Tribute on tribute


Congratulations to Nigel Roebuck and the Motor Sport team on your truly worthy tribute to Gilles Villeneuve in the May issue, 30 years after the tragedy at Zolder.

Poring over the anecdotes and pictures on a transatlantic flight, I was transported back to that miserable Saturday afternoon those three decades ago. As a 15-year-old F1 fanatic I can remember that terrible afternoon unfolding after my grandfather shouted to me that he’d heard on the radio about a serious accident in qualifying but missed the name of the driver.

Of course there were no qualifying TV broadcasts in those days, no internet, and not even Ceefax, so finding out news required patience. “Please, please don’t be Gilles,” I prayed, as I waited for the next bulletin… But was soon to be informed of the tragic details courtesy of the BBC.

As a huge Williams fan, I rejoiced five months later when Keke was crowned champion after what must have been one of the most remarkable Formula 1 seasons ever. But I think few would argue — even the original Flying Finn — that the record book should probably have read differently that year. Equipped with Harvey Postlethwaite’s finest Ferrari design — the 126C2 (once adapted with pullrod front suspension) — Gilles would finally have had the competitive car he so deserved. And number 27 would surely have been crowned champion in 1982, had the music not stopped at Zolder on May 8.

Perhaps that might have silenced the handful of non-believers. Forza Gilles.

Max Kingsley-Jones, Iver Bucks