Former F1 drivers Eric Thompson and Jacques Villeneuve Sr (brother to Gilles, and uncle to Jacques) are celebrating their respective birthdays today!
Turning 91 today, Thompson made a single Formula 1 championship appearance at the 1952 British Grand Prix in a Connaught, finishing an impressive fifth place.
The Surrey-born former book dealer and insurance broker for Lloyds also made a career as a member of the works Aston Martin team in sports car racing.
His first foray in motor racing was in 1948 with an HRG, and he moved on to a number of endurance events, taking a class win at the 1949 Le Mans 24 Hours race, where he finished eighth overall. He continued in sports car racing until his retirement in 1956, with other highlights being partnered with Reg Parnell to win at the Goodwood 9 Hours (pictured) and place second in the Tourist Trophy in 1953.
After retiring from motorsport, he returned to his brokerage work and then became a dealer in rare motoring literature.
Turning 57 today, Jacques Villeneuve Sr – also nicknames Jacquo’ or ‘Uncle Jacques’ in deference to his championship-winning nephew – remains a revered figure in Canadian motorsport, after participating in a host of disciplines, including Formula Atlantic, CART, Can-Am, Formula 1 and even snowmobile racing (he was the first three-time winner of the World Championship Snowmobile Derby).
Starting out as a race-winner in Honda Civics between 1976-8, he moved to Formula Ford and then Formula Atlantic, where he was Rookie of the Year, before going on to win back-to-back titles in 1980-1.
His success saw him offered a two-race deal with Arrows at the end of the 1981 season, but he failed to make the qualifying cut both at Montreal and Caesars Palace.
The following year proved tragic for Jacques with the death of his brother Gilles, and he continued dabbling in Can-Am and had a one-off CART drive. He won the Can-Am title in 1983, and made a one-off (and it turned out, final) F1 appearance, narrowly failing to qualify the RAM March (pictured) on the circuit now named in honour of his late brother.
He returned to CART in 1984, achieving pole position at Phoenix and placing 15th overall. The following year saw him become the first Canadian to win a CART race, mastering the wet/dry conditions at Road America on his way to eighth in the standings.
He scaled back his motorsport activities thereafter, but still occasionally had guest drives in CART, IMSA and Formula Atlantic (winning some of these outings).
Inducted into Canada’s Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2001, he continued his snowmobiling exploits well into the late 2000s, but suffered an horrific accident during a race at Wisconsin that saw him endure multiple leg and pelvic fractures, and spinal injuries, that took him close to a year to recover from.
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