Motorsports Mondial

History of Canadian Grand Prix

Gilles Villeneuve. “The Rage to Win” saw first F1 triumph on home soil in 1978. The Montreal circuit on man made island is now named after the fondly remembered and much missed Ferrari pilot.

Canada has a very rich motor racing history. The country has produced many talented drivers over the years. The Villeneuve name is known by anyone who has any interest in Formula 1.

Gilles will always be remembered for his ‘never-a-dull-moment’ style of racing and his epic battle with Rene Arnoux in the 1979 French Grand Prix at Dijon-Prenois.

Fils Jacques won the big prize on both sides of the Atlantic.

Apart from F1, Paul Tracy and the late Greg Moore were also super talented drivers from Canada. Another lost talent was Bertrand Fabi who was making a name for himself in Europe when he was killed in a pre-season British F3 testing crash at Goodwood.

Bruce McLaren. Powered by a BRM engine, McLaren charges hard in his own creation but would finish outside the points paying position.

The inaugural Canadian Grand Prix took place in 1967 at Mosport. Jim Clark took pole but it was a Brabham one-two with team owner Jack Brabham over Denny Hulme. Dan Gurney was third in his Eagle Weslake.

David Hobbs was 9th in this race. Tom Jones was an American driver in a Cooper Climax who failed to qualify.

The second Canadian Grand Prix in 1968 took place at Mont Tremblant. Jochen Rindt was on pole but it was a McLaren one-two this time with team owner Bruce McLaren finishing second behind his fellow Kiwi Denny Hulme winning the race. Pedro Rodriguez was third in his BRM.

Lucien Bianchi was also in this race but failed to finish. Grandson of his brother Mauro is now in GP2 and also in the Ferrari young driver programme; Jules Bianchi.

Race went back to Mosport in 1969. For the third year in a row the result was a one two for a team. Winner from pole was Jacky Ickx in his Brabham over teammate and team owner Jack Brabham.

Jochen Rindt was third in a Lotus and Jean-Pierre Beltoise was fourth in his Matra. American racer Pete Lovely, who passed away recently, was seventh in his Lotus.

Mont Tremblant hosted the 1970 event. The one two trend continued, this time it was Ferrari’s turn, Ickx repeating as the winner over teammate Clay Regazzoni. Chris Amon was third in his March. Jackie Stewart started from pole in his Tyrrell but did not finish.

Mosport in 1971 saw the F1 debut of Mark Donohue in a Roger Penske entered McLaren. Mark would go on to finish in third place on his debut. Ronnie Peterson was second in his March and the winner was Jackie Stewart in a Tyrrell.

John Surtees was 11th in his own car and Dr Helmut Marko was 12th in his BRM. Skip Barber of the racing school fame was also in this race but did not finish.

The 1972 Canadian was also held at Mopsort. Man from New York was on pole, Peter Revson, he would go on to finish second in his McLaren. Jackie Stewart was the winner for Tyrrell. Denny Hulme was third man on the podium in his McLaren.

One of the drivers in this race was Englishman Mike Beuttler, he passed away in San Francisco in 1988 from AIDS complications.

Peter Revson. The man from New York won the rain and confusion-filled 1973 Canadian Grand Prix, the second and final win of his F1 career.

The 1973 race at Mosport has gone down in history as one of the most chaotic races in history. In the rain the organizers lost track of who was where and when. When it was all over, Peter Revson was declared the winner; this would be his second and final GP win as he was killed the following year in a testing crash at Kyalami in South Africa.

Emerson Fittipaldi was second and Jackie Oliver was third in his Shadow. He would later walk away from under the shadows of Don Nichols and form his own F1 team, Arrows.

In 1974, winner at Mosport was Emerson Fittipaldi over Clay Regazzoni; both were fighting for the championship, which would be decided in the next race, the final round at Watkins Glen in Fittipaldi’s favor.

A young Austrian driver Helmut Koinigg made his Grand Prix debut in Canada in 1974. In his race second race he was killed at the Glen after crashing hard into the guardrail in his Surtees. He was beheaded in the accident.

There was no F1 race in Canada in 1975

By now Mosport was the only home of Canadian Grand Prix and in 1976 the race was won by James Hunt from pole position in his McLaren. Patrick Depailler was second for Tyrrell and Mario Andretti was third in his Lotus.

In 1977, Formula 1 visited Mosport for the final time. Great home win for Austrian born Canadian team owner Walter Wolf, winning driver was Jody Scheckter. Patrick Depailler was second for the second time in two years and Jochen Mass was third for McLaren.

Fifth was Patrick Tambay in Mo Nunn’s Ensign team. Today Patrick’s son Adrien races in Auto GP.

After bidding adieu to Mosport the Canadian Grand Prix found a new home on man made island, Ille Notre Dame, where the first race in 1978 saw a very popular maiden win for local talent Gilles Villeneuve in his Ferrari. Scheckter was second and Carlos Reutemann was third in the second Ferrari.

Surprise of the race was Jean-Pierre Jarier, the French driver was replacing Ronnie Peterson who was killed at the Italian Grand Prix, and qualified his Lotus on pole, but did not finish the race.

Winner in ‘79 was Alan Jones of Australia over local hero Gilles Villeneuve with the second Williams of Clay Regazzoni third.

Jones and Williams would win again in 1980, his Argentine teammate Carlos Reutemann was second and Didier Pironi was third in his Ligier.

In 1981 Jacques Laffite was the winner for Ligier Matra. John Watson was second in his McLaren and Gilles was on the podium in third in what would turn out to be, unfortunately, his final home grand prix.

In 1982, with Gilles gone only a month earlier, the track was named in his memory. In an ironic twist of fate, his Ferrari teammate Didier Pironi took the pole and dedicated it to Gilles’s memory. Sad but true, this did not go down well with some people following the events of San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.

Tragedy followed tragedy. Pironi stalled at the start and was hit from behind by the Osella of young Italian driver Ricardo Paletti. A huge fire erupted but it was all too late, poor Paletti who was making his only second start in Formula 1. The race was won by Nelson Piquet in a Brabham, giving BMW their first turbo engine victory.

The track has not been kind to French drivers; both Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Olivier Panis suffered serious leg injuries.

On a bright note, in 1995, Jean Alesi scored his one and only win in Montreal on his birthday.


— Nasir Hameed


Greetings and ‘new motivation’ regards.


All images courtesy of Grand Prix Photo/Denmark