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F1-Legend and Dakar-Teamchef Clay Regazzoni dies in car crash.

Former Formula One driver Clay Regazzoni was killed in a road accident in Italy on Friday, police said. The Swiss-born racer, who gave Williams their first grand prix victory at Silverstone in 1979 and won four races for Ferrari, was 67. Police said Regazzoni, who was paralysed after breaking his back in a crash at the 1980 U.S. Grand Prix West in Long Beach, died when his car collided with a truck on a highway to the west of the Italian town of Parma.

"With Clay Regazzoni we lose a courageous driver and man who always lived life that way. I remember him not just as one of my drivers but also as a man with a real passion for Ferrari," Ferrari President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said in a statement. Regazzoni was travelling in a Chrysler Voyager decorated in the livery of a brand of watches that carried his name. In the car was the wheelchair he had been forced to use since his racing accident. Police said Regazzoni did not appear to have been driving at excessive speed and visibility was good in the area at the time. Nobody else was hurt in the accident.

"Clay won the very first Grand Prix for the Williams Team in 1979 at Silverstone," said Frank Williams. "This was probably the most important event ever to occur in the history of our time in Formula One. "He was a gentleman and always a pleasure to have with us in the team. (Co-owner) Patrick (Head) and I and other team members will always remember him."

Regazzoni, who was born in Lugano on September 5, 1939, was runner-up for Ferrari in the 1974 championship won by McLaren's young Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi. Christened Gianclaudio Giuseppe, but known universally as 'Clay', Regazzoni made his Formula One debut with Enzo Ferrari's glamour team at the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix, where he finished fourth.

Regazzoni was a winner that same year, in only his fifth race, when he beat Jackie Stewart into second place in Ferrari's home Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He finished third overall in the championship despite competing in just eight races.

He drove for BRM for a season in 1973 before returning to Ferrari in 1974 as team mate to future triple world champion Niki Lauda under the guidance of team manager Luca di Montezemolo, now the Ferrari president. In 1975 he again won the Italian Grand Prix with Ferrari. In 1977 and 1978 Regazzoni drove for Ensign and Shadow respectively before returning to a competitive car with Williams as team mate to Australian Alan Jones in 1979.

Despite securing the future world champions' first win in tbeir home race, he was replaced the following year by Argentine Carlos Reutemann. Regazzoni's accident in 1980, when he suffered brake failure and hit the barriers at speed, ended his Formula One career at 132 grands prix.

However, he continued racing in sportscars equipped with hand controls and also in the Dakar Rally - in 2005 Regazzoni presented the new Isuzu-Team from the European Importeur "Midi-Europe" as the Team-Manager.

2006/12/19 | 21:27 CET | Editor: MR/China Today

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