Jacques Villeneuve | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve, auto racer (b at Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Qué 9 Apr 1971).

Jacques Villeneuve, auto racer (b at Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Qué 9 Apr 1971). Villeneuve spent his formative years around auto racing, living mainly in Monaco, where his father, Gilles Villeneuve, was based during his legendary Formula 1 racing career. The younger Villeneuve was barely 11 when his father died in a qualifying session for a race, but his fascination with speed and race cars was not diminished by the loss. At 18 he began racing professionally and spent 3 years learning his trade on the highly competitive Formula 3 circuit in Italy. He spent most of 1992 racing in Japan, placing 2nd in the Japanese F3 drivers' standings. Already a determined and skilled driver at 21, he moved to Formula Atlantic in 1993 and established himself as one of the leading drivers on the circuit, winning 5 of 15 races and placing 3rd in the series standings. His performance gained attention and he was hired to drive the Players Ltd car for Forsythe-Green Racing in the 1994 CART-PPG Indy Car circuit.

Villeneuve placed 2nd at the famed Indianapolis 500 in 1994 and he won his first race at Road America later in the season. Amid rumours of his moving to Formula 1, Villeneuve was a dominant force during the 1995 Indy Car season. He captured 4 victories, including a stunning win at the Indianapolis 500, and won the series driver championship, the youngest driver ever to win both and the first Canadian to win either. Villeneuve had matured into a supremely competent driver with a flair for the daring pass and the determination to coax the utmost from his car. His style was perfectly suited to the pressure of Formula 1 and he joined the Williams Racing Team for the 1996 F1 season.

Villeneuve adapted to Formula 1 very quickly and won his first Grand Prix in only his 4th race, the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring. He went on that year to win the Portuguese, Hungarian and British Grand Prix and finished second to Damon Hill in the overall Formula 1 standings. In 1997 Villeneuve became the first Canadian to win the Formula 1 racing championship. He had won the Luxembourg, Austrian, Hungarian, British, Spanish, Argentine and Brazilian Grand Prix that year.

Villeneuve ended the 1998 season with a 5th place overall in the Grand Prix standings. The next year he joined the British American Racing team (BAR) but ended up well down in the standings at 21st. For the 2000 and 2001 seasons he remained with BAR but changed cars (to Honda-powered) and moved up in the standings to finish in 7th place both years. At the end of the 2002 season he had slipped to 13th due to his race car's mechanical and handling problems. In 2004 he joined the French Renault team, and after a short sabbatical he joined Sauber for two years (2005 - 2006). In 2007 he was selected to be one of 9 drivers for the Peugeot team in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and though Villeneuve set some of the event's fastest times the team itself suffered mechanical problems near the end and was unable to finish. A win at Le Mans, along with his Indy 500 win in 1995 and F1 title in 1997, would give Villeneuve the informal "triple crown" title as winner of the sport's 3 most prestigious races. Currently, Jacques Villenueve continues to be a strong competitor, consistently finishing in the top 10 in Grand Prix standings.

In 2010 Villeneuve was chosen to be one of the flag bearers at the Vancouver Olympic Games, and he was also made a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame that year.

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