When I was in Maranello yesterday for the Mille Miglia race, I couldn’t help but take note of one of the town’s tourist attractions in particular. The bronze Gilles Villeneuve bust, situated on the street that bares his name, was once again sporting a new look. Gone were the massive potted flowers that adorned the monument less than two weeks ago for the celebrations which marked 30 years since the little French Canadian died in a horrific accident during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend and a large Banner had been placed beneath the memorial, “Ciao Gilles” it read simply.
In the week running up to May 8th, every major sporting newspaper and magazine ran at least one article dedicated to Villeneuve and his legacy. The Gazetta dello Sport even sold a large book dedicated to the former Ferrari driver, filled with pictures detailing his life and career. People who I spoke with about the anniversary all knew the legend of Gilles Villeneuve. “He was the pilot who Enzo loved the most.” One of my neighbours commented upon noticing my purchase of the above mentioned book. “He loved him like a son.”
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated event that was held to mark thirty years without Gilles took place on the day of his death in Maranello. Villeneuve’s son, Jacques took to Fiorano to drive his father’s Ferrari 312 T4. When I heard about this tribute, I made it my mission to attend. I grew up watching Jacques Villeneuve race and I remember being thirteen and painting a huge mural on my wall to commemorate his 1997 World Championship. He wasn’t a Ferrari driver, but he was Canadian and to me that was worth cheering about.
It wasn’t until I began to learn more about the history of Formula 1 that I truly first encountered the story of his father, Gilles. I think that I have already written about my admiration for Villeneuve, who is remembered for his passion, his speed and his courage. He died before I was born and yet I have seen the videos of him working his magic behind the wheel of various cars and came to identify with him as I identify with Ferrari. Gilles Villeneuve was not simply a driver, no, he was a driver who embodied the very things that I love about the prancing horse itself and the qualities which drew me in and made me a life long fan of this inspirational team. It helped, of course, that Gilles was also a Canadian but had he been from
think that I would have still come to idolize him. Romania