This turbo Ferrari 126CK is being driven by Gilles Villeneuve as it carries his favorite number 27 during the Monaco Grand Prix on May 31, 1981. The corner is Mirabeau, a picturesque right hander which led to the old station hairpin, which by the mid-1970s lay in front of a Loews hotel and had been renamed. Mirabeau was so-called for the nearby Hotel Mirabeau where people would watch the race from its balconies. The Loews even got into the act on race day, a fire there causing water to drain into the tunnel and delaying the start for an hour.
Villeneuve had qualified on the front row, but had not won a race since the U.S. Grand Prix in 1979. His Ferrari was powerful but down on handling qualities to the Williams FW7s and the Brabham BT49s and its turbo lag made it a difficult car to drive as well. The tight Monaco circuit collected a larger than usual group of miscreants who either tried to fit two cars where only one could go or overdid things and hit something hard. Toward the end of the race, Nelson Piquet (Brabham) was well out in front, followed by Alan Jones (Williams) and Villeneuve. Piquet then crashed lapping a back marker and not long thereafter Jones’ Williams began to suffer a misfire forcing a pit stop and leaving Villeneuve’s Ferrari able to pass him with four laps to go and gain a really popular win, the first for Enzo Ferrari’s new turbo car.
Photo by Nigel Snowdon ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com