How did Canadian racing driver Gilles Villeneuve die?

Gilles Villeneuve passed away in 1982 after a horrific accident during the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder

Gilles Villeneuve was a Canadian racing driver. He spent six years in Grand Prix motor racing with Ferrari, winning six races and widespread acclaim for his performances. On Sunday, 8th May, the world will be mourning the 40th death anniversary of the iconic racer.

Image Credits: Planet F1

On May 8, 1982, Villeneuve died after an accident. It occurred during the final qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. At the time of the crash, Pironi had set a time one-tenth of a second faster than Villeneuve for sixth place. Villeneuve was using his final set of qualifying tires in an attempt to catch up with him. During the race, Villeneuve with his Ferrari hit the back of Jochen Massโ€™ car. He was then launched into the air at a speed estimated to be 200 to 225 km/h. It was airborne for more than 100 m (330 ft) before nosediving into the ground. It then disintegrated as it somersaulted along the edge of the track. Villeneuve was still strapped to his seat but without his helmet, was thrown a further 50 m (160 ft) from the wreckage into the catch fencing on the outside edge of the Terlamenbocht corner.

The first doctor arrived within 35 seconds to find that Villeneuve was not breathing, although his pulse continued. He was intubated and ventilated before being transferred to the circuit medical center. And then by helicopter to University St Raphael Hospital in Leuven where a fatal fracture of the neck was diagnosed. Villeneuve was kept alive on life support while his wife traveled to the hospital and the doctors consulted specialists worldwide. He passed away later that night.

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Gilles Villeneuve has left behind a rich legacy in motor sports

Villeneuve competed in 67 Grands Prix, won 6 of them, and took 13 podium finishes. Villeneuve is still remembered at Grand Prix races, especially those in Italy. At the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, the venue of the San Marino Grand Prix and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, a corner was named after him and a Canadian flag is painted on the third slot on the starting grid, from which he started his last race.

Image Credits: Wikipedia

There is also a bronze bust of him at the entrance to the Ferrari test track at Fiorano. At Zolder, the corner where Villeneuve died has been turned into a chicane and named after him.

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