There are a surprisingly large number of family racing drivers in the world and this series will explore them. We will begin the series with Canadian father and son, Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve. Gilles had a fantastic driving career that spanned many years in F1. Now his son has followed in his footsteps and is looking to make an impact in the sport just like his father did. It is the story of a family that lives and breathes motorsport.
Did James Hunt help Gilles Villeneuve secure his place in Formula 1?
Gilles was born in Quebec, Canada in 1950 and began his driving career there snowmobiles, showing that racing does not always start with karting. He did a good job, having behaved well enough to quickly switch to the single-seater where he won the Formula Atlantic United States and Canada Championship, 26 years old.
James hunt can be credited with presenting to Gilles McLaren and the world of Formula 1, having witnessed the Canadian race in a street race, the Three Rivers, In Quebec. James told his McLaren team boss, Teddy Bear Mayer, on Gilles and his talent as a racing driver. This recommendation was further endorsed by Chris Amon, a former racing driver for McLaren, who confirmed that Gilles would be a talent to be harnessed for McLaren and Formula 1. Following this praise, Gilles was invited to compete in the 1977 British GP, where he led an impressive race. That’s why it’s strange that Teddy chose not to enter him for the remaining season. But this decision left the door open for reigning world champions Ferrari, who signed Gilles for the following season where he drove until his death in 1982 (aged 32), following an accident. at high speed at 140 mph during the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix. The chicane where he died in Zolder, was named the chicane de Villeneuve, in memory of Gilles.
Quick fact about Enzo Ferrari and Gilles Villeneuve
Gilles Villeneuve was a favorite driver of Enzo Ferrari. Indeed, Enzo was Team Manager for Alfa Romeo when Tazio Nuvolari raced for the team in the 1930s. Enzo saw the similarities between the two pilots and upon Gilles’ death his tribute was incredibly personal … “His death deprived us of a great champion – the one I loved very much. My past is marked by sorrow; parents, brother, son. My life is full of sad memories. I look back and I see the faces of my loved ones and among them I see him “.
The inspiration that led Jacques Villeneuve to the status of world champion
Born in 1971, Jacques was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps in motor racing. Jacques was only 11 years old when he lost his father, Gilles, in a Formula 1 accident. This did not deter the young Canadian. In fact, it inspired him and prompted him to achieve what his father didn’t have time to do – become world champion. Unlike his father, Jacques began his racing career in 1985 in the more conventional karting series, not snowmobiles – at the age of 14. He was spotted in 1985 and invited to race in a 100cc go-kart in Imola. Jacques impressed the track owners and then tested a 135cc kart and then a Formula Four car.
Both attended the same driving school in Canada
After the death of his father, Jacques’ uncle played an important role in the development and progression of his racing career and in 1986 enrolled him in the Jim Russell Racing Driver School in Mont Tremblant, where, interestingly. , Gilles was also registered in order to obtain his racing license. Jacques completed a three-day driving course in a Formula Ford 1600 car from Van Diemen. At 17, Jacques was invited to participate in the Italian Touring Car Championships, which marked his debut in motor racing. Ironically, he was not allowed to be licensed by Canadian and Italian authorities as he was one year younger than the minimum age policy, so he chose to obtain his international racing license in Andorra, with the help of Canadian Motorsport Clubs. Jacques then signed a three-year contract to drive Reynard-Alfa Romeo for Prema in Italian Formula 3. Surprisingly, he struggled with the series and enrolled in Magione Driving School to develop his skills, under the guidance of Henri morrogh. That tuition helped and Jacques qualified for each of the 12 rounds and scored 10 points to take 14th place in the Drivers’ Championship.
Jacques entered CART before joining Williams F1 Team in 1996, whose engine was supplied by Renault. Jacques replaced David Coulthard, who left the team, and Bernie Ecclestone seized this opportunity to seduce Jacques du CART. Jacques tested for Williams in August 1995 and then signed a contract for 1996 and 1997 in partnership Damon hill, with an option for 1998. In 1997, when Damon left Williams for Arrows, Jacques became the lead pilot, with a new teammate, Heinz-Harald Frentzen. That same year, Jacques fought with the mighty Michael Schumacher before winning the Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship. Jacques Villeneuve was the first driver to win a CART championship, the Indianapolis 500, and a Formula 1 World Championship. He is also Canada’s first and (currently) only Formula 1 World Champion.
Jacques Villeneuve had the opportunity to honor his late father by driving the famous Ferrari number 12 which he made famous.
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