Connect with us

2017 F1

New Biography Tells The Story Of F1’s ‘Greatest Enigma’

Published

on

Image copyright Emmanuel Zurini

The remarkable life of ex-Ferrari F1 driver and powerboat racer Didier Pironi is the subject of a major new biography to be released this month. ‘Pironi: The Champion That Never Was’ marks the 30th anniversary of the driver’s death in a tragic powerboat accident in August 1987.

Pironi came within an ace of claiming the 1982 Formula One World Championship until a horrific accident at Germany’s Hockenheim circuit ended his career. Thereafter he spent five years trying to make an F1 comeback that would ultimately never happen. Thwarted in his ambition, the French ace turned to offshore powerboat racing.

‘Undoubtedly, Didier was F1’s greatest enigma. His life was an extraordinary journey, a rollercoaster ride of triumph and tragedy,’ says author David Sedgwick. ‘When I first started this project three years ago I had no idea just how dramatic his life had been. And I certainly had no idea how much the role of fate and coincidence had played in his life.’

Image copyright Emmanuel Zurini

As well as containing interviews with colleagues and friends who knew the mysterious Frenchman, the book also contains excerpts of the never-before-published memoirs of Didier’s mother. ‘Tragically, Didier died just months before the birth of his twin boys,” explains Sedgwick, “This was his mother’s way of introducing the twins to the father they would never know. It’s an incredible document, poignant and very moving.”

Nowadays Pironi is remembered chiefly for his role in the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix in which he was accused of cheating his teammate Gilles Villeneuve out of victory. When the French-Canadian was killed just two weeks late while practicing for the Belgian Grand Prix the media instantly blamed Pironi for his team-mate’s death. The Frenchman’s reputation never recovered.

“What happened following San Marino was a gross injustice,’ says Sedgwick. ‘The international motor racing press jumped on the story, portraying Didier as a sinner and Gilles as a saint, which was simply untrue. This book tells the true story of what happened that day and I hope will go some way to restoring his reputation.”

Accompanied by rare images from the Pironi family archive, the book relates the story of a young man’s quest to find and surpass his limits. Prior to Formula one Pironi had been a double Formula Renault champion, managing his own team at Magny-Cours. In 1978 along with Jean-Pierre Jassaud, he took a dramatic victory for Renault at Le Mans. Suffering from dehydration and severe muscle cramps, Didier fended off the mighty Porsche team for hour after hour. As a result of his exertions, the Frenchman became a national hero.

Image copyright Emmanuel Zurini

After his Hockenheim crash Pironi underwent a gruelling struggle to retain the use of his legs, and ultimately to drive in F1 again. “Didier went through absolute hell during those years,” says Sedgwick, “the only thing that kept him going was the desire to return to the F1 cockpit to claim the title that had been so brutally denied him all those years ago. It was not to be.”

The Frenchman lost his life during the 1987 Needles Powerboat Race when his boat hit the wash of an oil tanker, corkscrewing into the air before slamming into the water. Pironi and two colleagues were killed instantly. He was just 35 years old.

‘This is not just a motor racing biography,’ says Sedgwick, ‘As well as tragedy and suffering, Didier’s story is also one of endeavour and hope, a story of how one man attempted to conquer his demons. The story of Didier Pironi is a story of the human spirit.”

Pironi: The Champion That Never Was
(Pitch Publishing)

By: David Sedgwick
Available from Amazon e-book
Paperback: 4 January 2018

David Sedgwick is a university lecturer and freelance writer whose next title ‘The Power and The Glory’ charts the bitter F1 rivalry between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

Loading...
Comments

Latest Results

Latest F1 News

2019 F114 hours ago

Hamilton seizes final-breath Monaco GP pole

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton beats his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to pole on final lap for Monaco Grand Prix. Red...

2019 F114 hours ago

Monaco GP Qualifying Results

Ferrari youngster Charles Leclerc shock Q1 shoot-out. Out of top TEN: Hulkenberg, Norris, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Leclerc, Perez, Stroll, Russell,...

2019 F12 days ago

Lauda wanted Mercedes to keep going – Wolff

An emotional Toto Wolff said in Monaco that Niki Lauda was enjoying Mercedes’ dominance in 2019. “The last time I...

2019 F12 days ago

Binotto excuses Leclerc’s mistakes

Mattia Binotto has excused Charles Leclerc for making mistakes at the start of his career at Ferrari. While heralded by...

2019 F12 days ago

Ferrari should soon switch focus to 2020 – Webber

Mark Webber thinks Ferrari should consider writing off the 2019 world championship after the next race in Canada. So far...

2019 F12 days ago

Lauda funeral set for Wednesday

The public can attend Niki Lauda’s funeral next Wednesday. German-language reports say it will take place at the gothic St...

2019 F12 days ago

Alonso-McLaren relationship not broken – Brown

Zak Brown insists McLaren’s relationship with Fernando Alonso is not broken. After almost winning the Indy 500 with the Andretti...

2019 F12 days ago

Raikkonen dislikes modern Monaco layout

Kimi Raikkonen says Monaco has lost its magic of the past – for the drivers. This weekend, the Finn –...

2019 F12 days ago

F1 heading for new engine formula in 2025

F1 looks set to scrap the ‘power unit’ regulations for 2025. Due to their complexity, expense, lack of noise and...

2019 F13 days ago

Perez admits Mexico GP heading for axe

Sergio Perez has admitted that his home race in Mexico looks set to drop off the 2020 calendar. Not yet...

Most Popular

ThisisF1.com is not affiliated with Formula 1, Formula One Management, Formula One Administration, Formula One Licensing BV, Formula One World Championship Ltd or any other organization or entity associated with the official Formula One governing organizations or their shareholders. Copyrighted material used under Fair Use/Fair Comment.

References
We could use the following leading F1 news sources for stories: SkyF1, BBC F1, Autosport, ESPN F1, FIA Media Center, MotorSport, JamesAllen and others leading authors blog.

All Rights Reserved © 2017 Prime Sport Media