My new wife and I returned from our May 1982 honeymoon to the terrible news that my favorite F1 driver, Ferrari’s Gilles Villeneuve, had been killed in a terrible accident at a silly little track in Belgium. Fast-approaching our 40th wedding anniversary, and thus 40 years since his death, Villeneuve was on my mind last weekend in Long Beach, recalling his jaw-dropping brilliance on the original, shorter, street course layout. And those memories sent me prowling through my old Vintage Motorsport issues in search of the Larry Roberts feature on Villeneuve at Long Beach, 1978-1979—a July/August 2011 issue feature story brilliantly entitled, “Gilles Was Burnin’ Down the House.’
Back in ’78, just two years after I’d watched spellbound as Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg sparred in Formula Atlantic at Mosport, I was trackside at Long Beach and similarly speechless watching the young Canadian (in only his seventh GP, Roberts notes) squeezing his bulky Ferrari 312 T3 through the barriers, inches from disaster, lap after lap, just losing out on what would have been his first F1 pole to his vastly more experienced teammate Carlos Reutemann.
Roberts tells the story well, and VM 11.4 is well worth the back-issue price for the Villeneuve-at-the-LBGP story alone. But, needless to say, there’s lots more, starting with a track test comparing and contrasting a Birdcage Maserati with a diminutive Lotus 19, the issue’s cover story superbly well written by VM’s editor-racer D. Randy Riggs.
Also in this issue, an in-depth Tom Stahler look back at the intriguing 1971 Questor GP held at the by-then-defunct Ontario Motor Speedway, a heavily marketed non-championship race billed as a “Formula 5000 vs. Formula 1 slugfest” with dozens of back stories—a weekend that, like OMS itself, left an indelible mark onSoCal racing folklore,
Having previously confessed my love affair with red Italian F1 and sports cars, I’m happy to note there’s a special one—Bill Speer’s Ferrari 375MM—on the cover and inside this issue.
Also inside is a spectacular and insightful Brock Yates garage tour. Additionally, Yates pens a tribute to Car and Driver publisher David E. Davis, both men now gone, both men towering journalist/car-nut figureheads of my own motorsports enthusiasm. There is also my own tribute to the men behind the Swift DB-1 Formula Ford, a true “Game Changer” (as the feature was titled) in a global racing class that (well, besides red Italian race cars and white-and-green Jaguars and Triumphs) fueled my motorsports dreaming.
This is an issue for several hours prowling down memory lane. Happily, back issues remain.