Gilles: the greatest...

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Sir,

I thoroughly enjoyed the May issue and the marking of the tragic day in 1982 when we lost Gilles. While Nigel Roebuck’s feelings for Gilles are well documented, I was fascinated to read the opinions of the many greats who raced alongside Gilles and who worked with him. It was notable that the great drivers such as Mario Andretti, Niki Lauda and Alan Jones were gracious and reverent whereas such as Derek Warwick and John Watson chose to denigrate a man whose talent and success they could only aspire to.

Possibly Mr Watson should be a little circumspect when criticising the “hyper-active child”. After all, his win at Silverstone in 1981 would never have happened had Gilles not taken himself and Jones out of the race early on. I also remember the same Mr Watson failing to overtake Gilles in a palpably superior car at Jarama that same year.

Derek Warwick’s comments were also disappointing, although possibly more understandable considering the family tragedy he has experienced. To suggest that Gilles wanted to die in a racing car is to wholly misrepresent the facts. Gilles did not want to die at all. He had a thirst for life that was unquenchable. He expected to die in a racing car because he was a highly intelligent man who understood the risks he was taking. Those same risks made him who he was.

To suggest that Gilles was not a great because he did not win multiple world championships is palpably absurd. Is Stirling Moss not a great of the sport? In today’s world we have had to make a rule to prevent people weaving down the straights to avoid being overtaken. Gilles didn’t seem to need that rule to prevent him putting other drivers at risk. In some ways Derek Warwick is right — I wouldn’t compare Gilles to the greats such as Senna, Prost and Schumacher: he was much better than that!

Martin Barclay, Cumbernauld, Glasgow