Why 28?

28 was the number on Didier Pironi’s Ferrari during his last two seasons in Formula 1, and when I was 16 years old I was a huge fan of his furious speed in that red car. 1982 had already been a tragic year in Formula 1 with the deaths of Pironi’s team mate, the legendary Gilles Villeneuve, and rookie Riccardo Paletti.

When it was time for Germany’s Grand Prix on Hockenheim, Pironi was leading the championship and I went to Germany to see my favourite driver in action on his way to become World Champion.

During Saturday’s qualifying the rain was pouring down when Didier Pironi came up to pass the slower Williams of Derek Daly, but in the spray he didn’t see the Renault of Alain Prost and smashed right in to the back of the yellow car, resulting in a violent crash that reminded about Gilles Villleneuve’s fatal accident a few months earlier.

Pironi survived but his legs was so badly injured that he wasn’t able to return to Formula 1 again. Instead he started a career in offshore powerboat racing, which ended tragically when he and his crew was killed in a accident at Isle Of Wight in 1987.

Two weeks later his wife gave birth to twins. She named them Didier and Gilles.


Didier Pironi