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Photo Gallery: Remembering a legend – Gilles Villeneuve

Submitted by on May 7, 2012

Thirty years ago this week, motorsport lost a genuine hero. Much has been said – and will be – written about Gilles Villeneuve, but we like to be a bit different here at MotorsportRetro.com.

We enlisted lifelong Villeneuve fan Tony Di Zinno to use his skills to visit the Musée Gilles-Villeneuve in Quebec to cast his special photographic eye over the memorials, and portray his memories for us.

Di Zinno’s photographic career has seen him shoot portraits of some extremely high-profile world-famous sports superstars; Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Tim Henman, Steffi Graff, and Alberto Tomba have been his subjects, to name just a few. He has also shot war zones with emotion.

However, it is Villeneuve that set the ball roll rolling for a very young TDZ, and gave him the inspiration to make photography his career, as he freely admits.

“For me personally ‘le petit Canadian #27’ Villeneuve was on such a massive pedestal as a sports idol,” Di Zinno says. “I have to admit that back then (as a teenager) I was just a wee bit too intimidated to even say hello to the man- even when I was only an arms length away as I was for every USGP he raced at in Long Beach… and that is what haunted me a long, long time after Zolder in 1982.

“The silver lining that remains in all of this black cloud of an experience was that I ended up making a solemn bargain with myself to never again let someone I admired so very much go with out at least reaching out to and touching them in some way to let them know how much I really felt and appreciated them. Friends, family and yes my subjects too – and I reckon that is what helps make my portraiture work with athletes and adventurers special in some tangible way

“Merci beaucoup Gilles!” – TDZ.

Tony’s photographic eye captured the essence of the museum, and the memories it holds from Gilles’ Formula Ford and Atlantic cars, to his ‘prepped’ pick-up truck and memorabilia that includes Villeneuve’s extremely used snowmobile helmet.

Tony’s career highlight is an unusual one, equivalent to David Beckham sitting on the sidelines so he could clean soccer star Pele’s boots. “Yes, my cameras went away that day, but there was no way I was going to miss that…”

What was the opportunity? TDZ’s photo colleague Robert Kerian was shooting Villeneuve’s F1 Ferrari, and needed a ‘model’ to wear the suit, helmet and run some laps.

“Yes,” he laughs. “Of all the people Robert could have asked he knew that I had always had possessed Gilles helmet and he couldn’t have asked anyone else to drive really because I would have had to break both of his legs if he did!”

Let’s share the Gilles Villeneuve Museum through Tony’s eyes, and celebrate a racing legend.

Photo: Di Zinno as Gilles Villeneuve

Special thanks to Musée Gilles-Villeneuve

Check out Tony Di Zinno’s work, sporting and otherwise from the frontline.

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