Insider Report: An interview
with racing legend Mario Andretti
Detail of an automatic gear shifter in a new, modern car. Modern car interior with close-up of automatic transmission and cockpit background
Mario Andretti visits fans in Barrie, Ontario
I had been planning for today’s Insider Report to be all videos from the Canadian Grand Prix, but then the opportunity arose for me to sit down with racing legend Mario Andretti yesterday morning. I couldn’t say no and I figured that a few words from the man would be a great way to start off the day. Firestone Tires brought Andretti to Barrie, Ont., to meet with fans and customers at Al’s Tire Centre.
Gary Grant: Given that this is Canadian Grand Prix weekend, what are your memories of racing here?
Mario Andretti: I’ve been racing in Canada in Formula 1 cars, first at Mosport where it started and then in Montreal. I raced midgets here, my first time was in 1962.
GG: At the CNE?
MA: No, that came later. I had been up here before that at a little track near Quebec. It has been a lifetime.
GG: Now that Ron Fellows and his partners have spent a fortune, what are your own thoughts about the possibility of maybe seeing an Indycar race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as it is called now?
MA: Personally I would love to see that. That’s a great track, you know, that’s all it needed was some bringing up to today’s standards. With its layout, any racer would love Mosport. That was one of my favourites. I still own the back straightaway by the way! (laughs)
GG: Now that the Indycar teams have one of the double race weekends under their belts, what do you think?
MA: I think the Jury is still out, however I was not at the race. I did watch it on TV and to me it was extremely entertaining. The big question moving forward, the big problem, is making sure that you don’t lose half the cars in the first race. I agree with trying the concept. If it is received well by the fans, then that is what its all about.
GG: Our young Canadian boy, has he lost his mojo?
MA: (smiles) James? No! Are you kidding?
GG: What are he and his boys doing to get back into the fight?
MA: He’ll get it back. Everything that has happened since he’s had his success so to speak has a reason. There are plausible reasons, it’s not him. James is there, he’s spot on and you can bet we’re gonna see some great things from him in the rest of the season. He’s such a great asset to the team in many ways. He’s the complete package, I love his attitude and the sponsors love his attitude. Go Daddy just loves him.
“Passion is the thing. That will never leave me.”
The first Canadian Grand Prix was actually held at Mosport, not in Montreal. The year was 1967 and the race was won by Jack Brabham.
The location of the Canadian GP alternated between Mosport and Mont Tremblant in Quebec until 1977. Here is a clip from the 1970 race at Mont Tremblant.
In 1977, the race was held again at Mosport and was won by Jody Scheckter in a Canadian owned Wolf. Andretti was in this race too, but retired with a blown engine. A bit of local lore was born out of this race, when the flamboyant James Hunt punched out a corner worker. That video is still kicking around YouTube too.
1978 was not only the first time the Canadian Grand Prix was held on the island in Montreal, but was also the first time the BBC televised a Grand Prix. It was won by Canadian Gilles Villeneuve.