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Stéphane Proulx, F3000


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#1 F3000man

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 13:49

Some days ago I read a canadian article telling about his career. He became a driver by his mother, who was one of the first female drivers in Canada. Later, he was arrested for speeding up on a highway and he signed with Player's to sponsor him at Europe.

He attended two seasons in F3000 and was quick but unlucky. Unfortunately, his career didn't recover from this until his death.

His story was interesting and I didn't know most of this details. Was Proulx considered a promising driver at late 80s and early 90s? Or just another crazy rich kid?

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#2 philippe charuest

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 15:59

not rich . his mother did a very small formula cars "carreer" in the early 70s but his day job was in the media , wich explain a certain ease to find sponsors but no personal wealth .he did the usual ride karting, formula ford .he was good but not F1 stuff, not like bertrand Fabi for instance who won the european and british f2000 titles and was going to do F3 in england with dick bennett west surrey then the best f3 team and died doing testing at goodwood. still Proulx death was absurd and avoidable

#3 bigears

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 16:59

It seems it was a cock-up with a bllod transfusion that resulted in him dying from AIDS wasn't it?

Anyway, a nice photo of him from 1990 Birmingham Superprix

Posted Image

Edited by bigears, 15 September 2009 - 17:00.


#4 F3000man

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 17:20

not rich . his mother did a very small formula cars "carreer" in the early 70s but his day job was in the media , wich explain a certain ease to find sponsors but no personal wealth .he did the usual ride karting, formula ford .he was good but not F1 stuff, not like bertrand Fabi for instance who won the european and british f2000 titles and was going to do F3 in england with dick bennett west surrey then the best f3 team and died doing testing at goodwood. still Proulx death was absurd and avoidable


Yeah, good reminder about Bertrand Fabi. Proulx, Fabi and Greg Moore would be absolutely able to launch the canadian motorsport to even higher levels.



#5 F3000man

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 17:22

It seems it was a cock-up with a bllod transfusion that resulted in him dying from AIDS wasn't it?

Anyway, a nice photo of him from 1990 Birmingham Superprix

Posted Image


I heard it happened after he suffered a massive crash in F-Ford 2000 or F-Atlantic, don't remember now.

#6 ReWind

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 17:38

Some background from the Toronto Star (article by Norris McDonald).

#7 Simon Arron

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 21:29

Stéphane Proulx arrived in F3000 with a decent reputation, but never managed to embellish it during two seasons with GA and, latterly, Pacific. At the time, quite a few of the guys who worked with him felt he was overly concerned with his image and didn't focus enough on the things that mattered.

He could be prickly with the media, too, and a qualifying incident at Jerez in 1990 sticks in my mind. He and Didier Artzet tripped over each other - I can't remember which of them ruined the other's lap - but they were cruising towards the final corner, gesticulating like a couple of kids, when Eric van de Poele arrived at full tilt and flew off the road while trying to avoid them. All three cars ended up off the track and, having witnessed the incident, I described it in some detail in the following week's Motoring News. At some stage I used the words "kitty litter"... as a result of which Proulx phoned me at home, late on a Thursday night, because he thought I was suggesting he must be a piece of sh*t. It took a while to convince him that it was merely a euphemism for gravel trap, nothing more, and after that our working relationship seemed to improve.

Edited by Simon Arron, 15 September 2009 - 21:33.


#8 William Hunt

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 03:13

As a kid I followed F3000 just as closely as F1, in those days all races were also live on Eurosport. And I remmeber Stéphane Proulx vividly and at the time I though he did have enough talent for F1 but lacked luck or money. Sadly his illness decided otherwise (AIDS that he got from a blood transfusion).

#9 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 21:22

Yeah, good reminder about Bertrand Fabi. Proulx, Fabi and Greg Moore would be absolutely able to launch the canadian motorsport to even higher levels.

A sobering thought - it seems to run like this on occasion.
In the late 1950's the bulk of Italian talent (Ascari, Musso, Castelotti etc) died within a three seasons then a trio of promising Brit's(Williamson, Brise, Pryce) were wiped out between 73 and 77.
As Mario memorably said "racing is also this", sadly. :(

Edited by simonlewisbooks, 02 January 2010 - 21:23.


#10 Luca Pacchiarini

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 23:04

A sobering thought - it seems to run like this on occasion.
In the late 1950's the bulk of Italian talent (Ascari, Musso, Castelotti etc) died within a three seasons then a trio of promising Brit's(Williamson, Brise, Pryce) were wiped out between 73 and 77.
As Mario memorably said "racing is also this", sadly. :(



...and the German Catastrophe during the eighties: Bellof, Winkelhock and Stommelen... :cry:

#11 ensign14

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 23:36

...and Austria suffered more than most - Rindt, Lauda (nearly), Koinigg, Hoettiger, Gartner, Ratzenberger...and Gerhard Berger was nearly killed in a road accident in 1984-5. In terms of drivers per country, that's an horrific casualty rate.

#12 Project Indy

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 01:48

Other image of Proulx

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Image: lolaheritage.co.uk

#13 Project Indy

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 01:51

Its Proulx ?

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#14 bigears

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 12:22

Must be, because of the maple leaf emblem on the helmet as you can see there.

#15 mfd

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 22:44

Is it Proulx ?

Yes it is - I painted that helmet for 91


#16 roversfan090

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 12:30

blimey i never knew he died of aids so young

whenever i saw him race it just looked like he crashed but many people say he was talented enough to do well in europe thanks for this thread

#17 William Hunt

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 02:38

Today I noticed that it in november it will be 24 years ago since he died, can't believe how quickly time flies

As a child following F3000 closely he looked like a real talent in his debut year in '89, he had a very aggressive & wild driving style and sponsorship from Canadian cigarette brand Players (Philip Morris Group I believe, they also sponsored Greg Moore in IndyCar), he scored a 5th place at the end of the year in Le Mans (Bugatti circuit)

He certainly showed flashes of raw speed that year and considering how little experience he had in Europe he was certainly a promising talent to watch

 

After '89 he was wanted by DAMS, Jordan and First for 1990 (because of the Player's sponsorship mainly but he had also shown raw speed) but ended up signing with Pacific.

Then in 1990 accidents at Silverstone, Pau, Jerez, Monza, Enna-Pergusa, Birmingham and Le Mans with a best result of just 7th at Nogaro.

So he actually managed to crash out on 7 out of 11 races... Andrea de Cesaris in his early days would have been jealous of that

 

Then he went back to North America doing Formula Atlantic.

 

Now comes what is new to me and why I posted this, from wikipedia:

"On April 3, 1993, while participating in a Formula Atlantic race at Phoenix, Proulx was hit on head by a wheel lost by another competitor. He sustained head injuries from which he never recovered."

 

I knew he had died of AIDS and I always assumed that the illness ended his career, but apparently he had a cerebral oedema from the wheel on his head and that ended his career already before the HIV did.

 

His mother Monique Proulx was actually a pioneer female racer, she raced in Formula Atlantic in the early '70s, she had sponsorship from Virginia Slims cigarettes.

Monique became a very famous bestselling litterature author who won many prizes for her work after her sons's death

 

Funny thing is that Annie Proulx, another famous writer (she won the Pullitzer prize) but with US nationality and born Connecticut, had family ties to Monique & Stéphanie Proul

He was just 27 when he died (he would have been 28 a month later)

Proulx may have looked promissing at one point but the real big Canadian talent that was lost in those days was Bertrand Fabi and off course Greg Moore who was my favourite IndyCar driver (he still is, I was a huge fan and devastated when he died, I saw his crash live on Eurosport)


Edited by William Hunt, 15 July 2017 - 13:59.


#18 BarryJohnson

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 15:25

There is actually an article on this site by Sam Smith dated 21/11/2013 that recalls Stephane Proulx's career on the 20th anniversary of his death

and indeed Richard Spenard confirms in it that when he met Proulx again after he returned from Europe he was shocked at how ill he appeared to be.



#19 LotusElise

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 15:38

His career was on a downward trajectory before he got so ill, wasn't it?

 

It wasn't a dodgy blood transfusion, either. He caught HIV the usual 1980s way.

 

Monique too is no longer with us, having died in 2012. The novelist and screenwriter Monique Proulx is not the same person.


Edited by LotusElise, 17 July 2017 - 15:41.


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#20 cheesy poofs

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 16:49

Stéphane was so secretive about his private life is because he was gay. I've spoken to a few people who know him and they knew nothing about this. They understand Stéphane was his own person and rarely let anyone in on his private life.

As for that F. Atlantic race in Pheonix in early 1993, his medical condition likely deteriorated because Stéphane was allowed to fly back to Montreal. He had suffered a nasty knock on the head and a concussion as a result of that. He shouldn't have been allowed to fly back immediately as his brain was in no condition to handle the pressure of flying.

His AIDS condition and subsequent accident just accelerated his destiny.

#21 William Hunt

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 19:38

I think its so sad that people had (and in many countries still have) to hide their sexual orientation just because of society and I guess in the sports world or a macho sport like motorsport it was not done to come out for it.
It's sad that he had to keep his private life and his preference so secretive.
The only other gay F1 or F2 / F3000 driver I heard of was Mike Beuttler.


Edited by William Hunt, 17 July 2017 - 19:39.


#22 ensign14

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 20:29

Lella Lombardi as well, although I only found that out from a Motor Sport article a couple of years back - I don't know whether she hid her preferences or whether the motor racing press were not that bothered about it.  After all the sporting media also kept shtum about Mike Hawthorn's son.  Closing ranks for protection?

 

There was also John Riseley-Pritchard, but the less said about his preferences the better.



#23 William Hunt

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 21:43

There was also John Riseley-Pritchard, but the less said about his preferences the better.

 

I just looked it up (it's on wikipedia and on the GP Rejects forum), seems like he was a precursor of Gary Brabham.
Disgusting and outrageous.


Edited by William Hunt, 17 July 2017 - 22:07.


#24 LotusElise

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 21:56

Lella Lombardi as well, although I only found that out from a Motor Sport article a couple of years back - I don't know whether she hid her preferences or whether the motor racing press were not that bothered about it.  After all the sporting media also kept shtum about Mike Hawthorn's son.  Closing ranks for protection?

 

There was also John Riseley-Pritchard, but the less said about his preferences the better.

 

I read that article too. The writers were careful not to use the "L" word, but they made it clear that Lella was in a romantic relationship with a woman for most of her life. It sounds like it was an open secret in the paddock. From other articles I've read, it sounds as if the other drivers didn't take that much notice of her anyway. If she had been more glam and conventionally feminine a la Anita Taylor, I suspect it would have been a different story.

 

I've made some effort to find out whether Lella's partner is still alive but I never found out what her surname was..



#25 William Hunt

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 22:13

like some other drivers have done (Gordon Smiley, Giovanna Amati) Lella was actually 2 years older as she claimed when she was an F1 driver, she died of cancer, much too young at age 50

 

Lombardi was sponsored by an Italian coffee brand called 'Lavazza', it still is a well known coffee brand today


Edited by William Hunt, 17 July 2017 - 22:20.


#26 E1pix

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 07:26

I certainly remember Stephane, but didn't recall his plight until reading this thread -- and this rather-good article:
http://www.snifferme...-tragic-enigma/

Just damned sad all-around.

One haunting irony here is that Greg Moore started his Indy Lights career just days earlier at the same track -- PIR. Greg was the first to get a CART license at younger than 18 (at 17), and I was hired by Viper Auto Security to photograph his first test there the day after getting licensed.

Greg of course went on to win the title and secure the Player's/Forsythe deal, only to be taken at an even-earlier age than Stephane -- by three years.

#27 john winfield

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 09:57

 

I've made some effort to find out whether Lella's partner is still alive but I never found out what her surname was..

 

Elise, agreed, I don't see her surname ever mentioned anywhere. Given what Paul Fearnley writes in his Motor Sport article, I'm sure the Remondi family at Lella Lombardi Autosport will know.

 

Slightly OT, it would be sad if Robin Herd was right and that Vittorio Brambilla was protecting himself by downplaying the problems with Lella's March in 1975. I always assumed the two got on well. I usually like Paul Fearnley's writing but what's he doing recycling the myth that Brambilla triggered the first corner pile-up at Montjuich in 1975? That must come purely from accepting misleading contemporary journalism rather than doing a spot of research in, for example, the World Motor Racing Film Archive (Ok, Youtube).



#28 Tim Murray

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 10:11

I always assumed the two got on well.


My friends and I were strolling through the paddock at the Silverstone GP meeting in 1975 when we spotted Vittorio coming towards us. Suddenly there was this blood-curdling banshee screeching noise behind us which stopped us dead in our tracks. We turned round to find that Lella had been walking a few paces behind us and had started bawling good-natured banter at Vittorio. They stopped and chatted for a while, in Italian of course, and although we had no idea what they were saying, it was obvious that they got on very well.

#29 john winfield

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 10:18

My friends and I were strolling through the paddock at the Silverstone GP meeting in 1975 when we spotted Vittorio coming towards us. Suddenly there was this blood-curdling banshee screeching noise behind us which stopped us dead in our tracks. We turned round to find that Lella had been walking a few paces behind us and had started bawling good-natured banter at Vittorio. They stopped and chatted for a while, in Italian of course, and although we had no idea what they were saying, it was obvious that they got on very well.

 

Interesting, Tim. Maybe Robin Herd is just wrong. Or maybe Vittorio wasn't much of a test-driver!



#30 William Hunt

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 11:08

Even if there was a problem with Lella's March, she was damn slow almost always qualifying dead last. Surely this problem would not be an explanation for her often beiing seconds off the pace. How she did manage to score that 6th place in Montjuich is a mistery to me, it was not even half race distance, had some cars pitted already?


Edited by William Hunt, 18 July 2017 - 11:08.


#31 john winfield

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 12:56

Lella rarely qualified last in 1975, the March wasn't the best car, and hers was apparently a bad chassis. What do you expect?

 

As regards Montjuich, have a read of the race reports. So much happened even before Stommelen's crash. Presumably Lella was steady enough that day to avoid the accidents, and picked up sixth place, albeit two laps down. No mean feat in itself.



#32 F1matt

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 13:48

To this day I understand why some sportsmen would keep their sexuality private, I pity the first top flight footballer to "come out" as the abuse he would suffer would be brutal and possibly detrimental to his career. However I have never understood how it could affect someone in motorsport as fans have a different mentality, maybe I am been naive and it may put sponsors off that clean cut image. 



#33 E1pix

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 16:08

Not pointing at anyone here, but in general terms of today's "more open-minded" times I find it unfortunate for those different from us that sexuality is even discussed at all.

It must be awful to read about one's most-personal decisions on any web discussion.

#34 William Hunt

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 16:37

a gay F1 driver would be very popular now, it would attract new viewers and a broader fanbase for F1 for sure

For the same reason a female driver in F1 would be very good for the sport



#35 LotusElise

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 16:47

My friends and I were strolling through the paddock at the Silverstone GP meeting in 1975 when we spotted Vittorio coming towards us. Suddenly there was this blood-curdling banshee screeching noise behind us which stopped us dead in our tracks. We turned round to find that Lella had been walking a few paces behind us and had started bawling good-natured banter at Vittorio. They stopped and chatted for a while, in Italian of course, and although we had no idea what they were saying, it was obvious that they got on very well.

 

They raced together again in an Osella in 1980.

 

 

Not pointing at anyone here, but in general terms of today's "more open-minded" times I find it unfortunate for those different from us that sexuality is even discussed at all.

It must be awful to read about one's most-personal decisions on any web discussion.

 

The pressure to act as some sort of gay spokesperson is quite strong, and I can understand anyone not wanting a part of that, even if they were completely comfortable in their sexuality. 

There have been a few lesbian racing and rally drivers over the years, mostly not publicly "out". I have consciously avoided this side of things with Speedqueens, as it's usually not relevant. Plus, I don't want to attract the attention of well-meaning but overbearing social activists and their issues.

 

I don't know whether Lella or Stephane had come out to their families. Lella's parents would have to have been fairly naive not to have noticed, but people convince themselves of all sorts. Even without the public scrutiny, an out racing driver in the '80s or before would have probably had their own family to deal with too.



#36 funformula

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 17:21

Even if there was a problem with Lella's March, she was damn slow almost always qualifying dead last. Surely this problem would not be an explanation for her often beiing seconds off the pace. How she did manage to score that 6th place in Montjuich is a mistery to me, it was not even half race distance, had some cars pitted already?


Can't remember where I read this but Lombardis March suffered from a broken cast (rear?) bulkhead which made the car difficult to drive. It always tended to pull to one side.
The problem was discovered by a later owner of the car (maybe Williams in 1977 ???)

#37 Tim Murray

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 17:34

It was Ronnie Peterson. Here's what Allen Brown posted in this earlier thread on Lella:

Very nearly. Peterson inherited Lombardi's old 751 (now renamed as a 761) when he joined the team for 1976 and he did indeed report the same handling problem. His performances were unimpressive until the car needed to be retubbed after he crashed it. With a new tub, his performances were transformed so Mosley sent someone to look at the old discarded tub and found the cracked bulkhead. He later apologised to Lombardi, but it was too late to rescue her F1 career. Anyone who saw her race in F5000 in Britain or Australia will tell you how good she was.