On This Day: Remembering Gilles Villeneuve

On this day thirty-one years ago, May 8th, we lost a great driver and future champion in driver Gilles Villeneuve in a terrible accident at the Belgain Circuit Zolder. During the qualifying session, Gilles had a miscommunication with fellow driver Jochen Mass. Mass, who was going much slower than the flying Gilles, moved to the right to let Gilles through. But Gilles, a native of Canada, moved to the right at the same time. Gilles hit the back of Jochen and launched over it him at a high rate of speed and distance, causing massive damage to the car. Gilles had been separated from his cars as fellow drivers and medics arrived at the scene. But it was too late. Gilles was diagnosed with a broken neck and was kept on life support till his wife could arrive. Gilles was pronounced dead later that night. The world lost a great driver. His legacy lives on in many ways. First of all, his son, Jacques Villeneuve, was the 1997 F1 World Champion and the 1995 Indianapolis 500 champion. Second, the track that hosts the Canadian Grand Prix, Ile Notre-Dame, was renamed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1982. He was also one of the first drivers inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993. Racing can be a very cruel sport, and sometimes things happen that just make no sense. Gilles is very much missed.

Gilles Villeneuve in 1982 (Photo credit not given)

-Matthew Hickey