The greatest lap

Some have gone down in history, others are burned on the memories of those who witnessed them. Here we celebrate racing’s defining moments.

Juan Manuel Fangio

CAR Maserati 250F DATE August 4, 1957 EVENT German Grand Prix CIRCUIT Nürburgring

He was, at 46, old enough to know better: “[But] the Nürburgring is one of those tracks where you lose touch with things.” And, as such, the young men he was hunting down were blissfully unaware. Confident of victory, they had drawn level to signal their intent. Peter Collins to his Mon Ami Mate Mike Hawthorn: You, first. Me, second. 

The latter, one hand on the wheel, the other shading his eyes from a lowering sun, had failed to spot Juan Fangio’s stationary car, but the agitation in the grandstand alerted him and his Ferrari team-mate to the race’s crux. Collins responded with a new lap record – 9min 28.9sec – to stretch their lead beyond 50sec.

Fangio’s stop had been scheduled. Running on half-tanks, he had passed both Englishmen on the third lap to lead, and was half a minute ahead when he pitted nine laps later for a slug of benzole/methanol/nitro mix and two new Pirellis. 

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and Maserati mechanics: as the worn right rear was tossed aside, with it went its hub nut, careering maddeningly beneath the car. That Fangio had jumped out to grab a drink and thus had his sweat-stained shirt’s back to the chaos indicates that these were different times. Even so, according to Motor Sport correspondent Denis Jenkinson, 52sec was “a disgustingly long time” for a planned replenishment.

The subsequent PR spin was that this was a ploy to lull Ferrari into a false sense of security. (Indeed Hawthorn later admitted that they slowed too soon.) The truth was that Fangio, pushed back into the fray almost 50sec in arrears, was disappointed to be losing a race that could win him a fifth world title. He was, however – and perhaps for the only time in his career – “ready to do anything”.

Now holding onto a higher gear than normal, his usually lithe lightweight 250F became imbued with an uncomfortable teetering feeling while gaining precious tenths. Turning a blind mind’s eye to blind corners and brows hemmed by hedges gained a few more. Fangio’s default of winning at the slowest speed possible was no longer an option. Stirring dust and hearts, he was both in and on the verge.

New rubber bedded in, Fangio began to erase a gap that had briefly continued to widen. He reduced it by 12sec to 33sec on lap 16 (of 22); private deals at Ferrari were suddenly forgotten. On lap 17, he sliced four tenths from Collins’ lap record. On lap 18, he dipped three tenths under his own pole time, with a 9min 25.3sec. And on lap 19, he broke it by 2.2sec. 

Then it happened: 9min 17.4sec, 91.528mph. 

It can’t have been perfect. There is too much room for error within the Nordschleife’s classic 14.2-mile layout. Indeed, his fractional miscalculations, inseparable from so supreme, so otherworldly an effort, would keep Fangio awake for the next two nights – and cause him chills amid the otherwise warm glow of nostalgia: “There was always fear [there], but fear is not a stupid thing.”

But it was the signature lap of a great career. From apotheosis to zenith.

Though Fangio’s famed relaxed mien and stance – flexed, corded forearms and grimy cheeks hollowed by the wind – had not wavered, clearly adrenalin was scouring his veins. Lunging down the inside of Collins at the left-hander behind the pits, he outbraked himself and was immediately repassed. His swift response was, according to Hawthorn’s recall, uncompromising: “As Peter drifted in, Fangio pulled onto the outside of the bend and went past with two wheels on the grass, showering the Ferrari with dirt and stones. It was an old trick from the hard school…”

Fangio had come too far, too quickly, to wait. He admitted: “At the speed we were going, it seemed that there wouldn’t be room for two cars. Collins gave way.” And promptly dropped back when his clutch froze – and another flicked up stone shattered a lens in his goggles.

A few miles later, probably at the left-right of Adenauer-Forst, Hawthorn received his own dose: “Fangio pulled the same trick, cut sharply inside and forced me out onto the grass and almost into the ditch. He looked round
almost apologetic.”

Despite the fact that his Engleberts were past their best, Hawthorn gave spirited chase thereafter – a 9min 24sec last lap – unaware that Fangio now had a knee braced against the cockpit’s side and was clinging to the steering wheel because his seat had worked loose. 

The gap between them after 311 miles was 3.6sec – but in reality it was an age. Blond Hawthorn and bronzed Collins – “Mike and I were first and second in the class for mere mortals” – were ecstatic on the podium, as though they had won. The actual victor, drowning beneath a huge laurel wreath, looked every bit his 46 years. Fangio told Hawthorn: “I did things I have never done before, and
I don’t ever want to drive like that again.” 

He never would. This, the 24th, was his final Grand Prix victory. He had never demanded more from himself; this emptying of that deep, deep well of talent echoes still.  Paul Fearnley

Stefan Bellof

CAR Porsche 956 DATE May 28, 1983 EVENT Nürburgring 1000Kms CIRCUIT Nordschleife

There is probably no lap time in the history of motor sport that can be quoted down to its final decimal place by so many as Stefan Bellof’s qualifying mark for the 1983 Nürburgring 1000Kms. His 6min11.13ssec around the Nordschleife at the wheel of a Rothmans Porsche 956 – a full 5sec ahead of his closest rival – holds a special place in the collective psyche of our sport. 

The lap that gave Bellof pole position for the ’Ring’s World Endurance Championship encounter at the end of May ’83, and his spectacular crash during the race itself, are central parts of the legend of a driver whose star shone so brightly for just three and a half seasons of international racing before his death. Yet its importance in the hearts of motor racing fans around the world transcends the mystique of the wild young German who posted it. 

A quirk of history meant the Group C grid in ’83 lined up on a shortened version of the Nordschleife. The old start-finish loop had been bulldozed as part of the development of the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit, resulting in the Nordschleife being 12.9 miles long, not 14.2.

It’s a lap you or I can drive today, the course, but Bellof’s qualifying and race marks set in 1983 will, in all likelihood, stand in perpetuity for a layout that has not been used for international racing since that year. 

If his 6min 11.13sec sounds amazing today, it was regarded as astonishing 34 years ago. The Porsche factory team had tested at the ‘Ring two weeks before the 1000Kms WEC round but it wasn’t prepared for what Bellof would do on low fuel, high boost and a set of soft tyres.

“The Porsche 956 was built for Le Mans 24 Hours, not a track like the old Nürburgring,” says Peter Falk, Porsche’s racing manager of the period. “We were astonished by the qualifying times, especially Stefan’s.”

Perhaps they shouldn’t have been. Bellof had already showed his prowess around the Nürburgring Nordschleife. He’d recorded fastest lap at the previous year’s European Formula 2 Championship race aboard his Maurer-BMW, a 7min 06.51sec around the 14.2-mile ‘full’ circuit. And at the ’83 F2 event at the ’Ring a month before the sports car fixture, he’d taken the lead on the opening lap only for the throttle cable to break as he after the Döttinger Höhe straight at the end of the circuit. The Maurer team clocked him completing the lap as he retired in the pitlane with a time only 10 seconds shy of his qualifying mark – despite a standing start and a rolling finish. 

But then Bellof, at just 25 years old, didn’t just like driving fast, he absolutely revelled in it. 

“Stefan just wanted to have a car in which he could go very fast,” recalls long-time Porsche engineer Norbert Singer, the architect of the 956. “That was in his character. He always wanted to drive as fast as possible. Sometimes he drove at 105 per cent, but he enjoyed it. He was young and didn’t fear anything.”

Not the track and not his team bosses. Singer says there was a recommendation – not an order, he insists – for the drivers to stay out of the concrete banking at the Karussell corner more than three quarters of the way around the Nordschleife lap. Bellof opted not to heed them.

“We did recommend not going down there to avoid damaging the floor of the car,” explains Singer. “There was no live TV then, of course, but we heard that Stefan had done it and then afterwards we found damage on the underbody. Not big damage, but it needed repairing.”

Jochen Mass, who qualified the sister Rothmans Porsche he shared with Jacky Ickx on a 6min 16.85sec, dismisses this story. He denies there were any such instruction and says he routinely went down into the bumpy concrete bowl: “You could do it safely as long as you put your left wheel on the flat asphalt at the bottom, which gave you enough clearance.”

But the German doesn’t doubt that Bellof was dead set on claiming the top spot in qualifying. 

“He waited so he could know my time,” remembers Mass. “It was a good lap for me, but my car was definitely a bit sluggish compared with the other one. But Stefan knew what he had to do and went out and did a 6min 11sec. He was quicker than me, he had to be – he was nearly 20 years younger.”

Quicker and more reckless, he suggests. That was to be borne out the next day in the race. The no2 Rothmans Porsche shared by Bellof and Derek Bell led through the opening two stints. In the third, the German was pulling away from Mass with a succession of quick laps that began with his 6min 25.91sec fastest race lap.

Much quicker than they needed to be, thought Bell. A trip to the pitwall to say so to Helmuth Bott, the board member in charge of motor sport as director of research and development, was met with words he wasn’t expecting. “Isn’t he wonderful!” was Bott’s response.

The no2 Porsche didn’t come past the pits again. Overtaking a slower car into the Pflanzgarten ‘yump’, air got under the car. The accident that followed – which saw the Porsche take off before landing and scattering debris for 500m down the track – set the Bellof Nordschleife legend in stone. Gary Watkins

Ayrton Senna

CAR McLaren MP4/4 DATE May 14, 1988 EVENT Monaco Grand Prix CIRCUIT Monaco

Ayrton Senna’s performance in qualifying at Monaco 1988, when he left as great a team-mate as Alain Prost reeling 1.4sec slower, has acquired mystical stature. Not least because of the mesmerising account Senna gave to Motor Sport’s Denis Jenkinson about it in an Autocourse interview two years later.

Qualifying the McLaren-Honda MP4/4 at Monaco ’88 represented Senna in extremis. He arrived into that weekend intent on not just beating Prost, the accepted standard-bearer until Senna had arrived at McLaren as his team-mate earlier in the year to redefine the goal posts, but on humiliating him. It was an approach that backfired in the race, as he famously crashed out from a massive lead. But the margin of his pace advantage over then triple Monaco winner Prost was quite astonishing, and was first evident in Thursday running when Senna topped the timesheets at 1min 26.464sec against Prost’s second-fastest 1min 28.375sec. But Prost was renowned for not pushing until it was needed, of only putting all the pieces of a lap together when it counted. Saturday would surely be when the true picture would emerge. Amazingly, Senna’s margin in second qualifying was even bigger.

Although his pole lap of 1min 23.998sec was 1.427sec faster than Prost’s best (in turn 1.26sec faster than the third-fastest Ferrari of Gerhard Berger) at the time he set it, it was more than 2sec better than anything Prost could do. Prost spent many more laps after Senna had stopped, trying to overcome that deficit – and found about half a second of it. Senna revealed in the interview that he’d stopped not because there was no need to go any faster but because he felt he’d reached an elevated level never before experienced that left him feeling vulnerable. He seems to be describing some sort of existential experience and claimed never to have reached such territory again.

“We had race tyres,” he recalled, “not qualifiers, so it was lap after lap, not just one lap… I went out, had a good lap, another lap.
I was on pole, then the next lap with a bigger margin and I was getting more and more and more. I got to the stage where I was more than 2sec faster than anybody including my team-mate who was using the same car, same engine, everything. That was the direct comparison and more than 2sec. It wasn’t because he was going slow but because I was going too fast.”

When Jenkinson queries the notion of ‘too fast’, Senna replies: “No, too fast. I was doing it in such a way that it was like as if my car was on a railway track, you understand? There was not that much left here [pointing to left] or here [pointing to right]… I felt at one stage that the circuit was no longer really a circuit, just a tunnel of Armco. But in such a way that I suddenly realised that I was over the level I considered… reasonable. There was no margin whatsoever, in anything. When I had that feeling I immediately lifted. I didn’t have to – because I was still going. I immediately lift. Then I felt that I was on a different level. I didn’t fully understand that level and I still don’t. I understand it a bit better but I’m still far from satisfying my own needs as to how it works in that [mental] band. So I backed off, came slowly into the pits. I said to myself, ‘Today, that is special. Don’t go out any more, you are vulnerable… You are putting yourself in a situation where you are almost doing it in a subconscious way.’ I could not really cope with that in a manner I found easy… There’s no need to go there any more. I know some of the reasons I went to that limit because I wanted so much to do more and more and better and better which pushed me further and further. The desire to go further was so big.”

That desire, the reasons he alluded to, were surely about establishing once and for all that he and not Prost was F1’s number one, the world’s greatest driver. It pushed him to a place his talent rescued him from but which left a mark on him. As such, it just might have been the greatest qualifying lap F1 has ever seen. Mark Hughes

Rubens Barrichello

CAR Jordan-Hart 193 DATE April 11, 1993 EVENT Grand Prix of Europe CIRCUIT Donington Park

Ferrari’s technical director James Allison once described Formula 1 as being ‘99 per cent misery’ – and that’s certainly how Jordan Grand Prix viewed the sport in 1992. I was close to the team, having worked there, and the previous year’s glorious debut seemed all too distant after a campaign with the unreliable 192. It was the ultimate second-album flop. Unpaid debts to Cosworth had forced Eddie Jordan to take Yamaha engines, freely supplied but costly in terms of weight and reliability. The Japanese company’s V12 had two main modes; blowing up and about to blow up. 

The 1993 season simply had to be better with Brian Hart’s brand new V10, though things got off to a sticky start with Ivan Capelli dropped after struggling in the first two races. His replacement was Thierry Boutsen who, in his 37th year, faced the twin issues of being in the twilight of his career and too tall to fit the Jordan comfortably.

All of this placed the team’s hopes on the shoulders of Rubens Barrichello, a youngster by the standards of the day at just 20 years old. Eddie found him an attractive proposition for two reasons. He had won the British Formula 3 Championship in 1991 and carried sponsorship to the tune of a few million dollars. As combinations go, that was about as good as it could get for Edmund Patrick Jordan.

Barrichello had acquitted himself respectably in his first two Grands Prix, South Africa and Brazil, qualifying on the seventh row both times before suffering gearbox failures. At Donington Park he performed well during Friday’s wet qualifying, eighth fastest overall, but on the dry Saturday he dropped back, a small mistake on his fastest lap relegating him to 12th. 

As the lights went green Barrichello knew there was a gap two rows in front, for JJ Lehto had been forced to start from the pits in the spare Sauber after suffering ignition switch failure. On a soaking track the Jordan made an impressive getaway, for while the 193 did not have active suspension it did have effective traction control. Barrichello speared between the Lotus of Johnny Herbert and the Benetton of Riccardo Patrese on the run down to Redgate. The memory of Formula 3 race victories, fastest laps and pole positions at Donington wouldn’t have done the young Brazilian’s confidence any harm

Jean Alesi had benefited from Lehto’s vacant grid slot, pulling alongside Ferrari team-mate Gerhard Berger before powering past. As the field descended the Craner Curves, Barrichello sold Berger a brilliant dummy, moving left then right to take eighth position at the Old Hairpin. Up front Ayrton Senna was working his magic, recovering from sixth at the first turn to lead before the lap’s end, but an inspired Barrichello had Alesi in his sights and drew alongside on the drive from McLeans to Coppice. With Karl Wendlinger’s Sauber and Michael Andretti’s McLaren colliding and skating into the gravel, the young Paulistano now found himself fifth. 

Ahead lay Michael Schumacher, struggling for grip in the new Benetton 193B, and along Starkey’s Straight Barrichello capitalised on his extra momentum to challenge Schumacher at the Esses and move into fourth.  

As he crossed the start-finish line, about four seconds behind Senna, Alain Prost and Damon Hill, the feeling on the Jordan pit wall was one of disbelief. EJ admitted he could barely watch and the management stared wide-eyed at the monitors, for surely this could not possibly continue.

Or could it?

On a day when the weather made monkeys out of the wisest race strategists, Barrichello would pit no fewer than six times – and they were his first Formula 1 pit stops, too. When EJ, technical director Gary Anderson, engineer Tim Wright and team manager John ‘Boy’ Walton dared to look, Rubens was still at the sharp end and held third place with six laps remaining.  

But then came the dreaded radio call, Barrichello reporting fuel pressure failure. In truth the 193 was completely dry, the traction control system having caused the Hart V10 to drink rather more thirstily than was customary. The pain was extreme, but that opening lap had shown there was light at the end of the tunnel. 

Senna’s drive that day rightfully made sporting headlines, but in his slipstream there had been another scintillating opening lap that history all too often overlooks.

It is such moments that make the misery worthwhile. Mark Gallagher

Keke Rosberg

CAR Williams FW10-Honda DATE July 20, 1985 EVENT British Grand Prix CIRCUIT Silverstone

This was pure theatre. A stocky Finn with blond hair and attitude; bright yellow overalls and red driving boots; chunky gold bracelet and full-strength Marlboro; a well-engineered Williams pushed along by a punchy Honda turbo V6. As a backdrop, Silverstone: a classic race track and one of the fastest in the world. 

On this July weekend in 1985, all of these potentially explosive ingredients were threatened by typical British summer weather. Qualifying was scheduled for two 60-minute sessions — one on Friday, the other on Saturday. The British Grand Prix, the eighth of 16 races that year, would be run over 65 laps on Sunday. 

Friday was a mess. Low cloud delayed the medical helicopter and caused a 90-minute free practice session to be postponed. Free practice was shunted into the afternoon and reduced to 20 minutes. The drivers had barely warmed up when, after an inadequate 10-minute break, they went straight into first qualifying. 

This was perfect territory for a quick-witted team such as Williams and plain quick drivers such as Keke Rosberg. On a damp track, the Finn was fastest. But his time of 1min 17.055sec was about 10sec off the expected pace. 

Performance of the Williams-Honda had been ramping up ever since the team’s switch from Cosworth normally aspirated power to the Japanese V6 turbo at the end of the 1983 and the emergence a year later of the first carbon-fibre chassis from the Williams workshop in Didcot. Rosberg had won on the bumpy streets of Detroit and finished second on the smooth, fast surface of Paul Ricard a fortnight before the team’s home Grand Prix. The profile of Silverstone in 1985 was much as it had been for the very first round of the F1 world championship 35 years before. The 2.932-mile broad expanse of Tarmac was effectively the perimeter road of a former wartime airfield. 

A multi-car collision in front of the pits at the end of the first lap in 1973 had been seen as a spectacular warning that speeds had become too high. A chicane introduced at Woodcote was still in place in 1985. Elsewhere, Silverstone was a flat-out blast, briefly interrupted by a couple of medium- to high-speed corners. The thought of Rosberg at full, energetic chat was one to relish.

Saturday’s final hour of qualifying began in sunshine but a brief shower would add spice, particularly as the track was drying rapidly and there were 30 minutes to go. 

Nelson Piquet was fastest with a Brabham powered by a four-cylinder BMW hand-grenade qualifying engine in the back. But all eyes were on Rosberg as he began a flying lap on his first set of qualifying tyres. 

As he hurtled towards Woodcote, spots of rain on his visor told Rosberg it was now or never. With radical changes planned for the track layout, this would probably be the last chance for any driver to break the magical 160 mph average. With that seemingly in mind, Rosberg walloped the inside kerb on the chicane and kept his right foot buried as he crossed the line.

As the Williams, its bellow muted, headed towards Copse, there was a pause while we waited for the commentator to tell us the score. 

“One minute, five point nine six seven. One hundred and sixty miles an hour! He’s done it!” History had been made. The fastest lap ever recorded by a F1 car at any circuit during a race meeting, even with a kerb-bashing moment induced, as it turned out, by a slow puncture on the front left Goodyear. That meant, in Rosberg’s mind at least, there was room for improvement. 

The shower, although heavy, was brief. The fresh winds quickly dispersed the clouds and the racing line began to dry once more. Piquet edged to within three tenths of Rosberg’s time. There were five minutes remaining.

In the pit lane, Rosberg dropped his cigarette on the concrete, ground with the heel of his boot, reached for his helmet and, speaking to no one in particular, simply said: “OK. Let’s do it.”

It was maximum attack everywhere, the FW10 on the edge through the right-handers at Becketts, Stowe and Club before swooping absolutely flat out into the left-hand Abbey Curve. As the blue and yellow missile shot into view from beneath the Daily Express bridge, spectators in the packed stands held their collective breath. Journalists, me among them, overlooking the chicane, were on their feet.

“The crowd rose as he came through the bends and he looked just like he was low-flying,” Silverstone announcer Keith Douglas recalled. “The car looked like an airplane, twitching as it cornered. Incredible! It was almost as if the car was off the ground. It lives in my memory as one of the most outstanding sights I’ve seen yet.”

Braking impossibly late and employing his characteristic darty style, Rosberg flicked right-left-right in an instant, this time clipping but not clobbering the inside kerb, the Honda responding to equally urgent stabs of the throttle before blasting towards the line. 

Another pause. Even more anticipation. “One minute, five point five nine one seconds!” 

The crowd applauded such brilliance and the chance to see history being made. Rosberg casually climbed from the car and lit another Marlboro. Pure theatre.  Maurice Hamilton

The best of the rest 

From Moss in Monaco to Max in China, there are dozens of sensational laps - and sequences of laps - that deserve to be remembered. Here is our pick

01/ Stirling Moss

Where Monaco, 1961

Why The Ferraris had the power, but Moss had Rob Walker’s nimble, one-year-old Lotus 18 and guile to spare. In his own words, “The Ferraris just sat behind me, applying tremendous pressure. I thought they were biding their time, but I managed to keep them at bay. If I’d repeated my pole position time on every one of those 100 laps, I’d have beaten myself by only about 40sec. That underlines how hard I had to drive.”

02/ Max Verstappen 

Where China 2017

Why The young Dutch driver started the race 16th on the grid after an engine problem during qualifying, but that was as bad as it got for him. Starting on a damp track, he went past Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber and McLaren’s Vandoorne through Turns One and Two, then whipped around the outside of Sergio Pérez on Turn Four. And so it went on: by the end of the first lap the 19-year-old was up to seventh. “That was a special race” he beamed afterwards. Quite. 

03/ Mark Blundell

Where Le Mans, 1990

Why Before the lap began, Nissan ordered him to pit because the R90CK was overboosting... so Blundell disconnected the radio and kept his foot in. With about 1100bhp on tap, the car was spinning its wheels in fourth. It had never previously run in this configuration, so was on hard race rubber as a precaution. Result? He took pole by 6.04sec – and felt he could have found another 4sec “with proper tyres”.

04/ Bernd Rosemeyer

Where Nürburgring, 1936

Why Initially Rosemeyer had run third to Rudolf Caracciola’s Mercedes and Tazio Nuvolari’s Alfa in the annual Eifelrennen. He moved up to second when Caracciola retired – and then the fog descended. It had little perceptible effect on his lap times. He swept into the lead and pulled out 30sec per lap thereafter, even though visibility was said to be 20 metres in parts. 

05/ Jacky Ickx

Where Nürburgring, 1967

Why As was customary, a number of F2 drivers entered the German GP to bolster the field. Jim Clark (Lotus 49) took pole by 9.4sec from Denny Hulme (Brabham BT24) – and quickest F2 runner Jacky Ickx was third overall in his Matra MS7, 0.5sec shy of Hulme. Protocol dictated that the Belgian should start behind all the F1 cars, although he worked his way through the field and ran as high as fourth before his suspension collapsed. 

06/ Vic Elford

Where Targa Florio, 1968

Why In the 52nd running of this Sicilian classic, Elford lost 18min on the opening lap with a repeatedly loose wheel nut on his Porsche 907. Once it was fixed, he pressed on, smashed the lap record by almost a minute, moved up as others hit trouble and relieved co-driver Umberto Maglioli for the final stint, stitching together consecutive 36-mile laps within 2sec of each other. They won. Astonishing is too weak a word.

07/ Percy Lambert

Where Brooklands, 1913

Why The 100mph barrier had been broken some years earlier, but Lambert’s target was to become the first racer to cover 100 miles over a full hour of driving. To this end, he took his streamlined Talbot 4½-litre tourer to Brooklands’ bumpy banked oval and, on February 15, completed 103 miles and 1407 yards to set a new speed and distance record.

08/ Stirling Moss

Where Mille Miglia, 1955

Why Despite the event’s name, the route from Brescia to Rome and back measured 992 miles. Navigated by Motor Sport’s continental correspondent Denis Jenkinson, Stirling Moss covered the distance in 10hrs 7min 48sec, an average speed of 99mph on public roads. The duo beat Mercedes team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio by more than half an hour.

09/ Michael Schumacher

Where Barcelona, 1994

Why The world championship leader had pulled away at the start, but slowed suddenly on lap 24 as his Benetton developed gear selection problems. Eventually the car stuck in fifth, by which time Damon Hill was up the road and gone, but Schumacher adapted his driving, completed the race in one gear and still finished second.

10/ Gilles Villeneuve

Where Watkins Glen, 1979

Why The good news for spectators was that a pre-race test had been laid on for Thursday. The bad? Friday practice was all but washed out. A few hardy souls left the pits, and Gilles Villeneuve’s 2min 01.437sec put him 9.592sec clear of team-mate Jody Scheckter (who was second-fastest). Villeneuve later said that such a time had been quite easy, and that he’d have been faster still but for a slight misfire…