Joseph Gilles Henri Villeneuve was an outstanding Formula One driver from Canada. Starting off on snowmobiles, Gilles Villeneuve raced in Formula Atlantic and then F1. As a Formula One driver, Gilles Villeneuve truly impressed the crowds and was well known for his excellent skills on the track. A true risk-taker, Villeneuve was known by his compatriots for his sensitive, friendly personality.
Gilles Villeneuve was born on 18 January 1950 in Quebec, Canada. Right from a young age he expressed an avid interest in motor vehicles. When he turned 16 years old and received his driver’s license, it was like a dream come true. By 1976 he was racing with Ecurie Canada and taking the Formula Atlantic championship by storm. He was quickly noticed by McLaren and asked to join the team.
Gilles Villeneuve debuted as an F1 driver in 1977 at Silverstone race track. He attracted much attention as an up and coming talent. In August 1977 Ferrari met with Villeneuve and soon after he began racing for the team. His first major F1 victory occurred in 1979 in Canada. Some reason that he would have done better if his vehicle could have matched the great Lotuses of the time. Others said that his wins weren’t many due to his all-or-nothing driving method. One of F1 driver Villeneuve’s most notable races was the 1979 French Grand Prix held at Dijon track. Renault driver Rene Arnoux looked set to come in second following teammate Jean-Pierre Jabouille. However, Gilles Villeneuve wasn’t about to let the faster Renault beat him. In a tense duel with much sliding and contact, Villeneuve managed to end the race just ahead of Arnoux for second place.
Sadly, on 8 May 1982, Villeneuve died as the result of an accident whilst taking part in the final qualifying session of the Belgian Grand Prix. There are a number of memorials to the exceptional driver, including the naming of the Grand Prix track in Canada after him. With his persistant attitude, excellent car control and strong driving style, Gilles Villeneuve will go into Formula One history as a legend.
Born in New York city, on 27 February 1939, Peter Jeffrey Revson, would grow up to be an extremely talented racing driver who was a familiar and successful presence at the Indianapolis 500 and in Formula One. Revson was no newcomer to money. His father, Martin, was a shareholder in Peter’s uncle, Charles Revson’s, multi billion dollar cosmetic company, Revlon. He attended the most exclusive schools and was heir to his father’s fortune that was estimated at over $1 billion.
Peter was seen as somewhat of a “Free Spirit” that did not need to work, and could have spent his life with freedom and ease. Yet his life revolved around speed and he had the most beautiful women at his side. One such a woman included Marjorie Wallace, 1973 Miss World.
He began his racing career in 1971, driving for McLaren, while he was attending Cornell University. Revson would be come the very first American driver to take home the Can-Am Championship. He also posted the fasted qualifying time, and finished second, in the same season, at the Indianapolis 500. From 1969 to 1973 Revson raced in the Indy 500 every year. Peter Revson was moved to the McLaren Formula One team in 1972, where he remained for two years. During his time with McLaren, He won the British Grand Prix and in 1973, he won the Canadian Grand Prix. In 1974, Revson moved over to Shadow.
At the South African Grand Prix in 1974, which was held in Johannesburg, Revson had a fatal accident in his practice run. His Shadow Ford DN3 suffered a suspension failure. Peter Revson was the second Revson killed in the industry. His brother, Douglas Revson lost his life in 1967, in Denmark. Peter and Douglas were laid to rest together, in the Ferncliff Cemetery, that is located in Hartsdale (New York). Tragically, the driver that replaced Revson, Tom Pryce, was also killed in the same Grand Prix, three years later.
In 1996, Peter Jeffrey Revson, took his place in the Motorsport Hall of Fame of America, where his name stands proudly, in the sports car category.
A self-confident and competitive person both in and out of the driver’s seat, James Simon Wallis Hunt enjoyed a relatively short and tumultuous racing career. Hunt was born in 1947 to a London stockbroker and from an early age his parents found him unruly and rebellious. He seemed prone to temper tantrums and was terribly hyperactive. Despite his wild and rebellious ways he grew up to become a tall and handsome youngster who enjoyed considerable success with the ladies. His journey to World Champion began on his eighteenth birthday when Hunt saw his first race at Silverstone. On that day he decided that he would one day become World Champion – a goal which took several challenging years to realise.
Though his family was wealthy, they did not support Hunt’s dreams of becoming a racing champion and Hunt started out by working odd jobs and purchasing a wrecked Mini, which he spent two years preparing for racing. Once he eventually did get started on the racetrack, he never looked back – though many of his early races ended in bad accidents. Eventually he managed to stay on the racetrack long enough to win a few races. It is interesting to note that his bogus behavior on the track did not reflect his fear of racing. Often he would vomit in the garage and shake so violently on the starting grid that his car would vibrate. However, James Hunt was a determined, testosterone-driven racer which made him a formidable opponent.
James Hunt’s career took a huge turn when Lord Alexander Hesketh entered his life. Known by the racers he sponsored as ‘The Good Lord’, Hesketh was an eccentric British aristocrat who chose to squander his sizable inheritance on personal entertainment. To this end, he formed his own racing team and hired Hunt as his driver. Though the Hesketh Racing team was mediocre at best, they were well known for consuming copious amounts of champagne and sporting beautiful women. Before long, Hesketh decided to graduate from Formula Three and Formula Two to Formula One. Their arrival on the scene was welcomed with laughter but Hunt soon wiped the smiles away with his 1975 win over Niki Lauda’s Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix. Unfortunately Hesketh decided to leave the game that same year and Hunt was left without a job.
The following year he was called in to fill an unexpected vacancy with McLaren and James’ Formula One career began in earnest. He quickly became known for his bad temper and excessive speed. He became close friends with Niki Lauda with whom he competed for the 1976 driving title. Hunt managed to take the World Champion title later that year – the pinnacle of his success as a driver. After his win, his enthusiasm for racing waned and before long, he decided to retire. He married twice, had two children to whom he was wholly devoted and had just gotten engaged for the third time when he died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 45. However, the charismatic James Hunt has certainly not been forgotten and his memory continues to live on in the sport of Formula One racing.
South African born Jody Scheckter is amongst the world’s top Formula One drivers of the past. Perhaps infamous because of his dangerous antics, but famous for his skill and speed, Scheckter has certainly etched his name into the history of auto racing.
Jody David Scheckter was born on 29 January 1950 in the town of East London, South Africa. He moved to Britain in 1970 and at the age of 22 began making a name for himself in Formula One. Scheckter’s debut was in a 1972 race at Watkins Glen, seated behind the wheel of a McLaren. In 1973 he took the Formula 5000 championship and competed in 5 F1 races. Unfortunately Scheckter tended to be a reckless driver and was involved in several accidents. At the British Grand Prix in 1973 his car spun out of control causing a massive pileup of race cars, quickly ending the race. This disastrous race nearly brought his F1 career to an end. In time Scheckter changed his attitude and adopted safer driving methods whilst making the best of his skills.
Tyrrell offered Jody Scheckter a full-time driver spot in 1974, which he accepted. In 1976 Scheckter drove the impressive Tyrrell P34, a 6-wheeled vehicle. Scheckter decided to join the new Wolf team in 1977. He took a win in the team’s first race. Following the 1978 season with Wolf, Jody Scheckter joined Ferrari. Many of his critics felt that he would not manage well under Ferrari’s management, but they were quickly proved wrong. In 1979 Jody Scheckter won the World Championship. He decided to retire in 1980 after an unsuccessful year of racing.
Upon retiring Jody Scheckter assisted his sons Tomas and Toby to pursue their careers in auto racing. Today he is an organic farmer and the founder of FATS (Firearms Training Systems). He has also appeared in documentaries regarding health issues. Despite his relatively unpopular start as an F1 driver, Jody Scheckter went on to make a real name for himself and is a legend in the sport of Formula One racing.
The McLaren Motor Racing team was first founded in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren. The team’s Grand Prix debut was made at the Monaco track in 1966 and, despite some early technical difficulties, Team McLaren has never looked back. By 1968 the team had earned their first win with Bruce McLaren himself behind the wheel at the Belgium Grand Prix. Today the McLaren F1 Racing Team is seen as one of the most successful Formula One teams. Their Grand Prix successes are surpassed only by Ferrari and for quite some time they dominated the world of Grand Prix racing.
Not long after McLaren’s first Grand Prix win in 1968, driver James Hunt won the team’s first Driver’s Championship. That was in 1976 and the win was a sign of things to come. By 1984, Niki Lauda won a Grand Prix Championship on behalf of the McLaren team, and the 1980’s proved to be a phenomenal decade for the team. In fact, McLaren emerged to completely dominate the Formula One racing scene. However, the team’s success started to fade about midway through the 1990’s when Honda decided to drop out of Formula One racing. The team then went through a period of experimentation – switching from manufacturer to manufacturer in an attempt to find a winning combination. Eventually McLaren found that the Mercedes-Ilmor engine showed promise and they started a slow climb back to success. At about this time Team McLaren also lost their Marlboro sponsorship and subsequent trade-mark red and white livery. The team took up the silver Mercedes livery in its place and the change could be said to be an appropriate display of the ending of one period for the team and the beginning of another.
Mercedes has continued to supply the team’s engines and today the full name of the team is Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, acknowledging both of its primary sponsors. It is based in Woking, Surrey in the UK and the team principle is Ron Dennis. As at the end of the 2009 season, McLaren had won 8 Constructor Championships, 12 Driver Championships, and notched up 164 victories. The McLaren team has World Championship winners Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Jenson Button (2009) as its principle drivers for the 2010 F1 Grand Prix Championship, with the new MP4-25 as the car of the year.