The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Jacques Villeneuve

Auto Racing

1995


Photo of Jacques Villeneuve

Photo of Jacques Villeneuve

Date
December 11, 2008
Collection
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

The Indy 500 505!

The 1995 Indy 500 is one race that Jacques Villeneuve will simply never forget.

Billed as ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ it is a gruelling test of endurance for man and machine as it covers 500 miles over 200 laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2 ½ mile rectangular oval. With seating capacity for approximately 400,000 people and estimated attendance of over half a million, the atmosphere is electric.

The IndyCar sophomore came to the 1995 race poised to do well. He finished second in 1994 earning “Rookie of the Year’ honours, the same title he also won for finishing the year in sixth place overall in the 16 race IndyCar series.

A team error early in the race appeared to kill any chance for 1995. Villeneuve was unaware that he was leading the race when his team failed to identify that the two leaders had suddenly pit-stopped just prior to a caution flag. Twice Villeneuve passed the pace car as a matter of course to allow it to catch the leader unaware it was him. That led to a devastating two lap penalty that placed him at the back of the field.

Jacques Villeneuve quickly dispensed his momentary disgust and refocused on an aggressive salvage mission. Still in the championship with approximately 400 miles to go anything could happen. Racing hard, Villeneuve was brilliant at stretching fuel on full tanks and then racing the fastest laps as he approached his pit window. By lap 116 he was back on the lead lap. However, strategic fuel consumption meant more laps between pits than other racers. This became a critical problem when an experimental set of softer tires worn to the chord afforded Villeneuve an unwelcome straight-on view of the infield as his car spun completely sideways. He employed only one reflex - avoid hitting the wall. Miraculously he straightened and continued without losing time. Accidents and mechanical breakdowns took out almost half the cars as Jacques clawed his way back to second place behind the seemingly unbeatable Canadian driver Scott Goodyear. Throughout a caution flag from lap 185 to 190, Villeneuve stayed right on top of Goodyear to signal his intent to fight to the end.

Had Villeneuve rattled Goodyear? With 10 laps remaining, Goodyear badly mistimed that last restart and passed the pace car before it entered pit-road resulting in the same black penalty flag Villeneuve had suffered. That cleared the way for Jacques Villeneuve to take the checkered flag and the Indianapolis 500 in only his second try. With two penalty laps – he drove 505 miles to do it! He went on to clinch the 1995 IndyCar series with four wins.

Some of the greatest names in racing spend their lives in the hunt for an Indy 500 win. For 24 year old Jacques Villeneuve it was the one last big step in achieving his bigger dream of racing Formula One. His dramatic win would open those doors.

Villeneuve flags down Lou Marsh Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1992
Japanese Formula One Series – 2nd place
1994
Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year
1994
CART Rookie of the Year
1995
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1995
CART Series Champion
1995,1997
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1995,1997
Lionel Conacher Award
1996
Formula One Series – 2nd place
1996
Lorenzo Bandini Trophy – Outstanding Figure from the world of racing
1997
Formula One Series Champion
1997
Hawthorn Memorial Trophy – Most successful British or Commonwealth F1 Driver
1998
Named to the Order of Quebec
2008
24 Hours of Le Mans – 2nd place