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As his helicopter came in to land at Fiorano, witnessing the assembled crowds, Luca Montezemolo turned to Stefano Domenicali and said: "... all these people are here for Villeneuve?"
Thirty years after the accident at Zolder that robbed the sport of one of its most exciting talents, journalists were joined by Gilles Villeneuve's old team, including sponsors, Mauro Forghieri (above right with Piero Ferrari), the mechanics - all proudly wearing their original yellow jackets - and legendary former mechanic Giulio Borsari. Fans - young and less young - waited at the Fiorano gate and lined the track perimeter - all to pay tribute to the Canadian racer.
To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the tragedy, Jacques Villeneuve was to finally drive a Ferrari, albeit the car intended to make his father world champion and which became part of the folklore surrounding the partnership.
Journalist Pino Allievi, paraphrasing Roland Barthes, said: "Gilles has been able to transform the superlative fact in a natural one".
Watched by Gilles widow Joanna, and his daughter, Jacques Villeneuve, in red race-suit, got behind the wheel of the famous 312 T4, chassis No 12. A few minor technical problems (a forced re-start, a further stop), awoke the instincts in some of the older mechanics, who cried out: "keep revving the engine" and "with this car it is easy to put the third gear instead of the first".
The subsequent press conference was a continuous back and forth between past and present: with Allievi in the unusual role of anchorman, Piero Ferrari, Forghieri, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Villeneuve, each clearly happy to take part in an open forum which included questions about the past and the present, the Spaniard, in particular, lamenting certain aspects of the contemporary sport, not least the lack sportsmanship.
Gilles, the man
The races were deeply rooted in his soul: Jacques memories are 90% related to the driver "who was doing things out of this world", and also Joanna, "racing was his life". The mechanics still remember the family's (dog included) motorhome and the many occasions when they had to look after the little Jacques and his sister.
Gilles and Ferrari
Gilles was discovered and brought to Enzo Ferrari's attention by Federico Giberti. The agreement with Ferrari was reached during a telephone conversation, Enzo simply asking; "Would you like to race with us" and Gilles thinking it was a practical joke. The contract was signed on 29th August 1977, Gilles who was practically unknown, to the point that he left the factory among journalist and fans without being recognized.
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