“A generation would have been world champion in 1982” – Alexandre Taliani

Internationally, no Quebec athlete gained the fame of Gilles Villeneuve when the Formula 1 driver lost his life during the Belgian Grand Prix on May 8, 1982. Tragedy shook the entire province and everyone who lived in it accurately remembers the details surrounding the tragic accident that happened exactly 40 years ago. .

Many of our speakers have been associated with Gilles Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna, two drivers who have marked F1 history. Alexandre Tagliani is one of them.

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“These drivers, to know who next week will start another season in the Canadian NASCAR Pinty Series, were my fans for two reasons: they weren’t in Formula One to play the superstar and they did their best for their passion.


From the TAG-E Karting Center in Sainte-Thérèse, Alex Tagliani remembers Gilles Villeneuve.

Photo by Martin Alari

From the TAG-E Karting Center in Sainte-Thérèse, Alex Tagliani remembers Gilles Villeneuve.

It is strange and unfortunate that they both met the same tragic fate. In Jill’s case, he would have become the world champion in 1982, because he owned the car that expressed all his talent.

“When he won six victories in Formula One, it wasn’t Ferrari who won. It’s Jill.”

Considered by many to be the greatest driver of all time, Brazilian Senna committed suicide on May 1, 1994 at the Imola circuit in Italy.

Taste like Jill

Patrick Carpentier shed a tear when he learned of Gilles Villeneuve’s death.

“I was 11 and it was a shock to me. This is where I left speed skating to go karting. You thought this accident would discourage me, but on the contrary, I wanted to race like him.”

Carpentier told us that Jacques, his father, faced Villeneuve in snowboard competitions.

“He told me Jill was a tough opponent,” Patrick said. Once, he managed to defeat him, which made headlines in Le Montreal Journal. »


Carpentier, an analyst with RDS, has always believed that these exceptional pilots were always safe from a fatal accident, so they were talented.

“But it can go wrong,” said the man with two idols, like Tagliani: Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna.

Carpenter couldn’t help but think of his former teammate Greg Moore during our interview. The Canadian driver lost his life at the Fontana Circuit in California in 1999.

He recalls “This was our last race of the season. We spent the winter remembering this incident. It makes you realize that this sport is dangerous.”

Life is better even than a man of opinions

Bertrand Godin was 15 years old when Villeneuve died.

“After his first victory in Formula 1, in 1978, he explained, I told myself that I would very much like to experience that kind of emotion.”

The Quebec driver, Formula Electric analyst at TVA Sports, remembers well his reaction after winning the Formula Atlantic race in Montreal, after 19 years of exploiting his idol.

Godin said, “When I crossed the finish line, I didn’t think of victory, I thought of a generation. For me, a hero has no right to die. But at the same time, he became immortal.”

“People still think that the race in 1978 in Montreal was arranged with the man of opinions. But sometimes life is better than the man of opinions.”

Jill was the kind of driver you don’t see anymore today.

– Richard Spinard, former teammate of Formula Atlantic


Former driver Richard Spinard, pictured at the Taj e-Karting Center in Saint Therese.

Photo by Martin Alari

Former driver Richard Spinard, pictured at the Taj e-Karting Center in Saint Therese.

Having learned that Gilles Villeneuve was the victim of a serious accident, Richard Spinard at that time did not believe him. But by watching the accident on TV, he realized that it was very dangerous and that his chances of getting out of it were slim.

The announcement of his death came a few hours later.

“It was a shock,” said this famous former driver. Our friend and star in Quebec was to remember the man who had the privilege of being his fellow Formula Atlantic. What a pity is that he died before he became a world champion, because I’m sure he would have been so many times.

He continues: “He was a phenomenon, not only fast, but also absolutely amazing. Jill was the kind of driver you don’t see anymore today. How many photos
Do we see him slipping? I’m not surprised that people are still talking about it 40 years later. It shows what character he was. »

Moore’s bad memory

Spénard, who was then associated with the player’s team, experienced a similar tragedy in 1999 when Canadian Greg Moore himself committed suicide in the CART series at Fontana Circuit in California. The images of his killer perversion are equally terrifying.

“I was there at Fontana and I still got goosebumps thinking about it. As with Jill, Greg felt invincible. With a wrist injury, he didn’t participate in training and started last at the starting grid.

“For him, this wasn’t a race, it was a show. He wanted to get the peloton up as fast as possible. And when you bid in a motorsport, you take a risk. And often, in ovals at Fontana speed, you can finish really badly.”

“Greg did it his way and he paid the price,” Spinard concluded.

The real… Michelle Barrett’s nightmare

Despite the accident that cost Gilles Villeneuve’s life, Michel Barrett never turned down an offer to make motor racing his career.

“This has always been my dream,” he says. I’ve been running for years because I’m passionate and love it. The risk is part of the fun, otherwise you’re doing something else. I can quote Alexandre Tagliani, who would have stopped after the horrific accident he had with Alex Zanardi. But he continued his path.

Ask any driver, his answer will be one. We don’t want to hurt ourselves, but we accept the risk. It adds to the adrenaline. »

The comedian explained to us how he lived this sad day of May 8, 1982.

“I was in my apartment in Alma with my girlfriend at the time. My clock radio was programmed for a certain time. But it wasn’t a ringtone, but the voice of a radio host. The sound was low and half woke me up.

“That’s when I told my wife I had a nightmare. Gilles Villeneuve had a big accident and he didn’t survive.

“Finally, he went on, we got up and turned on the TV. This is where I learned the terrible news. To realize in the background that this nightmare was real.”

Like Dean and Presley

Forty years later, Barrett is not surprised that people still talk about Gilles Villeneuve.

“Because, he says, we still talk about James Dean and Elvis Presley. They are legends in their specialty. Bigger than people’s lives. At home and in Italy, Villeneuve was a demi-god.”

If the Quebec pilot, who died at 32, was out of this world, he would still draw crowds, according to Barrett.

“Today Villeneuve appears again, he claims, and thousands of people, believe me, will come to see and touch him. Like Ayrton Senna, he was an extraordinary being. His death simply amplified his legend.”

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