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MAY 8, 2002

Gilles Villeneuve - 20 years today

THE great Canadian racer Gilles Villeneuve was killed at Zolder 20 years ago today while qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Two weeks earlier at Imola Villeneuve had been leading his Ferrari team mate Didier Pironi, who was under team orders not to overtake. The Frenchman ignored the instruction and snatched the victory. Villeneuve was furious and went to Zolder determined to beat Pironi.

In the final minutes of qualifying, while trying to take pole position, he ran into the back of Jochen Mass's Rothmans March. The Ferrari cartwheeled and Villeneuve was killed.

Villeneuve, father of 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, remains a folk hero in Italy and the anniversary of his death was marked by Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo.

"Villeneuve was one of the major players in the sporting history of our company," he said. "I recall he was gifted with courage which seemed to have no limit. His sporting achievements and his approach to life away from the race track endeared him, not only to Ferrari followers, but also to all motor sport fans. We will never forget him."