Jacques Villeneuve leads tribute to Gilles at the wheel of his Ferrari

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The 30th anniversary of the death of Gilles Villeneuve was commemorated today at the Fiorano circuit.

His son Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion, took Gilles’ 1979 312T4 out on the track for a demonstration run.

The car was of the same type used by Villeneuve to finish second in the 1979 world championship behind Ferrari team mate Jody Scheckter.

Also present were Villeneuve’s widow Joann and daughter Melanie, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and vice president Piero Ferrari, drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, managing director Amadeo Felisa and former technical director Mauro Forghieri.

Villeneuve’s first two starts in a 312T4 produced wins at Kyalami and Long Beach. He ended the season with a third win at Watkins Glen, and had two other podium finishes including his famous second at Dijon following a thrilling battle with Rene Arnoux.

Afterwards Jacques recalled growing up around his racing father: “The whole family always went to the races and we lived in the motorhome… it was much better than going to school!

“Most of the memories I have are from the race track, sitting down watching the races. So ninety percent of what I remember of my father is him as a driver, not home very often, always on the go and if he wasn’t in a car, then it was a helicopter or a plane. But that seemed normal, he was my father.

“I think I am lucky to be driving at a time when cars are safer, otherwise maybe I’d be dead too, given that like him, by nature, I tend to go always right to the limit.”

Asked what his father would have thought of his son’s racing career, Villeneuve said: “He would have been happy, because it was his dream to see me become a racing driver.”

Piero Ferrari said: “Gilles had an aggressive driving style, but was never incorrect in his dealings with his adversaries. Things are very different today, everything is controlled, especially the cars.

“And if today, a driver drives in an aggressive fashion, then he is likely to be slow, because now you need a special driving style to set quick times.”

Mauro Forghieri had this to say about the driver: “He wasn’t taking part in the world championship, he was simply racing in each race and that was it for him.

“He would race with a hastily put-together chassis because, at the time, there were only one hundred and sixty two of us, including commendatore Ferrari and we did not have time to build new cars. These cars were very demanding to drive physically and today, you just could not race with them.”

Pictures: Jacques Villeneuve drives Gilles’ Ferrari 312T4

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Images © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “Jacques Villeneuve leads tribute to Gilles at the wheel of his Ferrari”

  1. thanks Keith nice pictures
    after the drive Jacques said that it was a fantastic experience & that the Ferrari 312T4 isn’t a 30 year old car it’s a real racing car that slides in corners and makes you feel like a pilot in the true sense of the word

    1. That’s what we need to bring back. Use modern engines, suspension, etc. for reliability, but eliminate or drastically reduce aero. I think modern F1 is more interesting that it has been in recent memory, but it can definitely be better…

      1. I’ve been on this bandwagon for years. Dump off most of the aero, and all of a sudden the massive aero departments of F1 teams start making cars with dramatically lower drag figures. Car companies are trying to generate low drag designs for road cars, so F1 becomes relevant for them to be involved in again. The racing becames even better, possibly allowing for DRS to be removed as unnecessary (Ilike DRS but many do not) as both braking distances will now be longer and corner speeds lower, meaning the corwds should be able to be moved closer to the action due to smaller run off areas around bends.

        But the biggest thing is that driving ability could well become the most important factor in winning races. MotoGP demonstrates this, showing that the rider is more important than the bike in terms of performance. You still need a quick bike but a slow rider will never win on the best bike. F1 needs to be the same, as it used to be back in the 60’s and 70’s, where never would you really have drivers less than brilliant winning races.

        Plus how awesome would it be to see Alonso, Lewis, Kimi and everyone else sliding their cars around 130R…

        1. Fully agree with @Steven K and @clay.

        2. @clay Oddly though, now you see MotoGP plans complaining that their races are boring. A few are even wondering how F1, previously one of the most processional forms of motorsport, has now become more exciting than MotoGP.

          1. But at least MotoGP fans can catch Moto 2 and Moto 3 which are nothing short of addictive excitement – just check the last Moto 2 duel between Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro!

            Agreed the Moto GP premier class has become totally boring. But as long as you have the sheer class of Stoner and a great Honda I don’t think anyone else has a chance. The last race was nothing short of a Stoner masterclass. Re-taking the lead aggressively from Pedrosa as he faltered at the first corner and then managing the lead and the tyres though Lorenzo and Pedrosa were edging ominously close. Take away Stoner and you can have exciting MotoGP races.

    2. Jacques truly knows what’s up.

      Things would be different around here if he’d become the president of FIA.

  2. Funny to see a driver in an F1 car that is actually sitting up. Looks like he is sitting in an overseized GoKart.
    Probably just a bit faster then a GoKart though…

    1. disgruntled
      9th May 2012, 9:06

      probably more competetive than the current Ferrari over race distance..specially if those avons should last the race ;)

  3. Great pics! thank you.
    I just posted a comment in the previous article, before reading this one.
    I guess I am not the only one to see that the “old” car hide the solution to improve the modern PlayStation style F1.
    Keep/improve current safety std, add more mechanical grip, less aero and we can bring back the real F1.

  4. Wow @keithcollantine how many pictures! Thanks!
    Although I love the 312 T4, I think in this case it would have been more fitting for Jacques to drive the 126 C2, as the T4 has been used dozens of times as it was a double-championship winning car, and was the last Ferrari to win the drivers’ title in 1979 before Schumacher in 2000, whilst the C2 has always been shadowed despite being a competitive car that won the constructors’ title despite missing a few races and having to swap four drivers.

    1. Perhaps it’s a bit too… chilling. After all, that’s the car his dad would’ve died in.

      1. This 312T4 . Gilles died on 126C2

  5. sid_prasher (@)
    8th May 2012, 19:03

    Great pics!

  6. kowalsky is back
    8th May 2012, 19:37

    glad to see j villeneuve getting into the history of the sport. When he was driving never liked to do this type of demostrations.

    1. I think every F1 driver wants to be a ferrari driver for at least a day, including Jacques. And what a fitting way to remember someone as exciting as Gilles. If only people could do things like this more often.

      1. disgruntled
        9th May 2012, 8:59

        are you talking about Mark Webber?

  7. The heights of the tires seem wrong. The rears are tall enough. Still what a car.

    1. Should read aren’t tall enough…Does anyone know if they are Avons??

      1. Great point! From this picture you can read “Avon” on the tyres. And I thought they were Goodyears…
        However, in 1979 Ferrari used Michelin tyres.

        1. You are right and when I saw the car race the heights of front and rear tires were noticeably different. The rears were bigger looking anyway…

          1. Rear tyres have smaller diameter than usual, it seems. Perhaps they couldn’t get Avon to produce tyres of the original mammoth size. But I think Avon produces such tyres for historic racing.

            But the point is, I’d love to see these tyres on the current F1 cars.

  8. Get your hair cut shorter Jacques. It will look much better.

  9. now there’s a real Ferrari

  10. That front wing is so ugly! The rest of the car looks good though.

    1. its good for shoveling snow..

    2. Not as ugly as the wings on current F1 cars

  11. Interestingly, the CBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which is the equivalent of the BBC in England, did a feature on last night’s newscast on JV doing this…was absolutely wonderful to see, especially since it was Gilles’ entrance into F1 that brought television coverage to Canada, on the CBC. Was fantastic to see, and to hear JV interviewed.

  12. Nice article and pics!

    Anyone have the GOPRO video?? There’s 2 on the car.

    What’s with that guy hugging Felipe in the large group photo?

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