Wednesday 18th January 1950
Born on this day, Gilles Villeneuve, Canadian racing driver, winner of the US and Canadian Formula Atlantic championships in 1976. A few weeks after his Formula 1 debut in Silverstone with McLaren in 1978, Villeneuve received a phone call from Enzo Ferrari and a month later was a Ferrari driver making his debut for the team at Mosport Park. At his second race in Japan he had a huge accident, cartwheeling off the track. Two spectators were killed but Villeneuve was unhurt. He won his first F1 Grand Prix, the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal the following year and in 1979 the South African, the Long Beach US-Grand Prix, the other North American race at Watkins Glen, and finished the season as runner-up to team-mate Jody Scheckter in the standings. After a disastrous 1980 season Villeneuve won at Monaco and in Spain, where he held off a string of cars to win an amazing victory. In 1982 at Imola he was leading until the last lap when his Ferrari team mate Didier Pironi, who was under team orders not to overtake, ignored the instruction and snatched the victory. Villeneuve was furious. Two weeks later at Zolder while trying to take pole position he ran into the back of Jochen Mass’ Rothmans March. His cartwheeling Ferrari broke apart throwing Villeneuve out of the cockpit into a catch fence killing him instantly at the young age of 32.