Video Worth Watching: Legendary Villeneuve – Arnoux Battle At Dijon, 1979 - Overdrive
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Video worth watching: Legendary Villeneuve - Arnoux battle at Dijon, 1979

05 Nov 2016  /  1
Principal correspondent

Formula One these days is at the forefront of technology but seems to have taken a backseat when it comes to good old racing entertainment. I stumbled across this video recently that reminds just how amazing the racing used to be. Set in the 1979 France GP at the Dijon Prenois circuit, this four minute video captures one of the greatest battles in F1 history.

Spanning the last two laps on the race, the video begins when Canadian Gilles Villeneuve pulls an incredible braking maneuver on Frenchman René Arnoux to steal second place. Villeneuve literally crosses the limits of adhesion in his Ferrari, locking the front tyres but somehow managing to bring it back under control while simultaneously passing Arnoux’s Renault. Proving it wasn’t a fluke, Villeneuve pulls a similar move again further in the video to hold position. A heart stopping battle rages between the two with plenty of overtakes and wheel to wheel action and even contact with absolutely no quarter given. Race leader and eventual winner, Renualt driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille was so far ahead he makes almost no feature in the video

We won’t spoil the outcome, but prepare to watch some incredible driving talent from both drivers in these four minutes. The Renault was the superior car that weekend but from watching that twitching Ferrari and the rubber smoke its clear that this was a superhuman display of driving skill. Gilles Villeneuve was a phenomenally talented driver who also happened to have almost no fear whatsoever. Multiple world champion Nikki Lauda once famously wrote, “He was the craziest devil I ever came across in Formula 1. The fact that, for all this, he was a sensitive and lovable character rather than an out-and-out hell-raiser made him such a unique human being”.

Of course, the racing here is incredible but it’s also worth noting that this was at a time when F1 was a far more dangerous sport. Safety was nowhere close to today’s levels, crashes were frequent and unfortunately, death as well. Gilles Villeneuve was killed in 1982 when he had a high speed crash with Jochen Mass during qualifying at the Belgian GP. He was just 32.

While his life was tragically cut short, Gilles’ son Jacques went on to become the only Canadian F1 champion in 1995.



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