OTD: Gilles Villeneuve wins first Formula One race

On today’s date in 1978, Canadian racing legend Gilles Villeneuve won his first Formula One (F1) race at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montréal, Que.

Villeneuve’s iconic 1978 victory was commemorated on one of four coins issued as part of the Canadian Sports Series issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1998. The 50-cent coin has a weight of 9.3 grams, a diameter of 27.13 mm, and a mintage of 56,428.


The 1978 F1 season saw a series of struggles for Villeneuve, who often encountered problems with his new Michelin radial tires. He crashed while in the lead at the U.S. Grand Prix West early in the season, and despite Italian media calling for him to be replaced, Villeneuve was kept on Ferrari’s racing team.

His results eventually improved:Villeneuve finished second at the Italian Grand Prix (despite being penalized one minute), second at the U.S. Grand Prix before his engine failed, and finally, at the season-ending Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Île Notre-Dame, which was eventually renamed in his honour, he earned his first Grand Prix win. He remains the only Canadian to win this race to date.

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