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Emilio de Villota

Full Name:
Emilio de Villota Ruiz
26th July 1946 (Age 74)
Most recent race (in database):

Emilio de Villota was an enthusiastic amateur who won the 1980 British Formula 1 Championship. He was also successful in sports cars but was out of his depth in when he raced in world championship Grands Prix.

Formula 1 privateer

A manager at Banco Ibérico in Madrid, he raced in Spain for six years before driving a Lyncar in the 1976 Shellsport British Group Eight Championship. That was a series that mixed F1, Formula 5000 and other large-capacity single-seaters. He also entered that year’s Spanish GP when sponsored by his employers but he failed to qualify RAM Racing’s Brabham BT44B-Ford.

Undeterred, de Villota used sponsorship from Iberia Airways to acquire an ex-works McLaren M23-Ford for 1977. He entered seven GPs but only qualified in Spain and Austria. He was fifth in the British series after winning three times and de Villota had found his level.

British Formula 1 Champion

That national series was re-launched in 1978 as the Aurora AFX British F1 Championship and de Villota’s Lotus 78-Ford won four times during 1979. With ample funding from Banco Occidental, the Spaniard drove a RAM Racing Williams FW07-Ford in 1980 and he was the class of the field – defeating team-mate Eliseo Salazar to win the title.

He also entered the Spanish GP – a race that would later lose its championship status amid the FISA/FOCA "war." However, de Villota crashed into leaders Jacques Laffite and Carlos Reutemann while being lapped, forcing them both to retire.

Sports car victories with Guy Edwards and a Lola T600-Ford were the following season’s highlights although he was not finished with F1. RAM entered a March 812-Ford for part of the 1982 season but his final GP outings were as unimpressive as before.

Subsequent career

De Villota returned to Spanish racing and won the national touring car title in 1983 before enjoying Porsche Carrera Cup success in 1993, 1995 and 1996. He also finished fourth in the 1986 Le Mans 24 Hours during a season driving John Fitzpatrick’s Porsche 956 in the World Sportscar Championship. A one-off appearance in the Porsche Supercup at the 2002 Spanish GP signalled the end of de Villota’s international career.

He now runs a successful racing school and his children María and Emilio Jr both raced in Europe’s junior categories during the 2000s. María de Villota tested a Renault R29 at Paul Ricard in 2011 to become the first female driver to test an F1 car for six years. However, she crashed a Marussia MR-01-Cosworth during a straightline test at Duxford airfield on July 3 2012. She lost sight in her right eye but recovered sufficiently to become an ambassador for the FIA. However, she continued to suffer headaches and finally succumbed to the head injuries she had suffered 15 months after the accident.