49 Facts About Gilles Villeneuve


Joseph Gilles Henri Villeneuve was a Canadian racing driver, who spent six years in Grand Prix motor racing with Ferrari, winning six races and widespread acclaim for his performances.


An enthusiast of cars and fast driving from an early age, Villeneuve started his professional career in snowmobile racing in his native province of Quebec.


Gilles Villeneuve moved into single seaters, winning the US and Canadian Formula Atlantic championships in 1976, before being offered a drive in Formula One with the McLaren team at the 1977 British Grand Prix.


Gilles Villeneuve was taken on by reigning world champions Ferrari for the end of the season and drove for the Italian team from 1978 until his death in 1982.


Gilles Villeneuve won six Grand Prix races in a short career at the highest level.


At the time of his death, Gilles Villeneuve was extremely popular with fans and has since become an iconic figure in the history of the sport.


Gilles Villeneuve was born January 18,1950, to piano-tuner Seville Gilles Villeneuve and his wife Georgette in the province of Quebec in Canada and grew up in Berthierville.


At the time of his death Gilles Villeneuve was reportedly considering divorce from Joann: he had long been having an extramarital affair with a Torontonian woman.


Gilles Villeneuve' son, named Jacques, won the Indianapolis 500 and CART championships in 1995 and became Formula One World Champion in 1997.


Gilles Villeneuve started competitive driving in local drag-racing events, entering his road car, a modified 1967 Ford Mustang.


Gilles Villeneuve was bored by this and entered the Jim Russell Racing School at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant to gain a racing licence.


Gilles Villeneuve then had a very successful season in Quebec regional Formula Ford, running his own two-year-old car and winning seven of the ten races he entered.


Gilles Villeneuve won his first Atlantic race in 1975 at Gimli Motosport Park in heavy rain.


Gilles Villeneuve was a professional racing driver from his late teens, with no other income.


Gilles Villeneuve credited some of his success to his snowmobiling days:.


Gilles Villeneuve made his debut at the 1977 British Grand Prix, where he qualified 9th in McLaren's old M23, separating the regular drivers Hunt and Jochen Mass who were driving newer M26s.


Gilles Villeneuve's explanation was that Villeneuve "was looking as though he might be a bit expensive" and that Patrick Tambay, the team's eventual choice for 1978, was showing similar promise.


Gilles Villeneuve was left with no solid options for 1978, although Canadian Walter Wolf, for whom Gilles Villeneuve had driven in Can-Am racing, considered giving him a drive at Wolf Racing.


Rumours circulated that Gilles Villeneuve was one of several drivers in whom Ferrari's team was interested, and in August 1977 he flew to Italy to meet Enzo Ferrari, who was immediately reminded of Tazio Nuvolari, the pre-war European champion.


Gilles Villeneuve's arrival was prompted by Ferrari driver Niki Lauda quitting the team at the penultimate race of the 1977 season, the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport Park near Toronto, having already clinched his second championship with the Italian team.


Gilles Villeneuve retired from his home race after sliding off the track on another competitor's oil.


Gilles Villeneuve raced in the last race of that season, the Japanese Grand Prix at the Mount Fuji Speedway near Tokyo but retired on lap five when he tried to outbrake the Tyrrell P34 of Ronnie Peterson.


Gilles Villeneuve finished second on the road at the Italian Grand Prix, although he was penalised a minute for jumping the start, and ran second at the United States Grand Prix before his engine failed.


Finally at the season-ending Canadian Grand Prix, this time at the Circuit Notre Dame Island in Montreal Gilles Villeneuve scored his first Grand Prix win after Jean-Pierre Jarier's Lotus stopped with engine trouble.


Gilles Villeneuve was joined by Jody Scheckter in 1979 after Carlos Reutemann moved to Lotus.


Gilles Villeneuve won three races during the year and even briefly led the championship after winning back to back races in Long Beach and Kyalami.


Arnoux took the position but Gilles Villeneuve attempted an outside pass one corner later.


The cars bumped hard, Gilles Villeneuve slid wide but then passed Arnoux on the inside at a hairpin turn and held him off for the last half of the lap to secure second place.


Gilles Villeneuve returned to the circuit and limped back to the pit lane on three wheels, losing the damaged wheel on the way.


On his return to the pit lane Gilles Villeneuve insisted that the team replace the missing wheel, and had to be persuaded that the car was beyond repair.


Gilles Villeneuve might have won the World Championship by ignoring team orders to beat Scheckter at the Italian Grand Prix, but chose to finish behind him, ending his own championship challenge.


Gilles Villeneuve had been considered favourite for the Drivers' Championship by bookmakers in the United Kingdom, though he only scored six points in the whole campaign in the 312T5 which had only partial ground effects.


At the Spanish Grand Prix Gilles Villeneuve kept five quicker cars behind him for most of the race using the superior straight-line speed of his car.


In terms of sheer ability I think Gilles Villeneuve was on a different plane to the other drivers.


Gilles Villeneuve was offered a deal by team owner Ron Dennis to rejoin McLaren in 1982, which he rejected because he was nervous over ending his contract with Ferrari but optimistic that the Italian team would be competitive.


The first few races of the 1982 season saw Gilles Villeneuve leading in Brazil in the new 126C2, before spinning into retirement, and finishing third at the United States Grand Prix West before being disqualified for a technical infringement.


Gilles Villeneuve believed that the order meant that the drivers were to maintain position but Pironi passed Gilles Villeneuve.


Gilles Villeneuve was irate as he believed that Pironi had disobeyed the order to hold position.


In 2007, John Hogan, the retired Vice President of Marketing at Ferrari sponsor Phillip Morris and later Jaguar Racing team principal who was at the sponsor during Gilles Villeneuve's career, disputed the claim that Pironi had gone back on a prior arrangement with Gilles Villeneuve.


On May 8,1982, Gilles Villeneuve died after an accident during the final qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.


Gilles Villeneuve was using his final set of qualifying tyres; some say he was attempting to improve his time on his final lap, while others suggest he was specifically aiming to beat Pironi.


Mass saw Gilles Villeneuve approaching at high speed and moved to the right to let him through on the racing line.


Gilles Villeneuve was kept alive on life support while his wife travelled to the hospital and the doctors consulted specialists worldwide.


Gilles Villeneuve is still remembered at Grand Prix races, especially those in Italy.


At Zolder the corner where Gilles Villeneuve died has been turned into a chicane and named after him.


Gilles Villeneuve's homeland has continued to honour him: In Berthierville a museum was opened in 1992 and a lifelike statue stands in a nearby park which was named in his honour.


Gilles Villeneuve was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame at their inaugural induction ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, Ontario on August 19,1993.


Gilles Villeneuve was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.


Gilles Villeneuve appears in a number of stories, and in Steve Warson contre Michel Vaillant becomes the 1980 World Champion and Quebec progressive rock and pop band The Box based their 1984 song "Live on TV" inspired by Gilles Villeneuve's televised death.