John Cordts

Inducted 2003

John Cordts came to Canada from Sweden in the early 1950s, when he was 18, and settled in North Bay, Ont., a place he still considers to be his home town. Thoroughly familiar with machinery from the time he was very young, he started racing, as many Canadians do – on the ice, in winter. From there he moved to a brand-new MGA and soon made his presence known in amateur road racing. He was spotted by Dave Billes of Performance Engineering, who offered him a seat in the company Corvette. He won the Canadian Championship for big bore sports cars in 1965 against some pretty stiff competition. This convinced Billes that Cordts had the Right Stuff (in spades: in 1968, he set a track record of 101.8 mph at Harewood Acres that stood until the track closed in 1970) and the two of them went racing in 1966 in the famous Can-Am series with a McLaren. Now money, although not exactly scarce, was not in plentiful supply and Cordts’ skill at keeping ailing Can-Am cars on the track and in the money became legendary. A Road & Track magazine correspondent once wrote: “If I had a Can-Am car, I would want John Cordts to drive it.” In 1969, Cordts was offered a once-in-a-lifetime ride, a seat in a Brabham-Climax Formula One car for that year’s Grand Prix of Canada at Mosport. Only five Canadian drivers made the field for the Canadian GP in the Sixties and John Cordts was one of them – Eppie Weitzes, George Eaton, Al Pease and Bill Brack being the others. After a spin in the original Trans-Am series for BF Goodrich in the early 1970s, John Cordts left motorsport and retired to Vancouver Island.

Image courtesy of John Denniston

Comments

  1. Brian Colville says:

    Hello
    In the early sixties, I lived on Liberty Street in north Bowmanville when the amazing, unprecedented traffic jams started to materialize with the opening of the venue called Mosport. There were days when it was impossible to back out of our driveway! It became a natural consequence to join the flow of traffic going north, to the first Players 200, and every Can Am race ever held at that amazing track in the sandy hills that was not even suited to grazing cattle! My family came from Scotland in 1833 as three brothers took up farming on the Clarke township line, and they knew the value of the farmland in the area. How they laughed at the rubes who wanted to build a race track through that useless sandy tract! Finally, the place seems to have a future. With the talents, and vision of one Ron Fellows, the track is closing in on the future potential . I certainly wish it luck.
    My dad, who died last year at the age of ninety, never failed to say “Let’s see who can actually drive this year” and we set off for every Player’s 200. and Can Am race ever held. We saw Bruce McLaren drive his first Olds powered sportster, Jim Hall innovate his Chapparal dreams, John Cordts show that you could hold your own for sheer driving ability, Pedro Rodriguez show what real talent looked like, Horst Kroll redefine the word determination, and Bill Brack show what enthusiasm looked like . We saw Dan Gurney , Paul Newman, Carl Haas, Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss, . Can you imagine the thrill of being 13 years of age and sneaking in to Ron Mutton’s Shell garage to view the two 1965 Can Am racers stored in the garage overnight in Bowmanville on King Street?. We were there on turn one with the best vantage point on the whole track under the oak tree, before the poor abused oak finally died. All of this trip down memory lane was triggered by John Cordt’s nomination to the hall of fame in racing history, and in North Bay too. Well done, sir, from one of your biggest fans. Thanks, Brian Colville, Orono. ontario

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