Gilles Villeneuve had on all of his overalls the Giacobazzi logo. The wine company founded in 1915 sponsored him during his entire carreer with Ferrari. Jonathan Giacobazzi, today 40, got to know Gilles in his childhood – and nowadays he is one of the most devoted force behind the Villeneuve-cult.
You met Gilles as a child – how did you see him?
I was 9 when Gilles died so I have much sharp memories of him. I belong to those few Italians who are not interested in football but I always was a fan of Formula One. It was something special for me to meet him. It was like your hero from the cartoons or of the TV-series would step out into the real life. Although, I was a little bit disappointed to see him first time, because when my father told me would come, I imagined him in helmet and racing suit – but he came of course as a normal man. He was very nice and kind towards me, he was fully aware of my enthusiasm. When I turned 9, in 1982 he came to greet me on my birthday on 5th February. And he gave me as present his racing boots, the blue Simpson. Imagine, here I am, a 9-year-old, and he gives it for me, for a kid who could lose it in the next hour or throw it away or change it for something else… But surely it didn’t happen, I still own it and actually as the most prestigous item of my collection since it was given personally to me.
How was he towards your family?
Gilles was a friend and not barely a driver who we sponsored. My father has already a good relation to Enzo Ferrari and when Ferrari hired Gilles for the vacant seat of Niki Lauda in the end of 1977, Enzo called my father to go and see him. He told him, You have interests in the USA and Canada, we have this new boy with an empty overall. Try to help him somehow. So it began our cooperation. Gilles gave so much for us in the coming years, he made Giacobazzis’s name known all over the world. He had his nightmare rides with my father in his street Ferrari and helicopter and they simply enjoyed themselfes. He was a kind of member of the family.
When did you see Gilles alive last time?
At the weekend of Imola. We gave a historic lunch on Thursday. There was Gilles, Joanna, Pironi and a whole bunch of international journalists. This was really a great day, not even the drivers had to rush away, so we stayed long in the afternoon. Then came the race. When Gilles climed out of his Ferrari after the chequered flag, he stormed in our motorhome totally upset. He didn’t want to show up on the podium. My father told him to go for the sake of his fans. Then he came back, threw his trophy, a silver plate away, saying, This is not mine, mine was stolen by the other. He didn’t mention Pironi’s name. The plate remained in our motorhome, so my father phoned him a week later asking what he should do with, since it wasn’t our. Gilles told him to bring the trophy to Zolder and to give it to Ferrari. Then it turned out that my father had some business obligation and couldn’t go Belgium and a collegue of his brought the plate to Zolder which later became a piece of the colletion of the Villeneuve Museum in Berthierville.
MORE IN THE BOOK GILLES VILLENEUVE REMEMBERED - SOON IN 2014