"The Blown Tire"

For the 1979 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, Gilles Villeneuve qualified 6th behind Jody Scheckter, Regazzoni, Jabouille, Arnoux and Alan Jones.  Scheckter cooked his clutch on the start and fell to 18th.  But Villeneuve made another one of his incredible lightning starts, jumping to 2nd place tight behind the Williams of Alan Jones.  For ten laps he hounded Alan Jones, until finally seizing the opportunity to pass on the OUTSIDE of the very fast 180 degree Tarzan hairpin!

Gilles vs. Alan Jones, Tarzan Zandvoort

Villeneuve pulled out a gradual lead over Jones until the tires started going off on his Ferrari.  The car displayed more and more oversteer as the rear tires steadily lost grip.  In fact, the left rear had a slow puncture and was steadily losing air.  On the 47th lap, Villeneuve finally lost it in a huge spin at the chicane from which he immediately recovered with the customary screaming high rpm wheel spin and huge clouds of tire smoke!  But Jones had retaken the lead.  The underinflated rear tire stood the abuse for only another lap, and then it burst just as Villeneuve was passing the pits at high speed approaching the Tarzan hairpin.

The following sequence of four photos was donated by George Standaar, <gf.j.standaar@quicknet.nl>.
See more of George Standaar's photos at Photopoint or at FORIX or at Formula One 1975-2000.

The text is quoted without permission from "Villeneuve: The Life of a Legendary racing Driver", Gerald Donaldson (1989), Motor Racing Publications, Croydon, UK, pp207.

Gilles spins off at Tarzan "Coming past the pits the deflating tire suddenly lost all its remaining air and collapsed like a spent balloon.  The [Ferrari] T4 twitched back and forth violently, surely destined for a resounding crash against the barriers at Tarzan.  Worse than that, it seemed on a collision course for the previously crashed and abandoned Arrows of Patrese.  Gilles sawed away at the steering wheel, the useless rear tire unable to provide adequate purchase for full-scale panic braking.  At the last moment, he deliberately cranked the wheel hard to induce a spin to scrub off speed.  The Ferrari slewed sideways, then backwards in a cloud of smoke from the three surviving Michelins, supplemented by a spectacular shower of sparks from the culprit wheel."

"The car ground to a halt on the grass just short of disaster, its engine stalled.  The appreciative crowd hooted and yelled their approval of such masterful car control, but the show was only starting and everyone gaped in astonishment at what followed." Gilles spins off at Tarzan

"Gilles jabbed away at the starter button and finally got the flat 12 to fire up again.  He jammed the gear lever into reverse and shot back on to the circuit,"... Gilles spins off at Tarzan

"... then selected first, and clanked away towards his obvious goal - the pits - nearly four kilometres away." Gilles spins off at Tarzan

The crippled Ferrari clawed its way around Zandvoort, the right front wheel pawing in the air and the remains of the left rear banging and crashing around in a shower of sparks and mangled rubber.  Gilles was soon nearly up to a speed worthy of an able-bodied machine, but even Enzo Ferrari's stoutest fabrication was unable to withstand such punishment.

Halfway round the circuit the rear wheel wound itself up into a ball and dragged behind like a flailing anchor.  The rear of the chassis sat down on the road and an even greater display of sparks and flying bodywork issued forth.  Finally the remains of the Ferrari lurched drunkenly into the pits, where Gilles presented the wreckage to Forghieri.  He remained in the cockpit, dancing on the end of his safety harness tether as he signalled the crew to get busy and replace the offending wheel.

Gaston Parent [Gilles' mentor] was standing by.  "Gilles was blowing his stack, yelling,  'Put a f***ing wheel on there!  Let me go out again!'  Finally they made him see the back of the car was a disaster.  Then people criticised him for dangerous driving again.  His argument was that he didn't know it was so bad.  But, believe me, Villeneuve would have gone out again on three wheels!  That was the way he was".

Zandvoort 79

Other photos on this page, and text from Donaldson's book, kindly provided by
"Julie Miles" <jmiles@unibase.com>

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