Tag Archives: Formula 1

The Last Run

"The Last Run" by automotive artist, © Thierry Thompson

“The Last Run”, Gilles Villeneuve exits his #27 Ferrari 126C2 at Zolder, Belgium, 1982. © Thierry Thompson

The first time this image caught my eye, it was in the pages of a fairly new publication at that time called, ” Automobile Magazine “. The image was so direct and powerful of the late Ferrari pilot, Gilles Villeneuve, that it immediately captivated me and has held my attention to this day.

The image was accompanied with a brief article on the artist, Thierry Thompson, and his poignant image of Gilles titled ” The Last Run “. It immediately struck an emotional cord showing Gilles climbing out of the cockpit of his Formula 1 Ferrari 126C2 for the last time on that fateful day in Belgium, prior to his last qualifying appearance on May 8, 1982. The red number 27 is symbolically parked with one wheel over the yellow pit line – a metaphor of his relentless drive to win at all cost, often crossing the line.

From that first time I saw the image, it took me some time to track the artist, as search engines and the internet in the late 80’s were in their infancy. Once I was able to find his address in Carmel, it was still difficult to get in contact with him, let alone find him or a gallery that sold his artwork. I did finally contact a gallery by telephone and was able to talk to a very kind lady to express my interest in the image. At that time, she did explain that the run of images had sold out, but that Thierry would be doing a “redux” run of the same image, with a minor change – adding a touch of fluorescent colors. Although the “redux” edition is almost an identical to the original, I preferred to acquire an original version of the print.

When Thierry opened his gallery, Light + Shadow Fine Art in Carmel-by-the-Sea, I paid a visit there. I was immediately greeted by the gallery director and Thierry’s wife, Beverly. A kind and friendly person, I have visited the gallery on several occasion and always enjoy spending time talking to her and the work that Thierry has done and is currently working on. I have yet to meet Thierry, as the demand for his art work, keeps him at his studio most of the time. I am looking forward to one day meet him.

This brings me to Thierry’s image of Gilles. For years, I have been watching eBay to see if this image ever came up for sale. I have bought several of Thierry’s images through eBay and have never been disappointed. The beauty, the brilliant colors and complexity to which Thierry captures the details in his work, makes me fortunate to own several his wonderful prints.

Finally, it happened. ” The Last Run ” was listed on eBay after more than a decade of me patiently waiting and almost 3 decades since I first saw the image. After watching and waiting for the right opportunity, I bought the image. It is an ” Artist Proof “, meaning that it is one of about ten or so that were printed and which the artist approves before the limited edition run of 500 are made. To say that I am elated to finally have this image in my collection is a vast understatement!

I finally have the image of Gilles that I have always wanted.


light+shadow fine art
Thierry Thompson – Automotive Fine Art
Thierry Thompson – Aviation Fine Art

2014 Rodeo Drive Concours – 100 Years of Horse Power

1924 Bentley 3/8 Litre “Hawkeye Special”, the “3/8” number configuration - 3 litre chassis fitted with an 8 litre engine – 2012 Rodeo Drive Concours d'Elegance. © 2012 Victor Varela

1924 Bentley 3/8 Litre “Hawkeye Special”, the “3/8” number configuration – 3 litre chassis fitted with an 8 litre engine – 2012 Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance. © 2012 Victor Varela

For a few years now, I have attended a wonderful car show which is located in the world famous city of Beverly Hills.   The Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance is an exclusive display of luxury automobiles which is set against the backdrop of world class and ultra chic, Rodeo Drive. This unique event, celebrates the unique relationship between the automotive, fashion and the entertainment industries.  The event has been named one of the “300 Unmissable Events & Festivals Around the World” by top travel publisher Frommer’s.  The best part of this spectacular car show is that it’s free and open to the public!

What really makes this event special for me, is that every year, it falls on Father’s Day making this a really neat tradition.  It is a great way to celebrate the day and remember my father, Saul, who passed away last year from pancreatic cancer. This year, I will be covering the event as a contributing writer/photographer for Sports Car Digest and dedicating the article to him.

Along with SCD, I will be posting a brief write up here and several images – the majority being posted at my website, victorvarela.com and available for purchase.

Here’s the press release about the 2014 Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance.



The 2014 edition of the Rodeo Drive Concours will mark the City of Beverly Hills’ Centennial on Father’s Day, June 15 from 10 am to 4 pm featuring Maserati as the “Honored Marque”. Maserati also celebrates their Centennial in 2014. The Rodeo Drive Committee has selected the theme “100 Years of Horse Power” to honor this milestone with a one day museum quality installation of vehicles illustrating the city’s history. From the horse-drawn Wells Fargo Wagon to the present, this year’s show will feature cars owned by storied celebrity residents and those related to key historical moments and film and TV over the last century.




1. ZERO TO 100: 2014 Honored Marque Maserati joins Beverly Hills in celebrating its’ Centennial in 2014. In celebration of the first 100 years, the revered auto manufacturer introduces its GT MC Centennial Edition Model adding to the heritage of horsepower on display. To commemorate its milestone anniversary, Maserati has created unique designs of its top performance models GranTurismo MC Centennial Edition and GranTurismo Convertible MC Centennial Edition.
2. FORMULA 1-INSPIRED: Auto Gallery and McLaren Beverly Hills are the official licensed dealer for the McLaren MP4-12C in Los Angeles and offer the groundbreaking 12C coupe, the new 12C Spider as well as pre-owned exotic cars from other marques.
3. HELLO NEIGHBOR: Come and meet your newest automotive neighbor – Infiniti of Beverly Hills. Discover the 2014 lineup of award winning high- performance luxury vehicles.


4. CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME: Following a highly successful debut that set a new standard for the market, excitement is mounting for Auctions America’s 2014 California sale August 1 and 2 in Burbank, California. This year’s auction will present 400 collector cars handpicked for Southern California’s unique car culture. See some of the highlights of consignments from this year’s auction.
5. ORIGINAL HORSE POWER: This year’s show opens with an appearance by the famed Wells Fargo Wagon. Before the City was founded in 1914, J. P. Bruso moved to town in 1909 and operated the Wells Fargo express office out of his grocery store and butcher shop continuing to offer customers quick and reliable express shipments of money, goods, and valuables until 1918.
6. PONY RIDE: A rare public appearance of the new 2015 Mustang celebrating the brand’s 50th Anniversary in 2014. Introduced at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the original Mustang helped define automotive youth culture in America and was so eagerly embraced by the buying public that it quickly shattered all sales records.
7. BEVERLY HILLS SPEEDWAY: This year’s Concours pays tribute to the Beverly Hills Speedway, also known as the Los Angeles Speedway, a 1.25-mile track for auto and motor cycle racing that attracted such racing legends as Barney Oldfield and Indianapolis 500 winner Gaston Chevrolet. Up to 70,000 spectators could attend races where world speed records were set and broken at the time. It was built in 1919 and operated until 1924 on 275 acres of land that includes the site of today’s Beverly Wilshire Hotel just outside the “Golden Triangle.” Make sure to see film footage of actual races on the track by noted Beverly Hills historian and author Robert Anderson.
8. PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ: A holdover from the horse and carriage era, the 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Town Car by Hooper was originally owned by Fred Astaire until 1950. Astaire used the car in London, New York and Los Angeles. This ultra-formal vehicle has a sumptuously appointed rear compartment complete with green brocade upholstery, silver plated fittings, his and hers English Silver vanity sets, silver bud vases, and two walking sticks, one fitted with a telescope, the other with opera glasses and a custom Louis Vuitton trunk on the back. Passengers could communicate with the chauffeur through a speaking tube.
9. BLOND BOMBSHELL: American film actress and sex symbol Jean Harlow owned this 1932 Packard 6-45 Dietrich Dual Cowl Phaeton. After being signed by director Howard Hughes, Harlow became a leading lady for MGM, starring in a string of hit films with frequent co-stars Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. She was one of the biggest movie stars in the world by the late 1930s.
10. THE AVIATOR: One of the wealthiest people in the world, Howard Hughes was a maverick film producer, investor, engineer, philanthropist and aviator. Hughes was involved in a near-fatal aircraft accident on July 7, 1946, in Beverly Hills while performing the first flight of the prototype XF-11. Hughes purchased this 1924 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and later, the car was owned by Gloria Swanson. Hughes also purchased this 1955 Packard Caribbean for wife and actress Jean Peters.
11. MUSCLE REVOLUTION: Watch-and-jewelry designer David Yurman has teamed up with muscle-car visionary Carroll Shelby, creator of the legendary Shelby Cobra, to create Yurman’s first limited-edition sports watch, the David Yurman Revolution Shelby 1000. It celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Shelby American brand, founded by Carroll Shelby, which produced the Cobra and other high-performance sports cars that tore up the worldwide auto racing circuit in the 1960s and early 1970s. See the new Shelby 1000 Mustang in front of David Yurman – the most powerful car to date – then check out the limited edition Revolution Shelby 1000 in store.
12. SIMPLY THE BEST: O’Gara Coach Company is an award-winning new and pre-owned retailer for Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Stop by and see what the top automotive luxury brands have to offer for 2014.
13. NEVER MET A FIREMAN I DIDN’T LIKE: The 1928 Ahrens-Fox Fire Truck served the City of Beverly Hills for several decades and is owned by the Beverly Hills Fire Department. In 1925, actor, author and humorist Will Rogers declined to be nominated as Governor of Oklahoma, instead opting to become the first and only Honorary Mayor of Beverly Hills.


14. BEVERLY HILLS SPIRIT: Assouline Publishing presents their newest book “In the Spirit of Beverly Hills.” Meet the author and have your book signed by former Los Angeles Magazine editor Nancie Clare from 1 pm to 4 pm.
15. THE COLOR OF SUNSHINE: In 1967 Fred Hayman, “the father of Rodeo Drive,” opened Giorgio Beverly Hills, the street’s first high-end boutique with its signature yellow and white stripes. Mr. Hayman delivered purchases to customers via his yellow and black 1953 Silver Wraith Rolls-Royce and told the world that his favorite city was “the color of sunshine.” In 1976, Bijan opened a showroom on Rodeo, which helped to solidify Rodeo Drive’s reputation as a luxury shopping destination. Bijan touted his Rodeo Drive location as “the most expensive in the world” and parked his 2008 Bugatti Veyron “Bijan Edition” in front of the store daily – a tradition that continues to this day and now has its own special parking meter. Both Hayman and Bijan went on to create international best-selling fragrances “bottling Beverly Hills.” No surprise, but bright yellow is their favorite color.
16. SWIMMING POOLS. MOVIE STARS: “They loaded up the truck and moved to Bever-lee. Hills, that is.” See an authentic replica of the jalopy from the hit 60’s TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
17. TV & FILM: The cars from HBO’s “Entourage,” “Gumball Rally” and the 1951 Academy Award Best Picture “An American in Paris” make a rare appearance. Of note, “American in Paris” star Gene Kelly lived on Rodeo Drive for more than 40 years and film composers George and Ira Gershwin lived on Roxbury Drive for many years.
18. TRANSFORM: Los Angeles-based artists Scrap Sculptures present ultimate pieces of art comprised of recycled scrap metal from car and motorcycle parts. Stop by and see their life-size sculptures of Megatron, Optimus Prime and BumbleBee. And, don’t miss the fourth installment of the robo-movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” opening June 27.
19. THE FUTURE: Take a peek into the future with URB-E,the world’s most compact electric personal transportation. Folded, it fits next to you on a train or bus and can reach 15 mph with a 20-mile range on a single charge. It is the winner of the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show’s “Best Personal Vehicle” Award and has been featured on “The Today Show.”
20. PETERSEN MUSEUM: Since its inception in 1994, the Petersen Automotive Museum has been regarded as the focus of automotive enthusiasm on the West Coast. Their current exhibit is “Mustangs Forever: 50 Years of a Legend.”
21. BLACK STALLION: There’s a reason the black stallion serves as the centerpiece to the logo of Ferrari: Horse Power. Ferrari USA and Ferrari Beverly Hills present the newest line-up from their collection that includes the Ferrari FF, California, 458 Italia, 458 Spider, F12, 599 and F430.

For more information, check out their website:  Rodeo Drove Concours

[source: The Donahue Group – Rodeo Drive Concours]

Weekend of a Champion

Jackie Stewart © image respective owner.

Jackie Stewart from the documentary, Weekend of a Champion © image respective owner.

Roman Polanski’s racing documentary about Jackie Stewart and his weekend during the Monaco Grand Prix has been remastered and will be re-released for the US on May 20th, available for download through iTunes and DVD through Amazon.

In 1971, motor racing fan Roman Polanski spent a weekend with world champion driver Jackie Stewart as he fought to win the Monaco Grand Prix. Polanski was given intimate access to Stewart’s world for three days, both on the track and off. The result is an extraordinarily rare glimpse into the life of a gifted athlete at the height of his powers. Forty years on, Polanski and Stewart meet once again. In a remarkable post-script, they discuss the sport, both past and present, with a unique and unmatched perspective. [source: iTunes]



In Memoriam, Ayrton Senna.


Ayrton Senna da Silva,  March 21, 1960 – May 1, 1994

“These things bring you to reality as to how fragile you are; at the same moment you are doing something that nobody else is able to do. The same moment that you are seen as the best, the fastest and somebody that cannot be touched, you are enormously fragile.”
Ayrton Senna

Home Theme – PLAY:

Grand Prix of San Marino

Remastered version of the tribute originally released in 2010.

[images source: internet © their respective owner]
[music: “Home theme” from the movie, “Senna” iTunes]

Gilles Villeneuve… Ricordava Sempre


Belgium’s Circuit Zolder, was bright and sunny on that Saturday afternoon – 30 years ago today, as Gilles powered his #27 Ferrari 126 C2 sideways through the Kleine chicane.  His determination was never more intense, as he opened up the throttle of his crimson steed, disappearing over the hill heading toward Terlamenbocht corner.   He was on his last qualifying lap for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix and was racing hard to out qualify his 2nd season team mate and recently made nemesis, Didier Pironi.  It was to be Gilles final lap.

With eight minutes left in the qualifying session, Villeneuve came over the rise and found Jochen Mass on his cool down lap through the left-handed Butte bend before the Terlamenbocht corner. Jochen saw Gilles approaching at high speed and moved to the right to let him through on the racing line. At that same moment, Gilles also moved right to pass the Jochen’s March. The Ferrari hit the back of March and was launched into the air at about 120–140 mph. The Ferrari was airborne for over 100 yards before it slammed down nose-first onto the ground – the force so incredible, that it buckled the nose and the front part of the cockpit. But that was just the beginning of the Ferrari’s destructive dance. The car then catapulted itself high into the air and began a series of horrifying cartwheels – then bounced off an earthen bank behind the guardrails on the right side of the entry to Terlamenbocht, before finally resting itself on the edge of the track.   The car just barely avoided landing on the slow-moving March of Jochen as it made the turn.

What was left was a scene of utter devastation. The wreckage was strewn around the crash scene for over 500 feet. The remnants of the chassis, bearing witness to the violence of the crash, sat on the track, with the entire front section ripped off at the point where the driver once sat. The force was so extreme that Villeneuve was thrown from the car with his seat & safety belts still attached to him – his helmet having flown off and rolled some distance from his body.

The on-track medics were on him in less than a minute and began their attempts to revive him. They found him unconscious, his body visibly flaccid and his pupils dilated. Once on scene and after examining Gilles, FIA doctor, Professor Sid Watkins concluded he probably had suffered a cervical spine fracture with high spinal cord injury. Watkins later commented on the surreal scene stating that he noticed that Gilles’ feet were quite bare as his shoes and socks were thrown off during the crash.

Eleven minutes after the crash, his was on a stretcher, on a military helicopter and flown to the University of St. Raphael Hospital at Louvain.

At the hospital it was confirmed that Gilles was still unconscious and was suffering from severe injuries to his neck and brain-stem: officially a fracture of the cervical vertebrae and the severing of the spinal cord. His vital functions were being maintained by a life-support system.

Once it was determined that there was nothing more that could be done and the situation was thoroughly explained to his wife, Joann, the decision was made to remove Gilles from life support.

Later that evening, the hospital made the official statement which simply read:

“Gilles Villeneuve died at 9:12pm on 8th May 1982.”

I remember I was getting ready to leave that evening and as I was about to go out the door, when my attention was caught by the news reporter on the TV set.  He started to tell of the accident and subsequent death of a driver during the Formula 1 qualify session in Belgium.  As I approached the TV set to listen to the details, I saw the picture of a race car on the corner of the screen and the brief details of the accident and his death.  I was stunned as the news report ended and could not believe what I had just seen and heard.

I grew up in an era when most of the F1 racing world came to me via the print media.  We didn’t have cable TV at the time and there was little to virtually no race coverage on the networks.  I followed the F1 circus through sources such as Autoweek, On Track magazine and for a more colorful and polished account of any given F1 race – Road & Track.  I could usually count on the results in the L.A. Times sports section the next day after the race, but I would mainly get all the racing details weekly from Autoweek.

The following day or possible the next, I picked up a copy of the L.A. Times and read the brief article of Gilles accident and death.  The news further adding to my sadness for the driver I had so diligently kept up with over the past few years, having died so tragically.  Through the articles in the aforementioned magazines, I later read in greater detail, about everything that had transpired on that fateful qualifying day.

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a brief article for my website titled “Remembering Gilles“.  In it, I briefly summarized his career, his talent and raw, natural ability as a driver.  But most importantly I wrote about the man who was Gilles Villeneuve and what he meant to me.  A man who’s priorities were far from what most drivers of that era, lived and drove by.  A driver who’s character, morals and values were there for all to see and admire, as well as criticize.  Such were the strength of his convictions, his passion for racing, his commitment to his family and his love of life in general, that it leaves little wonder, after all this time, why Gilles is still so highly regarded in the racing community –  and why I continue to consider “Il Piccolo Canadese* “, my racing hero.

30 years later… Always remembered.



“He left us because of something incomprehensible. His fatality has deprived us of a great champion, one that I loved very very much. People used to say that one day he’ll quit Ferrari but I never believed it because Gilles and I had formed such an affection for each other we were like father and son.

My past is scarred with grief…  father, mother, brother, sister, wife… my life is full of sad memories. I look back and I see my loved ones …and among my loved ones I see the face of this great man: Gilles Villeneuve.” – Enzo Ferrari on the death of Gilles Villeneuve

* (Enzo Ferrari called Gilles, “Il Piccolo Canadese” – the tiny Canadian. A term of endearment Il Commendatore had for Villeneuve.)

Websites of Interest:


Gilles Villeneuve – The Last Day.
30 years ago: A totally shamelessly subjective, but yet honest view on Gilles Villeneuve.
Gilles Villeneuve – Wikipedia
Gilles Villeneuve Museum