Gilles Villeneuve, already 40 years old: “There are birthdays we want to keep … others we don’t”

Jacques Villeneuve expects to receive many calls and testimonies tomorrow to celebrate his 40th birthdayAnd anniversary of his father’s tragic accident at the Zolder circuit on the eve of the presentation of the Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1982.

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“I don’t remember the date of May 8 and it doesn’t cross my mind,” he explained in an interview with Tree trunk. Honestly, I never think about it. “

“There are anniversaries we want to keep, others we don’t, he continues. We are very good as humans at forgetting the things we don’t want to remember. And after that, it’s like a surprise. This is my way of thinking and it works well. “


However, Villeneuve baptized the last of the family with the name of his famous father.

“It wasn’t something light,” he says. I wasn’t ready to do it and wasn’t comfortable with it before. On the other hand, I had taken a step forward with my fourth child, Henri, who was my father’s middle name. For me it was the right time. I probably had things to understand and digest. “

Gilles was born on January 26th. Jacques’ other offspring, whose first names are Jules, Joakim, Benjamin and Henri, were born from two previous unions. The 1997 F1 world champion shares his life with his new partner and mother of his fifth child, Giulia Marra.


Accompanied by his wife Giulia Marra, Jacques Villeneuve introduced us to his fifth son named Gilles during his participation in the Daytona 500 last February.

Photo Luigi Macellaio

Accompanied by his wife Giulia Marra, Jacques Villeneuve introduced us to his fifth son named Gilles during his participation in the Daytona 500 last February.

A legend forever

Villeneuve has been very reluctant to talk about his father in the past. Today he seems more open even if he would still like to avoid the subject.


Jacques Villeneuve with his father in 1976 in Berthierville.

Archive photo

Jacques Villeneuve with his father in 1976 in Berthierville.

“I remember when I won the first CART series [ex-IndyCar] in 1994 a reporter put a microphone in my mouth when I got out of the car and the question he asked alluded to my father. I replied that my first thought was not for Gilles, but for the team that made me win. “

“From time to time, I have dismissed questions that pertained to Gilles,” he says. I didn’t want to walk in my father’s shadow. He will remain a legend forever. On the other hand, I have never tried to do better than him, or even to imitate him, as many people wanted, and still want, to hear, “she explains.


On 10 June 2018, Jacques Villeneuve prepares to drive his late father Gilles' 1978 Ferrari 312 to the track ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Stock Photography, AFP

On 10 June 2018, Jacques Villeneuve prepares to drive his late father Gilles’ 1978 Ferrari 312 to the track ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix.

“These people wanted me to be a second Gilles. I do not care. He was never my target. I, I wanted to live my life. “

Very few memories

“But, don’t doubt it, I am proud to be his son. He is my hero. Only later did I realize how popular and adored he was. For many people Gilles is still alive, ”she continues.


This photo taken in 1974 shows Gilles Villeneuve being interviewed in his car while his son Jacques is at his side.

Stock Photography, AFP

This photo taken in 1974 shows Gilles Villeneuve being interviewed in his car while his son Jacques is at his side.

Jacques was only 11 years old when the fatal detour occurred on the Zolder circuit in Belgium on May 8, 1982.

“I have very few memories of Gilles as a father,” he admits. His sudden death didn’t really shock me. Back then, it had been two or three years with my sister [Mélanie] and I was no longer used to seeing it. He was busy racing, testing in Ferrari and pursuing hobbies. “

Now, those hobbies were escaping – not to mention performing stunts – aboard his helicopter, cruising at high speed in his boat, or braving rough trails behind the wheel of his all-terrain vehicle. .

“The few moments I remember with him, Villeneuve points out, were when he was doing some crazy maneuvers where we could have died. He had this passion and this desire to make the most of the possibilities, not without risks.

“He often enjoyed pushing the limits of his car, even trying to destroy it. ”

“I needed my mother more …” – Jacques Villeneuve


Jacques (uncle), Joann Villeneuve, Jacques (son), Gilles and the parents of Gilles Villeneuve.

Archive photo

Jacques (uncle), Joann Villeneuve, Jacques (son), Gilles and the parents of Gilles Villeneuve.

He never denied his father, on the contrary, but Jacques Villeneuve makes no secret of saying that during Gilles’ frequent absences he has always been able to count on his mother Joann.

‘My mother left us, Mélanie [sa sœur] and I, free from our choices, he says. Do our stupid things and pay for them. It is the best way to learn. At that time in my life, I needed my mother the most. “

“Probably, several years later, I would have liked Gilles to be there, he added. But hey, even today, his presence isn’t something I miss. “

A nice wink

Villeneuve admits he experienced great sensations on 8 May 2012, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Gilles’ death, when he was invited to Italy by Ferrari to drive the 312 T4 which in 1979 brought three of his father’s six F1 victories. and allowed him to finish second in the World Championship behind his teammate, Jody Scheckter.

“It was a nice wink, he says. As shocked as I was to see how dangerous these cars were, I was also surprised to see that the seat, pedal position, steering wheel and seat belts did not need to be changed for my test. “

“Everything was perfect. Nothing has changed since Gilles drove him for the last time, to chase Jacques. I guess we shared the same mold. It was also special to meet several mechanics who were there with Gilles in 1979”.

James Hunt’s recommendation

Jacques Villeneuve agrees that James Hunt’s approach after the 1976 Trois-Rivières Grand Prix opened his father’s doors to Formula 1.

The day after Gilles’ victory in Formula Atlantic at his own expense, Hunt was so impressed that he suggested that his team, McLaren, offer the Quebecer a test drive in F1. Which was done the following year. Not without panache.

Remember that the flamboyant Brit would be crowned world champion a few weeks after his visit to Mauricie.

“Of course Hunt contributed to his arrival in F1, but this gesture would not be done today, to claim Jacques. How can a driver advise giving a chance to someone who may eventually become a potential rival? “

Numbers 12 and 27

“Many people remember the number 27 that Gilles wore in 1981 and 1982, says Jacques. But that’s what he wore when he died. “

“For me I remember most the 12 with which he not only won his first victory in Formula 1 [à Montréal en 1978], but it is also the one that was branded on his Ferrari when he was vice world champion the following season. “

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