Here at The Garage, both myself and Founding Editor Gary Grant share a passion for cars and photography. In a creative marketing campaign for Jaguar owners and enthusiasts, a Capture A Jag photo contest is underway. Although all photos have been submitted, it turns out my longtime friend and fellow auto enthusiast Chris Carveth has been selected as one of eight finalists for the contest. Chris captured this stunning photo of his gorgeous Jaguar XFR at sunset at Gulf Beach, overlooking picturesque Charles Island here in Milford, CT. If you like Chris’ photo as much as I do, please take a moment and cast your vote at www.captureajag.com.
It was Tuesday before I could get a flight home. I had planned to stay over for Monaco. By then Gilles had been home several days and was lying-in-state in the vestibule of the local arena in Berthierville. The lines to view his body just went on and on. He was dressed in a white, what I thought was a driver’s suit, but I have heard conflicting reports since. When I went to pay my respects, there were so many people there I almost turned for home. I was undergoing such a range of emotions I had never felt so intensely before. I wanted to comfort the family, but was not sure it was just me I wanted to comfort. Gaston was in hospital under heavy sedation. He had lost the son he never had. He and Gilles were closer than a Father and son. Like many Fathers, Gaston had pulled Gilles out of many of life’s ditches. I drove directly to Berthierville from the airport. After paying my respects I headed for home in Ottawa. I had seen my friend for the last time.
I am still in a fog about most of that week. I am not sure if it was the Thursday that the funeral was held, but I drove to Berthierville with my good friend David Morgan-Kirby, an avid race fan and sometimes journalist who, like I, had watched the rise of Gilles from Formula Fords to Formula One. He had taken the time to interview Gilles when he was in the lower ranks and still would get a good reception from him even though Gilles was now at the top of his game. David and I and my wife at the time sat in the loft to the right of the chequered flag draped coffin. We were within fifty feet of Jody when he gave the eulogy. David, a stoic Englishman was rock solid. My wife was a blithering mess. I was just stunned. In less than a week I had done the final negotiation for our Grand Prix book, received a significant advance against royalties, ventured overseas and returned home broken, but I was in better shape than my friend who was now the centre of a different type of attention.
After it was all over Gilles’ body was taken to Montreal to be cremated. Joanne would then take the ashes back to Monaco. We followed the black Cadillac to Montreal on our return to Ottawa. I thought of the ‘Red Cadillac’ on this drive. David and I reminisced about all we had seen. There was a lot of laughter and tears on that drive. We got seriously drunk that night. [Read more…]
When the teams convened in Zolder two weeks after the Imola race the tensions between FOCA and FIA plus the tension between Gilles and Didier had not diminished. All of the teams this time showed up and got to work. The media had fanned the flames between Gilles and Didier. Gilles had vowed to ‘never speak to that man again’. He was true to his word and they avoided each other in the pits.
Since the 1981 race that saw the death of one mechanic and serious injury to another, the pit and paddock area had been replaced by a completely new and safer installation.
Friday morning there were two sessions, one for pre-qualifying and one for regular untimed practice to sort out the cars. Near the end of the second session a short rain began to fall. They halted the session. By the time qualifying began the rain had stopped and the track was dry. Gilles spent some of Friday evening with the mechanics as they prepared the cars for Saturday’s final qualifications.
Saturday morning it was cool and dry. Rain threatened both the untimed morning session and final qualification in the afternoon. Prost and Arnoux were in fine form and held down the first and second fastest times with Rosburg in third and Lauda right back on form in fourth.
The usual squabbling between the FIA and FOCA was noticeably absent at the start of the 1982 season. Alan Jones had become disenchanted with the almost suspension-less cars and had gone home to Australia. The rumour mill was rampant with as many as three former World Champions to appear on the grid for the season. Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Niki Lauda were all reported to have been offered large sums of cash to put on a helmet again. Only Lauda appeared at McLaren with John Watson as his backup.
Carlos Reutemann had intended to retire but reconsidered when Jones left the team. Keke Rosburg was his second at Williams. Mario left Alfa-Romeo to return to America and IndyCar racing. Gilles and Didier remained with Ferrari. Piquet teamed with Recardo Patrese at Brabham while Prost and Arnoux returned to Renault. Mansell and de Angelis took up the cores with Lotus and March retained Jochen Mass alongside newcomer Raul Boesel.
Gilles thought 1982 was going to be his year. Ferrari would win the constructors championship, but things would be very different in the drivers race.
South Africa started the season and a rift over the new driver’s super license which the drivers felt they could be traded like cattle at the whim of the team owners. Once this got straightened out the race got underway. Gilles had qualified third behind Arnoux and Piquet. Didier was qualified sixth. Both Ferrari would drop out of the race with Gilles blowing a turbo and Didier having a misfire and finishing in eighteenth.
After the drama in Zolder everyone packed up, lock, stock and barrel and moved to the shores of the Mediterranean…Monaco. Long known as the crown jewel of Grand Prix racing and a serious favourite of the drivers and spectators alike, Monaco remains a very narrow, dangerous circuit that would not pass the required safety standards now in force in Formula One. It is like Kitsbuhel in downhill racing. It is iconic and will continue to be run.
It was felt the turbo-charged cars would be ineffective on the slow, twisting streets of both Monaco and Long Beach. Gilles proved them very wrong by putting the 126C on the front row with Nelson Piquet in his Brabham on the pole. Pironi had a more difficult time taming the powerful Ferrari and sat seventeenth on the grid.
There had been many changes to the driver line-up in the off-season. Andretti now drove for Alfa-Romeo. Emerson Fittipaldi retired from Formula One and left Keke Rosburg to carry the Fittipaldi colours. Rene Arnoux was still at Renault with newcomer Alain Prost. Formula Three star Nigel Mansell shared the driving orders at Lotus with Italian Elio de Angelis. The Williams team remained unchanged with Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones, the new World Champion. Only Ferrari and Renault had the all-powerful turbo until the new Toleman team appeared with a Brian Hart turbo. It was entered in the Italian Grand Prix with Brian Henton at the wheel. It started twenty-third and finished tenth. Derrick Warwick was unable to qualify the sister car.
At the Belgian Grand Prix, again held at Zolder, Gilles qualified seventh, over a second and a half behind Reutemann’s Williams on the pole. Pironi out-qualified Gilles in third.
Reutemann had an unfortunate incident which put a damper on the weekend and his solid qualifying run for the pole. As he set out for his final qualify attempt on Friday, Osella mechanic, Giovanni Amadeo, fell from the pit wall into Reutemann’s path. Reutemann was unable to avoid him. Amadeo died from extensive injuries the following Monday. A second incident, also involving a mechanic, occured at the start of the race.
The 1981 Formula One season continued with the on-going dispute between the FIA, the sports governing body and FOCA, the Formula One Constructors Association. At the first race it came to a head and only at the insistence of the principal sponsors of the teams would any kind of reconciliation take place and the season got underway at Long Beach.
At Ferrari there was a new kid on the block. Jody had retired having achieved his goal of the World Championship in 1979. He stuck around for 1980 with the T5 disaster falling down around him. Some drivers would have just thrown up their hands and called it a day, but Jody showed his class by sticking to Ferrari so they could capitalize on his achievement. The new kid was Didier Pironi who had moved over from Tyyrell.
“When I joined Ferrari the whole team was devoted to Gilles. I mean he was not just the top driver, he was much more than that,” recalled Pironi. “He had a small family there…he made me fit right in. I felt at home right away. Gilles made no distinctions. I was expecting to be put in my place. I was not number one. I was number two yet he treated an equal all the way.”
1980 got off to a slow start for me, but there were a couple of things that either happened in 1979 or 1980. One event certainly happened in 1979 and it happened in Monaco. I had always fixed a large Canadian flag to the lens hood of all my lenses. The one on my 350 was about three inches high and five inches long. It opened many a door. The door it opened this time happened to be on the fifth floor of an apartment building that sat on the outside of the exit of Loews Hairpin. From that vantage point I got shots no one else had ever seen. I suspect you are wondering how I got up into this private residence. As I was shooting back up into Lowes from ground level a marshal came up and tapped me on the shoulder. I thought he wanted me to move as I was right behind the guardrail. He pointed to the flag on my lens hood and turned and pointed up the building behind me. High on the wall of this building was a small balcony. On it was a very large Canadian flag! Even better, behind it were three beautiful young women! They were smiling and waving at me to come to the door downstairs in the lobby. Before I knew it I was standing on that balcony with the three young women and that beautiful Canadian flag! The view was wonderful and the track looked great too. The young woman who was attached to the apartment was a student from Montreal who was visiting her Father in Monte Carlo. She was attending school in Europe and the other two ladies were her classmates. That young girl eventually got well into the Formula One fraternity and spent a lot of time with one of the drivers. We are still friends to this day and chat often about F1 and the old days. After the race was over, which Jody won, I had the grand privilege of having these lovelies on my arm, albeit for too short a while, to attend an after race party that saw more champagne flow than I had ever seen. The trip to Maranello was very foggy the next morning…or was it afternoon?
After Gilles win in Montreal I thought nothing could top that event for me. Was I wrong! My client list just seemed to explode! I had a trip lined up with my Molson ski race win to shoot the Crazy Canucks in Europe which seemed to like a good start. Early in the year I got a call from Defasco Steel in Hamilton. They produced a wonderful full-colour newsletter that had won many awards for it’s quality of print and images. It was huge! It was roughly 11″ x 14″ in size and used two blacks in the printing which gave more depth to any images. It was a beautiful publication which I would enjoy producing work for during the next decade. They wanted images of the Crazy Canucks to go with copy they already had. I believe the National Ski Team had put them onto me. Dofasco knew I was going over to several races that spring. Over I went and produced images like they had never seen. I then suggested they might be missing one of the biggest Canadian sports stories in Gilles Villeneuve. They agreed and over I went again to Monaco. What a hell of a start to the year!
1978 started off rather slowly with just preparations for the coming racing season and finishing up Greg Athans new book Ski Free. I had enjoyed the past season with the best freestyle skiiers the world had to offer and Gilles finally getting a ride in Formula One made it look like a great year was in store. Len Coates also got prepared to head out for the Grand Prix season. His assignment from the Toronto Star was to let Canada know what we had representing us on the Grand Prix circuit. To date he had little to offer but Gilles’ seemingly tough struggle to keep up. We quietly had Clark Irwin Publishing in our pockets. The Italian press was already crucifying Gilles for his apparent reckless attitude in their beloved Ferrari. Formula One drivers were also concerned about the way Gilles approached racing. They could not figure out what he was doing when he would sit on the grid during race morning practice and make several outrageous starts leaving half his tires on the grid. Again on the formation lap, he would tear away from his starting box. It was simple. Gilles was doing what drag racers did before they made their run. He was laying down a nice thick patch of rubber to give his car grip and the advantage from the standing start. When he repeatedly spun during practice they thought he was way over his head. In actual fact he was finding the limit of the car and its tires in many corners. He was fast and he wanted to prove it. It was never about who’d win. It was about who was fastest. Gilles was qualifying in the top ten, but he was leaving hulks everywhere. His accident in Japan was haunting him with every line written about him. When the GP Circus got to California for the GP at Long Beach Gilles proved he belonged. He sat on the front row beside his team leader Carlos Reutemann. At the start Gilles out dragged Reutemann into the first turn and never looked back for the next 38 laps. Then he did it again! Naturally doing his late braking he came upon Clay Reggazoni in a narrow twisting part of the circuit just before the hill that led to the pit straight. As we saw him do at least twice in Formula Atlantic and again in the Japanese Grand Prix of 1977 one of Gilles front wheels came in contact with a rear wheel of Reggazoni’s car. Villeneuve’s leading Ferrari was now air-borne over Reggazoni’s car spinning around and coming to an abrupt halt in a tire barrier. One of Gilles tires had brushed Clay’s helmet on its way past. Clay continued and Gilles climbed from the wreck of his Ferrari. A stern talking to from ‘the old man’ was on his list when he returned to the factory. He had accidents in both his next two outings, but finally got on the points board with a fourth in Spain. He was called everything by the Italian press who demanded his release. He was not spoken of favourably by too many others in the press corps. To Ferrari he was the Crown Prince of Destruction. He finally picked up points in Austria and Holland to round out his year…well almost…we still had the Canadian race on the new track in downtown Montreal.