Turbocharged engines were not new to Grand Prix racing — superchargers were used as early as the 1930s — but the turbo era of modern Formula One began slowly. With Renault leading the way, the turbo finally overcame its acceleration lag and unreliability to take its first win at the 1979 French GP at Dijon. Yet Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s victory was overshadowed, in the most dramatic way possible, by a tremendous duel between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux for 2nd place. With Jabouille safely in the lead, Villeneuve’s Ferrari and Arnoux’s Renault bounced, squirted and banged wheels corner after corner on the closing laps, never more than a car length apart. Known as a pure racer who gave everything regardless of consequences, Villeneuve would not be denied on this July day, taking the lead for good with three corners left after a fantastic, full-wheel lock outside line pass and then the checkered flag 0.24s ahead. Dijon was also one of the first Formula One races televised by Britain’s BBC, for whom famous commentator Murray Walker recapped: “This is incredible! In this historic French Grand Prix, the oldest of them all, there has never been a battle for position as dramatic as this. Villeneuve is incredible!” Classifications.
From the Races | F1A&G compilation.