Gary Vessair

Inducted 2009

Gary Vessair started his snowmobile racing career in 1973, and by 1985 had proved he was a natural in the sport, winning multiple Ontario Snowmobile Racing Federation titles, along with success in the Eastern Pro Series and events such as the Kawartha Cup and Eagle River, Wisconsin.

With brother Bruce, and racecar driver Jacque Villeneuve, brother of Gilles, the Vessair Racing team was formed in 1986. With the financial support of Motomaster, a Canadian Tire brand, Gary won his first Sno Pro Oval Racing Title (SPORT) event. For the 1987-88 season, Gary captured the Ontario and Quebec Formula 1 title, and the next season he won four SPORT events in a row as well as the OSFR’s Formula 1 title.

After 10 years of trying, Vessair won the coveted World Championship event at Eagle River, and capped the season off with four more SPORT victories, and his third championship in the series.

The 1993-94 season was not a great one for Vessair, and he decided to retire from racing but stayed involved in the sport on an organization level until 1997.

Bruce Vessair

Inducted 2009

After some amateur racing starting in 1977, Bruce Vessair turned to professional snowmobile racing and over the next 20 years became one of the sport’s top competitors.

By the mid-1980s he was travelling to the main snowmobile race venues, and in 1985 won a Formula 1 race at Wisconsin’s Eagle River and the next year captured the Kawartha Cup.

The native of Honey Harbor, Ontario, competed in the Sno-Pro Oval Racing Title series (SPORT) as part of a North American effort to bring this winter form of motorsport to the forefront.

A well-funded effort with sponsorship from Canadian Tire’s Motomaster brand, Vessair was always in the thick of things, placing second in the standings in 1987 and 1988. The next season it all came together as he won three SPORT rounds and the main event at Eagle River, giving him the series championship.

He repeated his success for the 1989-90 season, the first racer to win back-to-back titles. He was also second in the Ontario Snowmobile Racing Federation’s Super Mod II class and third in points in the OSFR’s Formula 1 division.

Jacques Villeneuve

Inducted 2001

Jacques Villeneuve, the brother of Gilles and uncle of Jacques, is being inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame for his excellence in snowmobile racing as well as automobile racing. He is best known as the first Canadian to win a CART Indycar race at Elkart Lake, Wisconsin, in 1986) and has been World Snowmobile Champion three times. In fact, he is favoured to become the sport’s first four-time champion. Modest, friendly and full of fun, Jacques is known for his wide open, sometimes wild, driving style and his passionate desire to win every time out. He started racing in 1976 and was rookie-of-the-year in the Honda Civic championship. He won the title in 1977 b+A59efore going Formula Ford racing in 1978, where he finished second in the Jim Russell championship. In 1979 he was rookie-of-the-year in the Canadian Formula Atlantic series and won the Atlantic championship in 1980, the same year he won his first world snowmobile championship. He repeated as Formula Atlantic champion in 1981 and tried his hand at Formula One, failing unfortunately to qualify an Arrows at the Canadian Grand Prix and the U.S. Grand Prix at Las Vegas. In 1982, he was second in the Can-Am two-litre championship and won his second snowmobile title. In 1983, he won the Can-Am 5-litre title but again failed to qualify for the Canadian GP. He entered CART competition in 1984 with Hall-of-Fame member David Billes and the Canadian Tire racing team and set the series on its ear by winning the pole at the Phoenix round, setting (for that time) a world closed-course speed record in the process. Unfortunately, he crashed heavily while practicing for the Indianapolis 500 and was forced to skip that race but the Canadian Tire team returned to finish fifth in 1985. In 1986 his luck at Indy went sour again and a gearbox problem saw him finish 15th but, in the rain at Elkart Lake, he became the first Canadian to win a CART race, In all, he drove three seasons for the Canadian Tire team before leaving the CART series. In 1986, by the way, Jacques added his third snowmobile crown. Jacques is also known in snowmobile circles as having incredible mechanical ability in that winter sport. From 1986 until 1993, Jacques’ full-time auto racing career wound down but every time out, whether it was in Can Am, the Porsche Super Cup or Formula Atlantics, he qualified frequently on pole (Mont-Tremblant, Trois Rivieres), and either won (Trois Rivieres) or finished near the front. Now, Jacques is unable to be with us tonight. He is snowmobile racing in Winnipeg, naturally, it’s winter and that’s what Jacques does in the wintertime.

Image by Sébastien Desbordes via Flagworld