Former Grand Prix driver Jacques Villeneuve Sr (brother to Gilles, and uncle to Jacques) is celebrating his birthday today – he is turning 58 years old!
Nicknamed ‘Jacquo’ or ‘Uncle Jacques’ in deference to his championship-winning nephew, Villeneuve remains a revered figure in Canadian motorsport.
He participated 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 (pictured right) 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, top) 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.
[Image via F1 Nostalgia]
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