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Video: Gilles Villeneuve’s first ever F1 race

40 years ago, Gilles made his debut at Silverstone. Here’s what happened

A couple of months ago, TopGear.com made the case for Gilles Villeneuve: for our correspondent, he might not have been the most complete driver, but he was the greatest.

One of the fastest, too. In 1976 he was competing in the North American Formula Atlantic Series, and at a race in September, wiped the floor with the likes of Alan Jones and James Hunt. Hunt returned to the UK and raved about Gilles to McLaren…

Fast forward a year, and McLaren gave Gilles a third car to run at Silverstone – his first ever F1 race. “The simplest way to find the limit is to go quicker and quicker until you go over it,” he later remarked.

You can read the rest of our case about Gilles here, but before you do, have a watch of the video above. To commemorate Gilles’s first ever race at Silverstone, McLaren has pulled together the story from that first weekend at Silverstone, with input from his then team manager Leo Wybrott, and his son Jacques Villeneuve.

It’s a fascinating story about a man who just went quicker and quicker – spinning numerous times along the way – before posting the fifth fastest lap of the race itself. And all this in a McLaren M23 that was in its fifth season.

Where does Gilles rank in your all-time greatest F1 driver list? Let us know below…

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