On this day in auto history – May 8th

Sat 8th May 2021

On this day in 1982 Formula One was rocked by the death of one of its biggest stars - Gilles Villeneuve - who was killed during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at the age of just 32.

The iconic French-Canadian - regarded by many as the fastest driver of all time - was a relative late starter in Formula One but enjoyed a meteoric rise in the late 70’s, firstly with McLaren and then Ferrari with whom he is most commonly associated.

Renowned for his breathtaking audacity and propensity to drive on the ‘edge’, Villeneuve notched six Grand Prix victories in all and was heavily tipped to win the 1982 Championship before his untimely death which occurred after a spectacular 140 mph smash at Zolder in which his car was said to be airborne for 100m before nosediving into the ground and disintegrating.

Villeneuve was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame the following year and is remembered at many Grand Prix circuits around the world, whilst there remains a huge demand for his memorabilia.

Meanwhile, his son Jacques Villeneuve went on to win the 1997 World Championship driving a Williams.