|First race||Argentine Grand Prix||Buenos Aires||January 15, 1978||Race results|
|Last race||German Grand Prix||Hockenheim||August 8, 1982||Race results|
Motivated by a burning desire to be France's first World Champion, Didier's cold, calculating approach was disrupted forever in August 1982 when he crashed with extreme violence in practice for the German Grand Prix, badly breaking both his legs and ending his motor racing career. An impressive debut year with Tyrrell in 1978, when his reputation was bolstered by a win at Le Mans in an Alpine-Renault, followed by marking time the following year, led him to a drive with Ligier in 1980, where he comfortably outpaced team leader Jacques Laffite. Didier scored his first grand prix win in Belgium that year and was extremely unlucky not to win in Britain, too, following a superb charge through the field. For 1981 he joined Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari, and for the first time in his career was unable to get on terms with a team-mate.
A sole fourth place was all he could achieve in a year when the brilliant French-Canadian took two wins. Didier was determined that the same fate should not befall him in 1982, when he was at the centre of a tragic sequence of events. He snatched victory against team orders as Villeneuve was cruising to the flag at Imola. Villeneuve was killed in the following race, and now Didier looked set for the world title. He won the Dutch Grand Prix in masterful style, and comfortably led the championship when he arrived in Hockenheim.
After the crash came dozens of operations, and although he vowed to return one day, it looked increasingly unlikely. For thrills, Didier turned to powerboat racing. The Frenchman's approach had always been uncompromising and when he hit the wake of an oil tanker without easing off the throttle his boat flipped and Didier and his two crew members were killed instantly.
Reproduced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Formula One published by Carlton Books