• 50 years of Formula Ford in Canada

Racing Roundup: Grand Prix leftovers, Le Mans, VARAC at CTMP and all the rest of the news

“We’ll see your Drake, Toronto, and raise you a Lewis Hamilton.”

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald June 17, 2019

Toyota won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, again, and the VARAC Festival at CTMP celebrated 50 years of Formula Ford in Canada. I’ll get to those in a moment, plus some NASCAR news. But first, here are a few Notebook Jottings left over from last weekend’s Formula One Grand Prix du Canada.

The Grand Prix is Canada’s biggest, annual, one-day sporting event. More than 100,000 people attend on race day, far exceeding attendance at the Grey Cup game or the final round of the Canadian Open. And the race is seen on television around the world, which makes it kind of a big deal.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I went out the airport last Monday morning to fly home to Toronto and I picked up a copy of Canada’s original national newspaper to find that there was not one word about the race in it. Not one. If ever there was a paper for the one percenters in this country, and Formula One is a sport for the one percenters, it’s that paper. One of its sportswriters won a National Newspaper Award for a story on Lance Stroll. That same reporter wrote about Stroll again when the driver and his teammate, Sergio Perez, introduced their new Racing Point F1 team car at this year’s Canadian International AutoShow. But then, when the race happened last Sunday, nothing.

Oh, they had a story about the race on their website, written by a Canadian Press wire-service reporter. And they did publish a half-page story in the print edition on the Spruce Meadows show jumping competition. Horses instead of horsepower, I guess. But there was nary a word on the Grand Prix in the paper, which I found really surprising.

Makes me glad I work for the Toronto Star, which published every word I wrote.

Okay, bear with me while I set up this next bit.

When I went to Montreal in the mid-Sixties, to attend university and to work for that same original national newspaper, I was taken aback by the number of Toronto jokes I heard and read. I couldn’t figure it out. I lived in Toronto just about my whole life and I never once heard a Montreal joke. There was a newspaper columnist, Bruce Taylor, who was on Page 4 of the Montreal Star. He’d write items like this: “The lights on the Metropolitan Expressway keep burning out. Want to know why? They’re made in Toronto.”

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Finally, I figured it out. They must, I thought all those years ago, be suffering from a collective inferiority complex. But why? They’ve had the best hockey team, the Alouettes were usually better than the Argos, they had Canada’s first major league baseball team, they had Expo, they had the Olympics, they had (and have) a better subway, they have a much better expressway system, their commuter rail network was light years ahead of ours, they have the Grand Prix, the bars and restaurants (for the most part) are better and they have that wonderful joie de vivre. So what, I thought, was up?

It is 50 years later and guess what? Nothing’s changed. When I couldn’t find anything about the race in the original national newspaper, I went and got a copy of the Montreal Gazette. They had an army covering the race, led by Walter Buchignani, and they all did a fine job, particularly Walter. But the first thing I read, because it was on the front page, was written by veteran Gazette columnist Jack Todd. Jack started out by calling the race the Montreal Grand Prix, which it is not, but then he couldn’t help himself and six paras in, it was 1965 all over again. Wrote Jack:

“Whatever, Montreal has its answer to Toronto, where the Raptors are almost certain to win the NBA championship sometime this week. Overnight, Toronto the Insufferable will become Toronto the Extremely Insufferable. Glasses of skimmed milk will be raised to the queen. Drake’s mug will replace that of Sir Wilfred Laurier on the five-dollar bill.”

Jack then paused to take a deep breath and talk about how Montreal has embraced the Grand Prix before starting with the shots again:

“Even the mighty megalopolis that stretches without pause from Oshawa to Oakville and beyond does not boast a spot on the F1 circuit.”

After a few more paras about how wonderful this year’s race was, he ends with: “We’ll see your Drake, Toronto, and raise you a Lewis Hamilton.”

Question: what does Toronto have to do with any of this?

But if that’s the way they want to play it, we can go down that road too.

Whatever it is that’s making people in Montreal jealous about Toronto, it’s obvious that they want it. It really seems to be driving them crazy. I don’t know what it is, but they can have it. We don’t need it. Nor will we miss it. Because regardless of what Montreal has, and it’s got lots, we’ve got more. We’re No. 1. And we know it.

There, I feel better. Now, to the news.

The racing gods that frowned on Fernando Alonso at the Indianapolis 500, resulting in the two-time F1 world champion missing the race, did an about face at Le Mans on Sunday and resulted in Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi winning their second-straight 24-hour race at le Circuit de la Sarthe. They also won the FIA world endurance championship in the process.

For much of the race, the second Toyota entry driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez appeared poised to win but with less than an hour let in the day-long classic, a flat tire did it in. The car eventually finished second.

“The main goal this weekend was to win the championship,” Alonso said later. “Car No. 7 was quicker than us for 24 hours. They really deserved the victory, but today the luck decided that we have to take the trophy. Luck sometimes plays an important part in motorsport. Today we feel extremely lucky. Maybe we don’t deserve it, but we’ll take it.”

SMP Racing’s No. 11 BR Engineering BR1, driven by Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and Stoffel Vandoorne were third, six laps behind the two Toyotas.

In LMP2, Signatech Alpine’s No. 36 Alpine A470-Gibson driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet won for the second-straight year. And Ferrari scored its first GTE Pro victory at Le Mans since 2014 when the racing luck that benefitted Alonso turned against Corvette Racing. A caution period caught the car being driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller at the end of pit road in the 21st hour, giving the race lead to the Ferrari driven by James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra. They didn’t give it up.

50 years of Formula Ford in Canada

Meantime, ace PR man Jerry Priddle sent the following report from the VARAC (Vintage Auto Racing Association of Canada) weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park:

When the time comes to celebrate future milestone anniversaries for Canadian Formula 1600 racing, we just might see Olivier Bedard’s name mentioned along with the other past greats who were on hand at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) this weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the open-wheel, single-seater class.

The young Montrealer swept all three Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Series races (for modern-era F1600s), held as part of the 40th anniversary VARAC Vintage Grand Prix. Bedard is now a perfect nine for nine in 2019 Toyo Series action.

More than 300 beautifully restored race cars from the past 50-plus years of motorsports, ranging from MGs and Triumphs, to Volvos, Porsches, Corvettes and a variety of single-seater Formula cars,competed during the three-day weekend on CTMP’s world-famous Grand Prix circuit.

VARAC Vintage GP race results can be found here.

Eight Canadian Formula 1600 driving greats from the Bulova Series era of the 1970s shared Grand Marshal duties this weekend: Danny Burritt, Luke De Sadeleer, Nigel Gough, Clive Rayman, John Scratch, Don Sobering, Brian Stewart and David White. Fred Wilkens, the man behind the legendary made-in-Canada Ferret F1600 brand, was the honourary starter.

Next up on Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s major event schedule is the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, July 4-7, featuring the only Canadian stop for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. For more info or to buy tickets, visit online at canadiantiremotorsportpark.com, call the CTMP Hotline at 1-800-866-1072 (Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm ET), or email info@ctmpark.com.

Thanks, Jerry.


Veteran open-wheel racer Christopher Bell won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway, followed by Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton and Zane Smith. Bell noted that he won at Dover on Mother’s Day with his mother in attendance and at Iowa on Father’s Day with his dad there. “It was pretty special,” said Bell. . . . . .  Brett Moffitt, who finished second in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Iowa, was declared the winner after the truck driven by Ross Chastain, which finished first, was disqualified for being too low in the front.  Ben Rhodes took second and Harrison Burton, Grant Enfinger and Canadian Stewart Friesen completed the top five. . . . . .

I don’t exactly know the difference here, but Ferrari has dropped its appeal of the penalty levied against driver Sebastian Vettel during last Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix and is deciding whether or not to seek a review. A review is when the same stewards who handed out the penalty meet again with the driver and team so penalized to consider some new element that may or may not convince them to change their minds. About all I can think of that they might bring forward would be evidence of Hamilton doing the same thing and not being penalized (Daniel Ricciardo’s tweet showing Hamilton missing a chicane and then cutting him off in Monaco) or arguing that after Vettel re-entered the racing surface, he moved right to defend his position, which is within the rules. We will just have to wait and see. . . . . .

Kevin Magnussen is still complaining about the Hass F1 car. If he keeps it up, he will soon be out of a ride. . . . . . At Bristol Raceway Sunday, Mike Salinas won the Top Fuel race, Bob Tasca III finished first in Funny Car, Joseph Santangelo won Super Stock and Jose Gonzalez was tops on Pro Mod. . . . .

By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca