Say what you will about what he's done since, but nobody was as hot a talent as Jacques Villeneuve in the mid '90s. The French Canadian driver – and son of Gilles Villeneuve, who died while racing for Scuderia Ferrari – won both the Indy 500 and the IndyCar title in only his second season in the series. Then he moved up to Formula One and repeated the feat by taking the championship in only his second season, having only lost out to his Williams teammate Damon Hill the season before.
The 1997 world championship was nothing short of epic, pitting the newbie against Michael Schumacher in a battle that came down to the last race and saw Schumi disqualified from the standings for some questionable driving tactics. Needless to say, Williams was elated at securing what would, unfortunately, be the end of its dominant winning streak. And so were their sponsors. So much so, in fact, that Rothmans – the tobacco brand that was the team's title sponsor – gave Jacques the very special gift you see here.
What might look like an ordinary Viper, in fact, packs some serious Venom – modified by Hennessey to the tune of over 600 horsepower, and decked out in Rothmans racing stripes to boot. It cost $135,000 new, but with a 3.3-second sprint to 60 and a 205-mile per hour top end, was capable of keeping pace with the half-million Ferrari Enzo that wouldn't come out for another few years. Of course, with all that power driving the rear wheels and no electronic aids whatsoever, you'd have to be an F1 driver to keep it all under control.
The car traveled with Villeneuve as he contested the 1998 world championship to considerably less success, and, with 23,000 miles on the odometer, is now up for grabs in the UK with a £39,995 asking price – equivalent to $63k at today's conversion rates. Which may be worth it for the performance capabilities alone, never mind the provenance.