My bond with Gilles Villeneuve came with a piece of tyre

Long time ago, way back in the late seventies, it was Canadian Gilles Villeneuve himself who bonded with me for the rest of my life. It was on 26 august 1979 and it was race day in Zandvoort. The race that day ended with only seven cars on track and Villeneuve wasn’t amongst them. He suffered a puncture in the 49th lap of the race, spun his Ferrari 312 T4 in the Tarzanbocht and with the rubber already detaching from the rim Villeneuve drove on in a frantic attempt to reach the pits.


I was that day behind a fence high on a dune overlooking the Scheivlak/Panorama part of the circuit when Gilles passed with three tyres and a wheel rim.  Just in front of me a large piece of rubber detached from the left rear tyre and was catapulted into the air high above us en dropped on the slope of the dune in between a fence down below and the fence on the dune, in no man’s land so to say. More or less in front of me. In the video below it’s where the unforgettable Murray Walker says: ‘Off flies a bit of rubber, bit of a Ferrari souvenir for the thousends of Dutch spectators’, where my piece flew off. (1.04 minutes). Just a few seconds later the wheel broke and the tyre came off completely.

25 laps later the chequered flag fell. I jumped over the fence, like a dozen of people around me. No one tried to find the piece of rubber during the race, but the minute the race ended the search for it was on. It didn’t last very long. I took a few steps down the slope and in front of me, in the grass. was the piece that came off the tyre of Gilles Villeneuve. It is still in my possession, thank God…



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