The journey of Gilles Villeneuve in Formula Ford

The journey of Gilles Villeneuve in Formula Ford.

After completing his first snowmobile season in 1972, Gilles Villeneuve wants to start his car racing career next season in 1973.

In his search of a single seat to compete in Formula Ford, Gilles decided to get Jean-Pierre St-Jacques’ car, a driver who retired at the end of the season in 1972.

The story of Jean-Pierre St-Jacques’ car is very particular. He didn’t have the financial means to get a true Formula Ford, he then decided to create his own car with the help of the Formula Ford Cardwell. St-Jacques called his car « Magnum » and produced only 5 of them.

The motorization of this car seems modest because the single seat is powered by a Ford Kent 1.6 liter motor, doing 110 horsepower. However, this cigar looking car, with very little aerodynamic support, is really light and needed an exceptionnal driver to use everything this car could offer.

From his first year, at the age of 23, Gilles Villeneuve got the title of the Formula Ford Championship in Quebec by winning 7 out of 10 races of the season and the titre of recruit of the year. His style of driving is really agressive from his snowmobile experience that allow him to push the car to its limit (often in oversteer in curves). For Gilles, every laps is a race, so he needs to do the best time at each laps, even if this decision could jeopardize his chances of victory.

The Magnum wasn’t the most powerful car in its category, but one thing is sure, the car is really solid. Gilles manhandled (bullied if you will) this car at multiple occasions (off road accident, breaking to the point of blocking the front wheels, attacking the vibrators without lifting his foot, etc.)

His performances in Formula Ford will pave the way of this Berthierville’s driver to Atlantic Formula who was, back then, the biggest national league.

Today, the museum possesses the Magnum MK1 in its collection. This car has it’s burnt orange livery with the number 22 on it. The car is loaned to the museum by the St-Jacques family.

Even though the history of the Magnum created by Jean-Pierre St-Jacques is close to 50 years old, the name resurfaced in the car racing field a couple years ago. His son, Bruno St-Jacques (ex Atlantic Formula driver) decided to get inspired by his father’s journey and to create the Magnum MK5. The new MK5 is a track car (car to compete the Ariel Atom, Caterham Super, Seven, Bac Mono, etc.). The car weight only 545 kg, thanks to his carbon fiver composition and has a 4 cylinder motor of 1.3 liters and 250 horsepower (coming from a Suzuki Hayabusa motocycle) allowing a acceleration from 0 to 100 km in 3.2 seconds and a maximum speed of 240 km. After a limited production of 20 cars for the MK5, would it be possible to see the development of the MK6? After all, the track car market is blooming!

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