Didier Pironi, Bernard Giroux & Jean-Claude Guènard's Fatal Crash @ Isle of Wight 1987 (Aftermath)

  • 7 months ago
At the end of a long rehabilitation time and many operations after his huge accident in bad weather conditions during practice for the 1982 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim at the wheel of the Ferrari 126C2, Didier Pironi could stand on his legs again. During the convalescence he started developing an interest in speedboat racing and in 1986, when in good health again, he competed in the European Offshore Championship, with a Lamborghini-powered Abbate 41 boat. The following year he made his debut in the Offshore World Championship driving the revolutionary "Colibri", a boat completely made of carbon-kevlar built at the French shipyard of ACX.

His team was composed by Bernard Giroux, a TV journalist and a well known rally co-driver, formerly two time Paris-Dakar winner, in 1981 with René Metge in a Range Rover and in 1987 with Ari Vatanen in a Peugeot, and the throttleman Jean-Claude Guénard, an ex-Ligier engineer and a former talented motocycle racer in the 1960s. The boat was the lightest among the competitors and obtained quickly good results; just one week before their fatal Isle of Wight race, on 16 August 1987 Pironi and his companions had won their first World Championship race at Arendal in Norway; Enzo Ferrari sent a telegram of congratulations to his former works driver which was immensely appreciated by Didier.

Totally enthusiastic Pironi went on to Poole, England for the Needles Trophy, a race off the Isle of Wight. The "Colibri" started the race in the top five and a few minutes later it was second and was dueling with the "Pinot di Pinot" boat of the Italian Renato Della Valle. The two boats, with the "Colibri" still in second place, approached a signal where they had to turn around. Not far away the smaller Esso-tanker "Avon" cruised the sea. Close to the turning-point, at 12h40 of Sunday, 23 August 1987 the "Colibri" hit at about 160 km/h a wave produced by the tanker, and suddenly the extremely light an unstable boat lifted and overturned crashing down onto the surface. The boat was only slightly damaged but the impact with the water, that is as hard as concrete at this speed, killed the entire crew instantly. Pironi, Guénard and Giroux were brought back to the Isle of Wight by Navy helicopters.