A star was born

26. Aug 2020 
by Ziv Knoll

Canadian racing legend Gilles Villeneuve contested his maiden Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1977, driving a McLaren M23.

Leading McLaren Formula One driver and reigning world champion James Hunt spoke very highly of the young Canadian after the 1976 Formula Atlantic race at Trois-Rivières and recommended Marlboro and McLaren to give him a chance.

“From very early on, from the moment he drove the car, there was a confidence and an ability about the person. It’s one of those things you come across. From the lap times he was setting, we knew he was very capable,” Teddy Mayer, (team-manager) explained.

On race day, Gilles had a good start and ran very well. On lap 10, he was running well ahead of team-mate Jochen Mass in seventh position. Suddenly he came into the pits, his gauge showing his engine was over-heating. The crew added some water and sent him back on the track.

He rejoined the race in 21st place but pushed hard and finished eleventh, setting the 5th fastest time on lap 65.

“We were all very impressed with him, and wanted to keep him for 1978”, remembered Mayer, “but Ferrari came knocking.”

A star was born.

Source: DR

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