PRINCE OF DESTRUCTION
..is what Commendatore Enzo Ferrari calls his favorite Formula One Driver, the legendary Canadian, Giles Villeneuve who astounded fans and critics with his amazing racing performances.
The story opens with the final seconds of Giles’ life as he tries to qualify for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix. Quick snatches of thought and flashes from his past are heard distracting him as he presses too hard, hits another racer’s tire and is send airborne, spinning, waiting for the crash to earth.
Fifteen years earlier in the small Canadian town of Berthieville, Quebec, the boyish Gilles speeds down a country road in his father’s new Pontiac. He crashes but claims to have learned his lesson. His obsession becomes apparent when he flips an MG during a road duel, and later, is cheered by locals as he races his car through town.
Gilles dates a local girl. JOANN is scared his driving but appreciates his passion and is impressed by his notoriety. “Attends-moi, ce ne sera pas long...” he tells her before a race. When Joann becomes pregnant Gilles and Joann marry and become the parents of JACQUES and MELANIE.
In the Canadian winter Gilles races snowmobiles. Racing on ice gives him a unique feel for the dynamics of friction, adhesion and weight distribution which enhances his car-racing skill, particularly in bad weather. He becomes Canadian Champion. Unfortunately, there is little prize money in the sport and Gilles is barely able to support his family. Despite her fear of racing, Joann supports Gilles dream and he purchases an old racing car by mortgaging their home, a small, cold motorhome that they don’t actually own.
Gilles becomes North Atlantic champ, winning seven of ten races. Desperate to advance to Formula Atlantic, Gilles convinces Quebec entrepreneur GASTON PARENT to loan him the entrance fee for a Quebec race where world-famous F1 drivers race unknown North Atlantic champions. Gilles impresses JAMES HUNT by beating him. With Hunt’s help he lands a spot on the McLaren F1 team. But Gilles’ wild style wrecks cars and he is fired.
Gilles is resigned quit racing and take a job as a mechanic when he’s called to Italy to meet Ferrari, who sees in Gilles the same spirit as his champion Tazio Nuvolari. With help from Gaston, Gilles signs with Ferrari.
Gilles crashes again and again in his first races. Critics call him a danger in F1. At the Japanese Grand Prix, Gilles slams ino another racer. His car is sent airborne, the crash killing two spectators in a restricted area. By next season the Italian press are calling him “Air Canada” and demanding his firing, but Ferrari supports Gilles, whom he calls “The Prince of Destruction” after he wrecks eight more cars. Ferrari believes his style forces the Ferrari team to build stronger cars.
In Monaco, Gilles executes crazy drifts that cause scary moments but his incredible control wins over fans and critics who recognize his passion. During the Italian race a friend is killed, rattling Gilles and his family.
Gilles finally scores his first F1 win at the Canadian Grand Prix, instantly becoming a national hero. But growing fame begins to take a toll on Joann, who feels ignored. Gilles starts to change from provincial Quebecois to world-famous athlete, and starts to feel Joann is unable to accept their new status. He also feels she cannot know the intensity and focus it takes to win at the very top of the world’s most dangerous sport. They grow apart.
On the track Gilles is joined by veteran JODY SHECKTER, who hopes driving for Ferrari will permit him to get a shot at the championship. Unlike other teams, Ferrari doesn’t designate a number one and two driver. Its racers fight it out. The rule is that if both Ferrari’s are ahead, they must hold their positions. Whoever leads wins the race for the team. Although the faster Gilles has a chance to win the World Championship by beating Scheckter, he follows orders and finishes second. Gilles sets the track record at the season-ending U. S. Grand Prix. Scheckter comes in second but wins the Championship on total points.
The next year is a disaster. Ferrari’s new cars destroy tires, have weak suspensions and bad ground effects. Frustrated, Scheckter retires and is replaced by French driver DIDIER PIRONI.
Next season Ferrari introduces a turbo engine in a car with tremendous power but poor handling. Gilles’ racing skills become apparent when he overcomes mechanical problems to win the Monaco and Spanish Grand Prix.
Gilles is approached by a PROMOTER who wants to build “Team Villeneuve”. Gilles fears Ferraris aren’t competitive to enable him to win the Championship, but Joann is suspicious of the man. Gilles feels he has progressed to the status of elite, world famous athlete and hero, while Joann is still a provincial Quebecois and may be holding him back.
Gilles’ marriage is in danger when he begins an affair with COURTNEY, a beautiful woman who seems to have no interest in his fame. Gaston pressures Gilles to give up the affair, a distraction that could cost Gilles’ his life. Joann threatens divorce.
Gilles’ trust in teammate Pironi is shaken when he is not invited to Pironi’s wedding. Joann doesn’t trust Pironi. She warns Gilles, but he shrugs off her suspicions.
Then, at the San Marino Grand Prix, as Gilles leads, Pironi ignores Ferrari’s orders to hold position and, in the last seconds of the final lap, roars in front and steals the World Championship. Feeling betrayed and furious, Gilles vows never to speak to Pironi again. Gilles also discovers Joann was right about the promoter who was fraudulently using his name to raise money.
Angry and distracted Gilles is attempting to beat Pironi’s time in the final qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix. His Ferrari strikes a slower-moving racer and is sent airborne. In his final seconds, we again get snatches of thought and flashes from his past, now making sense in context, his distraction from pure racing attention causing the crash.
His car slams to earth, then back onto the circuit, spinning, tumbling, breaking to pieces. A 50 cent washer snaps. Gilles is torn loose from his harness, flying out of the car into fencing, breaking his neck. Barely alive, he’s raced to the hospital. Taken off life support, Gilles dies.
Ferrari publicly mourns Gilles’ death, and Jody attempts to comfort the grief-stricken Joann who remembers her happiest days with Gilles in Quebec and the last words he spoke to her before every race: Attends-moi, ce ne sera pas long... `Wait for me, I won’t be long’.
Years later, Gilles’s son Jacques becomes F1 World Champion.