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50 Years Ago There Was This Formula 1 Race…

Article by Perry M. Mason
Photos by Perry M. Mason

2017 marks a very special anniversary for Motorsport in Canada, 50 years since the inaugural Canadian Grand Prix for Formula 1.  The race was held at Mosport in Bowmanville Ontario, now known as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP).

Recalling this event fills me with awesome childhood memories and excitement. It was the first major international motorsport event I ever attended. A special thrill as well, since I got to watch my father, Al compete in the support races and win that weekend in his Corvette.

Seeing iconic drivers such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham and getting their autographs are memorable moments I’ll never forget. At the time I had no idea that the drivers I met and watched would be such iconic and influential figures in the sport.

A sharp dressed dapper looking man I saw near driver Jim Clark intrigued me, he looked like “the boss” in that pit.  I was told he was Colin Chapman and “better get him to sign your program” my Dad said.. so I did, right on the Lotus ad on the back..and yes he WAS Lotus, the owner and creator!

My Mother, a big race fan, was in on the action as well. With her Kodak Super 8 camera she captured a lot of the action in the sixties silent colour movie medium. I particularly like her shots of stars Graham Hill and Stirling Moss giving her “the look and a wink” as most ladies of the race paddock would get from these ’60s era playboys.

My most memorable F1 driver encounter was sharing the condiments at the snack bar with a very nice fellow, we were dressing up our fries and I asked him to pass the vinegar..”you like that?” he asked in a European sounding accent. I said “yes”. I guess he was not thrilled about putting acetic acid on his, passed it to me, then he smiled and walked away eating his fries with ketchup.

Then a family friend Gary and formula Vee racer at the time, said “you do know that was Jochen Rindt?” Really??!! I scooted over before he was out of sight and he also signed my program without hesitation, and said thanks to me..he thanked ME..a kid.

Jochen, while leading the championship in 1970 sadly was killed in a brutal crash during practice for the Italian GP at Monza. He was the only posthumous F1 world champion. In the paddock, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, Jackie Stewart all the greats were there. So were two Canadian drivers entered as well, Eppie Wietzes and Al Pease, both unfortunately did not finish. Australian driver Jack Brabham won the inaugural race on that rainy day in September.

In 1973, that same family friend I mentioned earlier Gary, took me to the Mosport F1 race that year. We went only on Sunday race day, and as I recall it was wet again. Hmm.. Mosport wet in September?

Anyway, I remember him pointing out all the quirky things going on at that time. Jackie Oliver spinning his wheels from exit of one to the top of two in the wet without lifting, “not a mature driver yet” he told me, my opinion he was just a nutty driver!  Jackie Stewart craftily getting his way around in what was my favourite car that year the Tyrrell.

One of the drivers there intrigued me as well, he looked like Hollywood movie star, the women seemed to give him two or three double takes, he drove his Tyrrell like he stole it. Francois Cevert was Jackie’s teammate at Tyrrell. He got into a mess in turn two and destroyed his car. I remember fans running away with the iconic Elf blue cowling and the mirrors on those two foot high supports. Wonder where those are today? Sadly Cevert lost his life at Watkins Glen two weeks later during qualifying. He was Stewart’s last teammate as Stewart promptly retired from racing a race earlier than he’d planned due to this and still won the world championship that season. American Peter Revson won that ’73 GP in a McLaren,  Jackie finished fifth.

Mosport (CTMP) was host to this race for F1 from 1967 to 1977 with only the ’68 and ’70 seasons going to Le Circuit in Mont Tremblant, Quebec.

In 1978 the event permanently moved to Montreal. The first edition of the Canadian Grand Prix at the new Montreal location in 1978, was on a purpose built circuit created on the site of Expo ’67 on Île Notre-Dame.

The race was won by our most legendary Canadian race driver Gilles Villeneuve driving for Ferrari. He was presented the winners trophy at this new venue by car enthusiast and Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau.

I attended the 1981 edition of the Grand Prix in Montreal. Driving into the track that morning, I was passed by a crazy person in a Ferrari, deck-lid flapping loose, passing on the inside and against traffic all at breakneck speed. Who the hell is that? When stopped at the gate to show my pass, I could clearly see it was Gilles..somehow it that made that illegal display ok.

During the race, to see Villenueve fans in the stands go wild was something to behold. Once again it was another wet race and it wasn’t even Mosport, I walked around with my umbrella and took it all in. Villenueve came into contact with someone or something, and the front wing was standing vertical in front of him, it never slowed him.

I caught that last lap on my camera that day, a cherished photo. The fast and fearless Villeneuve tragically lost his life qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.

The organization for the circuit in Montreal honoured our Canadian race hero by renaming the facility “Circuit Gilles Villeneuve”. Gilles son Jacques followed in his father’s footsteps and made to Formula 1, winning the 1997 world Championship. He however never won in Canada at his namesake’s track. 

These are but a few of the memories I have from witnessing our Canadian GPs over the years. I can’t wait to participate in VARAC’s 50th Anniversary of the first F1 event at Mosport.

I don’t have a Tyrrell or Gilles Ferrari but in my mind I’ll feel like I’m in one!

 

 

May 2017 Pit Signals

The May 2017 edition of VARAC Pit Signals by Jeremy Sale has been released!

Click here to download your personal copy.

VARAC Pit Signals

Features this month include:

  • Adventures Down Under of Doug and the Dreossi
  • Calling all Volunteers for the CHGP
  • The Elva Courier Coupe is Back!
  • Tim Sanderson Teams with Downtown Porsche / Speedstar Motorsport for 2017
  • Introducing the Mazda Heritage Cup
  • Britain West Open House
  • Memories of Michael Snowdon
  • A Quiet Reminiscence of John Surtees
  • Holme’s TC Awarded Gold Medallian at Amelia Island SVRA Event
  • 2017 VARAC Drivers Challenge
  • Florida’s Collier Collection
  • 2017 Put-in-Bay Road Races Reunion
  • Chasing Checkers by Christopher Hinchcliffe
  • … Classifieds and more!

Britain West Motorsport Open House

by Jeremy Sale
photos by Diane Dale

Britain West Motorsport have put the finishing touches on their brand new 8,000 sq. ft. shop and so they invited us all to their open house, Saturday, March 18th.

LDD-1512

On hand were over 20 exotic formula cars, sports cars, rare vintage racing cars, including a lovely Formula One Cooper, once driven by Bruce McLaren and some more “regular” British vintage cars. We were also able to have a gander at Ted Michalos’s “new” red Lotus 23B. A tasty piece of race kit, hope I didn’t leave any drool marks…

LDD-1587

We were able to tour the shop, check out the cars, meet the Britain West Motorsport team and try our hand at a racing simulator, though I decided not to embarrass myself in front of the younger crowd lining up “for a go”. Besides, no Mosport video was available on the machine; we are so lucky to have this iconic track in our neighbourhood.

LDD-1501 LDD-1496 LDD-1490

Lots of products were on special, plus refreshments and door prizes as well. It was worth the drive from Mississauga!

LDD-1542Started in 1975 by Oliver Clubine, BWM is now run by son David, who says “We have been proud to carry on Oliver’s original work, he led by example and built a solid foundation for us to work from. The business continues to be interesting, and sometimes challenging, however the people we meet through it make it all worth while.”

BWM has an in-house machine shop, tooling and testing dyno. The immaculate shop was a perfect venue to see some of the race cars being worked on.

Check them out at britainwestmotorsport.com

February 2017 Pit Signals

The February 2017 edition of VARAC Pit Signals by Jeremy Sale has been released!

Click here to download your personal copy.

VARAC Pit Signals

Features this month include:

  • Nick and The Boys Go Ice Racing by Nick Pratt
  • Bob Long, a Legend in Canadian Racing
  • A GSM Delta!
  • Former Al Mason BFG Corvette by Perry Mason
  • 2017 Put-In-Bay Road Races Celebrating Alfa and All Italian Cars
  • John Sambrook… not quite an elder statesman
  • Updating the Yellow Flag Rule
  • Photos from Palm Beach International Raceway from Paul Madder
  • … Classifieds and more!

Bob Long, A Canadian Racing Legend

by Jeremey Sale

Bob Long is a legend in Canadian racing circles having raced almost continuously since the 1950s! Now, in VARAC circles, a few of our guys started racing in the fifties but I would bet none of them has done lately what Bob has, which is to turn in a lap time of 1:25.60, he did this in 2016 at the age of 79! He has raced everything from a Mini, Camaro, Mustang, MGAs, Formula Fords, Xpits, (pronounced “speets” btw) plus a Mallock with Rotary Mazda engine.Bob Long 2

I checked an old (Dec, 1967) Track and Traffic of mine and found an article quoting Bob Long as saying F4 is “for someone who wants to race competitively without spending a fortune”.  There was at the time a price limit on the cars set by the FIA, which would bring the cost after shipping, duty and taxes to about $2,300. (In case you are wondering the wonders of the Internet tell me that would be about $17,000 today.) In the article Bob said that he had always been concerned about the cost of racing discouraging many novices and had been looking for a class that wouldn’t require a lot of money to be competitive. He went to Europe in January of 1967 and visited a number of manufacturers. He drove a Suzuki powered 250cc car around the Castle Combe race track and decided to import Johnny Walker Racing Ltd machines through his firm A and E Motors.

Chris Haley is a long time friend/crew/racer with Bob and he very kindly contributed the following notes.

“Bob started racing in 1958 at Green Acres with his partner Bill Steele, driving a Morris Minor with a 60hp Ford flathead V8 installed. There were lots of little issues with cooling and so on, and as they went along it worked out thBob Long 4at Bill became the driver and Bob more the mechanic.  In the early sixties they designed and built a tiny sports racer that they called the “Curloo”. It was powered by a 6 cylinder Mercury outboard motor and had “tiller” steering setup like a motorcycle.  This car would pull the front wheels off the ground in third gear! But it was only raced a couple of times by Bill.   In the mid sixties Bill decided to stop racing, so Bob didn’t race for a year or two. Later on he happened to be reading a British automotive magazine in 1966 that had an ad in it for a small formula car made by Johnny Walker
.   He went over to look at them and test. He ended up ordering one for himself and one for his friend Jim Johnston, and so the first Formula Fours came to Canada. They started out with 250cc Suzuki Hustler motors, and as I remember, over the years moved to a Honda 305cc, a 650cc Triumph Bonneville (this is about the time I got involved in about 1970), 750cc Honda 4, 750cc Suzuki 2 stroke (water buffalo), 750 Kawasaki and different versions of the Suzuki 750cc GSXR.  The Three Quarter Litre Association (http://www.formulafour.com/history.htm) came to be around 1970 and since that time Bob has won the association championship at least 14 times, the CASC F4 championship at least 5 times, CASC Regional Overall Points Championship twice and the LASC (London Automobile Sport Club) speed championship countless times!

Currently, from my research, Bob is the only active driver in CASC to have raced continuously in seven decades, from the 1Bob Long 3950’s to the 2010’s.   By this I mean he has raced at least once in every decade in this range.  I have known Bob since 1965 when I met him through my father and then worked for him as a shop cleanup boy in the late 60’s, early 70’s.  I raced for him in the early 70’s when he had two F4 cars and I have crewed for him continuously since 1986, although he has had the odd year off when he may have sold a car and not had the next one ready. There were also a couple of forced retirements in there for medical issues. Oh yeah, by the way, he will be 80 on July 20, 2017 and unless he has a problem over the next couple of weeks when he goes for his medical, he plans to race again this year!”

Gary Allen of VARAC recently chatted with Bob and the audio can be found on the VARAC website here:

Historic Formula One to Run at the 2017 VARAC Vintage Grand Prix

Toronto, ON (February 10, 2017) – the Masters Historic Racing Series confirmed today that they will be joining the event roster at the VARAC Vintage Grand Prix held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park from June 15 to 18, 2017.

This series races 1966 thru 1985 Formula One cars – the classics that we all love from the golden era of Formula One.

The cars will pack up up as soon as they finish running the Canadian F1 Grand Prix in the Montreal and bring them to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the VARAC Vintage Grand Prix.  The Formula One cars will run a practice session on Thursday, a practice and then a qualifying session on Friday, and two races on Saturday.

More information on the 2017 VARAC Vintage Grand Prix available here.

About Masters Historic Racing: Established in 2004 with its trademark Formula One Series, Masters is now the leading organiser and promoter of international historic motor racing. Based in the UK and North America with a dedicated team, Masters aims to provide customers with great racing at superb circuits with a wonderful atmosphere.

 

Related Articles

F1 Cars Returning to Old Mosport, featured in Norris McDonald’s Toronto Star Racing Roundup column

Rich Heritage for Canada in Formula 1 Racing, by Norris McDonald

 

Photo by Hugh Hawley

December 2016 Pit Signals

The December 2016 edition of VARAC Pit Signals by Jeremy Sale has been released!

Click here to download your personal copy.

VARAC Pit Signals

Features this month include:

  • VARAC Member Hilights
  • Claude Gagne – Race Restoring a Lotus Elan
  • 2016 Highlights with Cam McRae, Phil Soden, Frank Mount, John Kinnear, Jeremy Sale, Paul Austerbury, Ted Michalos, Ivan Samila
  • Reg Hillary: Canadian Rally-Racing Driver
  • Skuderia Hysteria by John Kinnear
  • 2017 Conduct Committee Procedures
  • … Classifieds and more!