Tomorrow will mark the sad anniversary of the tragic death of Gilles Villeneuve at the circuit of Zolder, in Belgium. 38 years ago already, Canada lost its greatest ambassador on the planet.
Where were you on may 8, 1982 ? You don’t have to be passionate about F1 for you to remember that fateful day. Because the quebec driver, by his exploits on the track, his charisma, too, had exceeded the limits of his sport.
It is at the edge of this Ferrari as the quebec driver was going to win, in front of his public in Montreal, the first of his six wins in F1.
Villeneuve became the idol of a people. His outstanding talent has made him a driver outside the norm. As we see that it’s still rare today.
illes Villeneuve lost his life on may 8, 1982 at the circuit of Zolder, in Belgium.
It may seem invincible, the one that was affectionately called the ” Little prince “. Until this last round of qualifications for the sinister at the edge of his Ferrari while trying to overtake on the starting grid, his team mate, and become the worst enemy, Didier Pironi.
To the a
To our question, Christian Tortora replied that he was on the ground. It was actually one of the only two representatives of the media in quebec, with Guy Robillard, the canadian Press, made the trip in Belgium. To live this tragedy in a direct and, a few hours later, to announce the death of 32-year-old born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
In Europe, most of the major television channels had started their newsletter in speaking of this swerve fatal. In Quebec, if the specialized networks in continuous disclosure did not exist at the time, Télé-Métropole (ex-VAT) had interrupted its regular programming to devote a special issue on the sudden departure of Villeneuve.
“I’ll tell you, in all honesty, that 38 years later, this unhappy memory of it is still there in my memory and will remain so all my life, told Tortora in an interview to the Journal de Montréal. Gilles was a being set apart. “
Two weeks earlier at the Grand Prix of san Marino, at Imola, even Pironi, who was travelling in the footsteps of Villeneuve, had not respected the instructions of team-imposed end of the race by Ferrari.
The relationship between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi deteriorated after the Grand Prix of san Marino played two weeks before the tragedy.
A few turns from the finish, the French decided to double it, to the amazement of the Québécois. The relations between the men have never been the same. On the contrary, they are worse. On the podium, Villeneuve did not hide his frustration while Pironi, he was celebrating his victory controversial.
“Fuck you “
A great rivalry was developing between these partners to determine who would become world champion. Because it was written in the sky that the year 1982 was that of Ferrari. Pironi was his turn to be the victim of a serious accident in the rain in Germany a few months later, which will put an end to his career in F1.
“After Imola, continued Tortora, Gilles has decided that he will not speak to him more. I found myself in front of Pironi and I made him hear the interview that I had conducted with Villeneuve after the race. He realized how he was furious.
“So furious, that he said to all the people of Ferrari “to go so fuck you” “, has riveted the friend Torto. Villeneuve felt betrayed. “
In 1979, his second full season in F1, Villeneuve would likely have been able to win the title, but he has precisely respected the instructions of the Ferrari team. Rather, it is the South African Jody Scheckter was crowned champion of the world in front of the Québécois.
“It is true, responds Tortora. Villeneuve, himself, was loyal to his team and to his team-mate.
“Villeneuve is passed to the legend because he is deceased, to tell Tortora. We agree on that. But there is not that much. As soon as he took a seat in his car, he had a fierceness and determination that is uncommon that remind me of Lewis Hamilton. What are the drivers of exception. “
The knife between the teeth
Two weeks after the episode stormy that marked the end of the Grand Prix in san Marino, Tortora came to speak to Villeneuve.
“He told me on my arrival in Zolder that he no longer wanted to have anything to Pironi,” said Tortora.
The accident terrifying occurred at the end of the qualifying session.
“It is a misunderstanding between Villeneuve and the poor Jochen Mass, is reminiscent of Tortora. At the wrong time, the wrong place. To let him pass, the German ranks on the right, the same path that had unfortunately chosen Villeneuve. “
The driver, without a helmet and still attached to his seat, was ejected from his car. There was nothing more to be done to save it.
The sad memory of the return to Montreal
Christian Tortora in front of the Ferrari 312 T-3 that Gilles Villeneuve was led to victory at Montreal in 1978.
Christian Tortora was in discussions with a fellow european in the paddock of the circuit of Zolder this Saturday afternoon, may 8, when all of this stopped abruptly.
“I heard sirens, said the veteran journalist in an interview in the Journal de Montréal, and the F1 cars were going all in the pits. I realized that he had done something wrong. I noticed, in going back to the press room, that Gilles Villeneuve had been the victim of a serious accident.
“The atmosphere was so heavy, goes-t-he. I went to see the boss of Ferrari, who then told me that it was very serious. My colleague, Guy Robillard, who also covered the Grand Prix of Belgium, was pitiful to see. He was shaking.
“My first reflex was to call the parents of Gilles in Berthierville, Seville and Georgette, to inform them of the situation. Before they learn of the death of their son a few hours later. “
At the time, it will be recalled, the qualifications were not presented live in Quebec.
Tortora, the journalist, had volunteered to support the family and to assist it in its efforts after the announcement of the death of Villeneuve.
“I did something, he said, that I would be unable to do so cold today. To manage an exceptional situation. It must be remembered that Joann, the wife of Gilles, was not present at Zolder, when the fatal accident occurred. She was rather chosen to Monaco for the first communion of his daughter, Melanie.
“The canadian armed Forces had put at the disposal of the family a plane to repatriate the body of Gilles. This aircraft departing from a military base in Germany, ” explains Tortora, then made a stop in Belgium to allow Joann and her two children to return to Montreal.
“It was a sadness indescribable,” said Tortora. I retain, however, a picture-marking of the departure of Belgium to Quebec. We see the coffin of Gilles was wrapped in a canadian flag to be directed to the cargo hold and the three soldiers on each side.
“I’m just telling you about 38 years later and I still have chills. The people on the tarmac were all set to cry.
“On board the aircraft, during the flight back to Montreal, I was sitting in front of Jacques, son of Gilles. I will always remember his words : “You know how my father is dead, then explain to me”… “
The journalist Christian Tortora had posed with Gilles Villeneuve a few minutes before his turn fatal at Zolder.
Villeneuve has been a major figure in the history of F1, despite his career far too short. And this is not only Tortora, who repeats it, but most of his colleagues who, like him, representing nearly 600 Grands Prix behind the tie.
“They admired all Villeneuve,” says Tortora. One still speaks today of his duel memorable with René Arnoux on the circuit Dijon-Prenois, France, in 1979. His win in Montreal in 1978, and its other races of anthology, including the one in Jarama, Spain, where in 1981, he won, while only 1.2 second divided the top five at the finish.