gilles villeneuve, cananda, 1978, winner

Jacques to drive Gilles Villeneuve’s 1978 race winning Ferrari

gilles villeneuve, cananda, 1978, winner

It will be a very special moment for Joann Villeneuve when her son Jacques leads out the field in her late husband’s Ferrari for the parade lap at the Canadian Grand Prix.

It was 40 years ago that Gilles Villeneuve became the only Canadian ever to win the Formula 1 race. The 1978 event was the first held on the track formerly known as Circuit Ile Notre Dame, which has since been renamed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.


“It brings back lots of emotions,” Joann Villeneuve said Thursday at a news conference held on the track.

After tracking down the car Gilles drove in that race, which was formerly owned by Pink Floyd drummer and racing enthusiast Nick Mason, Canadian GP promoter Francois Dumontier got the green light from F1 owner Liberty Media to let Jacques Villeneuve drive it in the parade lap just before the start of Sunday’s race.

The 47-year-old Jacques, who followed his father into race driving and won the F1 championship in a Williams in 1997, said the car was tested two weeks ago to ensure it was in working order.

He has driven it before at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a classic car event in Britain, and found it noticeably different from the high-tech racers he drove two decades later.

“It’s like sitting in a tuna tin can,” he said. “They put a little piece of plastic around you and that’s the shell, and then you feel safe, but it’s just plastic.

“But the car was driving really well. It’s amazing how advanced they were already back then.”

Despite his 11 F1 victories from 1996 to 2006, Jacques Villeneuve struggled at his home race. He joked that the parade lap would be the first time he’d ever lead the Canadian Grand Prix.

Gilles Villeneuve, a native of Berthierville, Quebec was a flashy young risk-taker when he posted his first F1 win at the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix. He managed to qualify third, then shot to the lead late in an incident-filled race and took the chequered flag ahead of Wolf-Ford driver Jody Schecter and Ferrari teammate Carlos Reutemann in the final race of the season.

“The first thing that comes to mind was that it was cold, it was winter,” Joann Villeneuve recalled. “There had been snowflakes the morning of the race.

“If we could have written a script it would have been refused because it was so unbelievable. That’s what has remained with me— just to see that first win, knowing that the season had been difficult for Gilles and the team had started to get nervous about him. For him to win made all the difference in the world for the future of his driving career. Everything together was just magical.”

Gilles Villeneuve became a fixture at Ferrari until he was killed in a crash during qualifying at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.

“We’ve been working on this for a few weeks,” said Dumontier. “Perhaps the Canadian Grand Prix would not even be here 40 years later without that victory by Gilles.”