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

Bill Sharpless

Bill Sharpless, on a 500cc Matchless leads Dave Daniels across the Irondale.

Inducted 2001

Scrambles, Enduros, Trials, Road Racing, Dirt Track and Ice Racing – in a career that spanned 22 years, Bill Sharpless rode them all. And he wasn’t just a dabbler. He tackled each motorcycle discipline with panache, verve and winning form, earning himself the handle “all-rounder”, not to mention a trunkload of championship titles. He started racing in 1953 when motocross went by the name “scrambles” and few serious dirt bikes were available. Most off-road competition then was done on motorcycles that were little more than modified street machines. Compared to today’s state-of-the-art motocross weapons, they were heavy, (weighing up to 180 kilograms), technically unsophisticated, and far from dirt friendly. Bill Sharpless may well be considered a motorsport anomaly, and not just because he was a master of several disciplines. Unlike most of his peers and successors, who sacrificed post-secondary education for a career in racing, Bill studied mechanical and aeronautical engineering at the University of Toronto, and spent those summers taking pilot training in the RCAF. Bill modestly credits his success in racing not so much to talent, but to a passion for motorcycles, and the fact that he rode street bikes as a chief means of transportation for 30 years. His love affair with motorcycles not only translated into “ace competitor,” but “event organizer” as well. He was a founding member of the competition- oriented Nortown Motorcycle Club in 1953. From ’54 to ’65 (except for a 2-year stint in the Air Force) he served the club as either president or treasurer and spearheaded the organization of more than 100 motorcycle events. Motorcycle competition, however, is where Bill excelled above all else. He won his first Canadian Championship in Enduros in 1955 on his modified 650cc street bike. 1956 and ’57 were spent in the RCAF in New Brunswick, where he organized the Maritimes’ first Road Race and first Enduro. Then back to Toronto to an engineering job at De Havilland Aircraft, and to begin motorcycle competition in earnest. And what success he had. 1958 was the first of 4 consecutive years that he laid claim to the coveted “White Trophy”, (named after Ron and Eve White, early CMA officials who are also members of the Hall of Fame). The trophy was awarded to the rider who accumulated the most points in Canada in the various disciplines, and with it, the overall championship. During this period, Bill’s successes included the 1959 Canadian Trials, the ’59 and ’60 Canadian 500cc Scrambles, and numerous Regional Championships. Although road racing championships escaped him, Bill was recognized as one of its top competitors, both in Canada and in the Amateur Class in the United States, where in 1961 he was sponsored by the Triumph Corporation. But then in March of ’62 disaster struck. While leading the 125 mile road race at Daytona, Bill suffered a crash that left him in traction for 6 weeks with a multiple-fractured leg. Problems with the leg and mounting family responsibilities forced him into semi-retirement, now competing only in Trials and Enduros, and refereeing at Road Races. The operative words are “semi-retirement” because Bill won the Canadian Enduro Championship in 1966 and ’67. In 1969 at age 35 he decided to go overseas to ride his first International Six Day Enduro, but one week before leaving he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in his left hip. Since his motorcycle had already been shipped, and with a prescription of an anti- inflamatory drug that seemed to work, he left for Germany anyway. He did not finish his first ISDE, but he had to try again, so off to Spain in 1970 where he finished with a Bronze Medal, then to England’s Isle of Mann in 1971 for a Silver. In the spring of ’72 Bill again won the Canadian Enduro Championship, but further trips to the ISDE in Czechoslovakia in ’72 and the USA in ’73 did not produce the elusive Gold Metal he longed for. By 1974 arthritis in Bill’s hands prevented him from further ISDT attempts, but it didn’t stop him from trying the new sport of studded- tire ice racing. It did, however, finally put an end to his competiton career in 1975. But he still does score- keeping at enduros as his interest has never wavered.

Image via Corduroy Enduro on Picasa

Roger McCaig

Inducted 1997

Roger McCaig competed successfully in the Can-Am and Continental 5000 series in the late ’60s and early ’70s in a series of McLaren Group 7 and Formula 5000 cars. He became a full-time racing driver in 1969, the same year he was diagnosed with cancer. Despite the disease, he was top Canadian in the Can-Am series in 1970 as well as sharing successes with brother Maurice in major endurance races. Roger died in 1976, just 43 years old.

Image courtesy of Bob Jones.

Walter Wolf

Inducted 1996

As a Formula 1 owner, Walter Wolf gave Canada a presence in Grand Prix and Can-Am racing in the late ’70s. In 1977, Jody Scheckter drove a Wolf-Ford to a win in Argentine in its first race ever, then followed with wins at the Monaco and Mosport. Wolf’s cars also competed in Can-Am with Gilles Villeneuve driving and in European Formula 1. Austrian-born Wolf became a Canadian citizen in 1967 and always carried the Canadian flag on his cars.

John Ross

Inducted 1994

John Ross never raced himself, but he worked every bit as hard for the sport he loved as any racer ever has. He helped to create the Can-Am series and was deeply involved with the building of Le Circuit Mont Tremblant, even serving on the track design committee. He was also the organizer of the first-ever Can-Am race that was run at Le Circuit in 1966.

Image courtesy of Craig Fisher.

Horst Kroll

Horst Kroll at VARAC Festival in 2008

Inducted 1994

In a career that spanned more than 25 years, Horst Kroll thrilled fans in Canada and the U.S. He won the Canadian Driving Championship in 1968, driving a Kelly Porsche. That was the same car he beat the factory Porsches in a United States Auto Club race at Watkins Glen.He raced Formula A cars in 1969/70. When the cars morphed into the new Can-Am cars, Horst made the move as well. In 1986, he won the Can-Am Championship.

Photo courtesy of Gary Grant

George Eaton

July 27, 1969 — George Eaton crosses the finish line on three wheels to place third in the 1969 Edmonton CanAm race. Eaton blew the right rear tire on his McLaren M12 just before the last corner and spun out a few meters after receiving the checkered flag.

Inducted 1994

Canada’s first full-time driver in Formula One was George Eaton. No one could have mistaken the 1970 Formula One B.R.M. for a winner, but George quickly proved, before going to Formula One, he was also a standout on the Can-Am circuit and absolutely unbeatable in a Shelby-Cobra in sports car races.

Photo courtesy of John Denniston