was beaten to the WDC by the South African. I know he chose not to overtake JS at the penultimate race in accordance with team-orders and I know his honorable behavior probably only underlined his myth but still… It’s just…as a DRIVER his less cerebral, sometimes illogical approach is something I find hard to appreciate.

    (Also, I find it paculiar that Roebuck (whom I respect) is such an advocate of Villeneuve’s approach when one of his other favorite drivers from that era was Prost – a driver whose style was the absolute polar opposite of the Canadian’s!)

    1. AJIndy says:

      Drifting looks fast, too, but it’s not.

  4. Sterling Mindenhall says:

    It says something about JV’s sell-by date that this hasn’t generated rumors of his replacing Felipe.

    1. Phil says:

      That doesnt mean he isnt comtemplating it himself though….

  5. RAY says:

    I’d like to see Alonso driving it rather than Villeneuve Jr.

    1. KRB says:

      Finalist for the Missing The Point award!

  6. Kay says:

    Hmm..
    James, why is it Ferrari never considered Jacques as their driver?!

    1. James Allen says:

      They didn’t rate him in comparison to Schumacher at the time

      1. KRB says:

        They were right, though Jacques was easily the more exciting driver to watch. A bit reckless, but he made some great passes with some great moves. Four wins in his debut year; only LH has matched that.

        Dual F1 DWC/Indy 500 champions:

        J.Villeneuve, E.Fittipaldi, M.Andretti, G.Hill, J.Clark

        Pretty good company, I’d say …

      2. Rupert says:

        Did you just make that up? Pretty sure JV was a far superior driver than Irvine; Barrichello; and Massa. When JV left BAR in 2003, Ross Brawn said in an interview that he would of loved JV at Ferrari, but the rivalry he shared with Schumi prevented that from ever being an option.

      3. Alex W says:

        Exactly, they could choose either Shuie or JV.

  7. Nil says:

    James, how about a special on Gilles with his adventures on and off the track? I remember you writing once that he took off in a helicopter which was nearly running on fumes! It is not as easy to find his clips on YouTube as some of the other past greats.

  8. Is this going to open to the public? If so, how would one obtain tickets – If not who would we need to speak to to get access?

    I have followed F1 for 50 years and Gilles is top of my list. I was lucky enough to see him drive several times and crazy or not there has not been a driver since with his talent for car control. Nigel Roebuck is right to rate him so highly

  9. Jim Wadsworth says:

    From the US Grand Prix West, I have 3 head shots of F1 drivers from about 1980 whom I am trying to identify. I also have a photo from a couple of years earlier of Juan Fangio and another driver of his era getting ready to drive in a vintage race.
    I need help identifying the three + much older guy. Anyone good with faces of this era?
    Jim (wadsy@earthlink.net)

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