The Enzo Ferrari-approved, ex-Dr. Bonomi, Gilles Villeneuve tribute
1979 FERRARI 312T4 FORMULA 1 RACING SINGLE-SEATER
Chassis no. 037
Engine no. 035
2,991cc DOHC Flat 12-Cylinder Engine
Lucas Fuel Injection
515bhp at 12,300rpm
5-Speed Manual Transaxle
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Disc Brakes
*Built by the Ferrari factory at Enzo's behest
*Actively campaigned and raced in vintage events
*Championship winning design
*One of the seminal Formula 1 designs of its generation
*A front runner in Historic F1 competition
GILLES VILLENEUVE AND FERRARI
Enzo Ferrari himself founder and long-lived helmsman of the revered Ferrari SpA company was both the most experienced and in many ways the most perceptive of judges whenever the question of truly great racing drivers might be posed.
Mr. Ferrari's particular fondness and admiration for the late, great French-Canadian Formula 1 star Gilles Villeneuve is recorded in his famous book Piloti che Gente, published in 1985: "Villeneuve's personality was such that he captured the crowds right away and became known as...Gilles! Yes, there were those who considered him nutty, but his energy combined with his daring and his 'destructive' capacity for burning out axle shafts, gears, clutches, and brakes when he raced, taught us what was required for a racer to protect himself in an unexpected situation, in desperate circumstances. He was the champion warrior, and he gave Ferrari a great deal of fame. I was extremely fond of him".
The roadway leading to Ferrari's Formula 1 facility at Fiorano is named after Gilles Villeneuve and his victories in the 1979 South African and Monaco Grand Prix races, and perhaps especially in the later 1981 Spanish and Monaco GPs provide remarkable testament to his combative nature and extraordinary racecraft.
While he won at Kyalami, South Africa, and at Long Beach in works Ferrari 312T4 '037' the identity now offered here - by 1981 he was driving the ill-handling early turbocharged V6 Ferrari. In that car at Jarama, Spain, he held off a train of five faster rivals for most of the distance, just by using the superior straight-line speed of his powerful Ferrari and adopting "muscularly defensive" lines through the turns. He finally won there by just 0.22 seconds with the fifth-placed man only just over a second further back!
In his home Canadian GP at Montreal, Villeneuve damaged his Ferrari's front wing and drove most of the race in heavy rain with the wing obscuring his view before finally finishing third after his car's nose section had completely fallen off.
The tifosi revered him for his wheel-banging closing-laps duel with Rene Arnoux's turbocharged Renault in the 1979 French GP at Dijon-Prenois, the personally always engaging Villeneuve commenting afterwards, "I tell you, that was really fun! I thought for sure we were going to get on our heads, you know, because when you start interlocking wheels it's very easy for one car to climb over another!" At the Dutch GP a slow puncture collapsed Villeneuve's left-rear tire and spun him off track. He rejoined and limped back to the pits on three wheels, but driving so quickly he lost the damaged wheel along the way. On his return to the pits refused to believe that the car was beyond repair. He could have won that year's Drivers' World Championship by beating teammate Jody Scheckter at the Italian GP, but dutifully finished behind his South African teammate, Scheckter eventually beating Villeneuve to the coveted title by just four points.
In the rain-drenched Friday practice session before the season-ending United States GP at Watkins Glen, Villeneuve set a time some 11 seconds faster than every rival. Jody Scheckter, second fastest, recalled, "I scared myself rigid that day. I thought I had to be quickest. Then I saw Gilles's time and I still don't really understand how it was possible. Eleven seconds!"
Gilles Villeneuve believed devoutly in entertaining the world's race fans. "Smoke the tires!", he said, "Yeah! I care about the fans, because I used to be one of them!"
Mr Ferrari again:" ... when they presented me with this tiny Canadian, this miniscule bundle of nerves, I instantly recognized in him the physique of the great Nuvolari and I said to myself, 'let's give him a try'."
Five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio was another fine judge of a racing driver. After Gilles' tragic death following a crash before the 1982 Belgian GP at Zolder, the legendary Argentinian declared: "He will remain as a member of the family of the truly great drivers in auto racing history. Mr Enzo Ferrari, who is an authority on these matters, has compared Villeneuve to Tazio Nuvolari. Nuvolari in my younger days was the great idol. All drivers wanted to equal the great Nuvolari. They struggled to match but could only imitate him. To be compared to Nuvolari is to receive the highest praise. Villeneuve did not race to finish, he did not race for points. He raced to win. Although small in stature he was a giant."
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Dr. Carlo Bonomi, a well-established customer and friend of Ferrari, shared this widespread admiration for Gilles Villeneuve, and in 1981 - while Gilles was still driving so charismatically for Ferrari - he asked if it would be possible to acquire one of the French-Canadian's great Formula 1 cars. Mr. Ferrari himself approved the sale to Dr. Bonomi of what was presented to him by the factory as Gilles' 1979 South African and Long Beach GP-winning 312T4 car, chassis serial '037'. This is the car now offered here, and the first factory invoice for it was raised on September 23, 1981, to Dr. Bonomi's Swiss company, Tradeconsult SA in Geneva.
It is evident that the Ferrari factory had all the components necessary to re-assemble the entity for their favored customer, and '037' as offered here was completed and delivered to him, with written confirmation of this identity, and described in the invoice as a "Vettura usata, debitamente revisionata" "Used car, duly revised".
Meanwhile, at the end of the 1980 Formula 1 season, Ferrari factory sources had actually confirmed to the contemporary editorial team of the motor racing annual Autocourse that they had (quoting from page 44 therein): "Dismantled their 1979 312T4s (037), (039) and (041) and built three T5s (042), (043) and (044) for South America..." indicating that those 1980 312T5 Formula 1 cars had been based upon the number-bearing tubs of those T4 cars actually as a cost-saving measure while most team funding was concentrated upon the future turbocharged car program - to compete in the 1980 season-opening Argentine and Brazilian GPs...
At the end of that 1980 season, 312T5 car '042' was then sold into private hands, being preserved for many years by leading French Ferrarista Jean Sage (now deceased) and still surviving in another collection today. The photographic record matches aspects of that car's tub with Villeneuve's actual 1979 South African and Long Beach-winning car.
However, Dr. Bonomi was delighted with his immaculate 312T4 '037' as had been provided for him with Mr. Ferrari's personal blessing. From him in the 1990s, it would pass to leading British Historic car specialist Adrian Hamilton, who sold it on to Villeneuve fan David Lucas in New Zealand.
Subsequently in 1997 - Jean Sage questioned how '037' could survive in New Zealand hands when its original chassis was embodied within his 312T5 '042' as described above.
On July 9, 1997, Mauro Cavadini of Ferrari SpA's Legal Department responded as follows: "I furnish you the certificate of origin and the race record of the above mentioned car..." his letter being headed "Re. Ferrari T4 Grand Prix Car Chassis No. 037" and the appended race record for this car then confirmed its history as follows:
"3.3.1979 South Africa (Kyalami) Villeneuve 1st
8.4.1979 USA West (Long Beach) Villeneuve 1st
29.4.1979 Spain (Jarama) Villeneuve 7th
16.9.1979 San Marino (Imola) Scheckter 3rd"
The Certificato d'Origine provided with the car by Signor Cavadini (of Ferrari's Legal Department) cited its 3-liter flat-12 engine number as being '35' still installed in the car today. This entirely factory-built, entirely genuine Ferrari 312T4 Gilles Villeneuve tribute was then sold on February 21, 2001, ex-David Lucas, via Duncan Hamilton Ltd, to Richard Griot of Tacoma, Washington. Its accompanying invoice describes it as a "Ferrari T4 Grand Prix car, Red, Chassis No 037, Engine No 035".
The car passed into the present vendor's hands an extremely well-known, deeply-respected and by his own admission, a true veteran of the US vintage racing scene in 2004.
In his hands this Ferrari 312T4 has been painstakingly race-prepared, maintained and run consistently in tribute to the great Gilles Villeneuve's memory.
We at Bonhams have seldom had the privilege to handle such an exquisitely well-preserved, running, race-able 3-liter Formula 1 car which is saying a great deal considering the considerable number of such machines that we have offered worldwide over the past 25 years. Ferrari 312T4 '037' offered here is a glittering tribute to the memory of one of motor racing history's most charismatic Grand Prix drivers one whose assembly for Dr. Bonomi was approved by none other than Enzo Ferrari himself. In the right hands it is plainly a potential 3-liter Formula 1 vintage race winner...and one which is sure to attract entry invitations for all the world's leading Historic festivals.