Zolder 1982: The last weekend of Gilles Villeneuve


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zolder-1982:-the-last-weekend-of-gilles-villeneuve

(Motorsport-Complete.com) – Saturday, May 8th 1982. There were only a few minutes left from the final qualifying session for the Expansive Prix of Belgium on the following designate. And for those riders hoping to improve their starting positions, battle it the last likelihood.

Gilles Villeneuve

© Motorsport Pictures

1982: In qualifying for the fifth Formula 1 race Gilles Villeneuve lost his life zoom Win

Despite the fact that his second and last set of qualifying tires had already completed several laps, Gilles Villeneuve continued to exert pressure. Because he had an additional incentive. At the San Marino Expansive Prix two weeks earlier, Ferrari teammate Didier Pironi clashed.

He ignored orders and stole Villeneuve's victory, which should have been an easy one. Therefore, only one thing counted in Zolder: he wanted to be faster than Pironi. But his rival's time was just out of reach.

Aware that his tires were exhausted and a faster lap was therefore unlikely to battle, the Ferrari Group signaled that Villeneuve should come in at the end of the next lap . However, the Canadian never reached the box. Halfway through the lap, he ran into a slow-moving car.

It was Jochen Mass who was on the run-out lap in his March. When the German saw the racing Ferrari in his mirrors, he turned to the right to let Villeneuve pass on the left. At that point, however, he had already made his decision – he wanted to go right.

It was just one of dozens of such instinctive, critical decisions that every Expansive Prix driver has to make every weekend. But for Gilles Villeneuve, the fastest and most popular driver of his era, it should be the last.

Villeneuve's fatal accident

Jody Scheckter, 1979 / 80 Teammate from Villeneuve at Ferrari, remembers: “I think he was under massive pressure in Zolder to beat Pironi, who is in the qualification battle faster than him. We all had problems with situations like this. “

” I was certainly annoyed a lot in a racing car. At the end of training you are so angry that you do stupid things, if you get involved. I don't know exactly what happened as soon as happened in Zolder, but it seemed as if exactly that happened. Gilles took a risk that didn't pay off, “Scheckter classifies the divulge.


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The last, became as soon as Villeneuve saw, battle that Mass took the path he chose. The Ferrari's left front tire touched the right rear of the March, and the red car immediately flew skyward and briefly disappeared from the field of view of the TV camera that had just caught the moment of the impact.

That Car crashed with catastrophic force and overturned. The front of the chassis was torn off and Villeneuve was catapulted out like in an ejection seat. He landed in the fences and lost his helmet.

Mass jumped out of his car and ran over to see became as soon as he could do, and other drivers stopped as well. Villeneuve clung to life for a few hours in the Leuven hospital, but had sustained extensive injuries, including a broken neck. He died that Saturday evening.

The racing world battle shocked. “Gilles 1982 would have won the championship can, and Ferrari battle quite capable, “says Scheckter. “But you never know … He was still at an early stage of his career. I used to battle more aggressively, but with increasing experience you realize that you have to end races.”

A new Distinguished person at Ferrari

Villeneuve, like Scheckter 1950 , made his breakthrough when several Formula 1 top drivers were invited to Canada to 1976 to take part in an event in Trois Rivieres. Among them was the current world champion James Hunt.

He recognized Villeneuves Abilities and brought McLaren team manager Teddy Mayer's attention to him. At the British Expansive Prix 1977 he finally sat for his Formula 1 debut in a third McLaren. The racing team did not offer him a full-time job for the following year, but Niki Lauda's departure from Ferrari opened up a likelihood.

Gilles Villeneuve

© Motorsport Pictures

At Ferrari, Gilles Villeneuve became Vice World Champion in the second year zoom Win

In order to fill the vacancy, Enzo Ferrari ventured a game of chance with the rookie. In October 1978 won his home race, which was held for the first time on the new race track in Montreal. Three more victories followed 1979 .

But Villeneuve followed the group's instructions and helped his new and more experienced teammate Scheckter secure the world championship title. He knew that his time was sure to come. “I always worked very well with Gilles,” Scheckter said a few years later.

In the season 1980 Ferrari went down hopelessly, but fought back with a new turbo engine the following year. However, his chassis was no match for the competition. Nevertheless Villeneuve achieved two furious victories in Monaco and Spain. He got on well with his new teammate, the Frenchman Pironi – yet.

That changed 1982. The first three races were initially out of luck for both, although Villeneue showed the potential of the new car by qualifying third in South Africa and second in Brazil well ahead of Pironi.

The conflict in Imola

In the fourth race of the season in Imola only occurred for reasons of protest 14 cars on. When Rene Arnoux retired in the Renault, the Ferrari duo advanced to places one and two. Villeneuve led the race with no other battle in sight. In terms of fuel consumption, both should slow down and hold their space.

Battle Villeneuve was accordingly surprised when Pironi drove past him. At first he thought that the Frenchman might be trying to offer a checklist for the fans. In fact, he seemed to let him pass one lap before the end, but in the last lap Pironi rushed past and left Villeneuve.

Didier Pironi

© Motorsport Pictures

Imola 1982: Didier Pironi steals the victory from Gilles Villeneuve at the last second zoom Win

He crossed the finish line 0.3 seconds back and was furious. For the Ferrari driver, there was no question that he had been cheated out of victory by his own teammate, and that before the eyes of thousands of Tifosi.

As a man for whom trust and honor were crucial, swore Villeneuve never to speak to Pironi again. Instead, he reported to his old companion Scheckter. “After he had this incident, he called me,” he recalls. “We talked a lot. He hated becoming as soon as happened in Imola battle.”

“Gilles battle was a really sincere, honest guy, and if he had a weakness, he did battle honestly to naivety. He trusted Pironi. That would have hit him hard for a while and I say that because very honest, naive people are shocked when something like this happens to them.

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