Mario Andretti to be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame

Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti is to be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio, as the International Category honoree of 2012.
Andretti, 73, raced in Canada almost as long as in the United States, while winning worldwide in a sparkling 41-year career.
He’ll be honored during the 19th annual Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies presented by Canadian Tire, September 28th along with Canadian inductees the late Bob Armstrong, Jimmy Carr, John and Sharon Fletcher, Ron Fellows and Tom Walters with fans watching the ceremony and partying with the honorees afterward.

Nobody drove a Formula One car faster than Andretti at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where he won the pole and recorded the fastest lap in 1977, the final year the Canadian Grand Prix was held at Mosport before moving to Montreal. The classic circuit’s back straight was named the Andretti straight after he was clocked there at 178 miles per hour in a 1967 USAC Indy car race.

On a global scale, Andretti was the first driver to win both the F-1 (1978) and Indy car championships (1965-66-69 and 84).
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Professor Sid Watkins

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Inducted 2010

Professor Sid Watkins, “the Prof”, is a virtual icon in motorsport worlwide and, of course, is well known to all involved in motorsport Canada because of his many years involvement with the Formula 1 race initially at Mosport and St. Jovite and then at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

Sid Watkins has always been interested in motoring, growing up around cars in his father’s garage, situated not far from Silverstone. He began to attend Formula 1 and other events in Silverstone in 1958 and subsequently ran the medical services of Silverstone for the Aston Martin racing weekend in 1962. During his time as a Professor of Neurosurgery in Syracuse, New York, commencing in 1962, he joined the administrative team of the American Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. He was really the first in the world to take a team of appropriate specialists trackside to provide immediate, high class medical attention, management and direction. Upon his return to the United Kingdom as the Professor of Neurosurgery at the London Hospital, he provided the medical and related safety services for the British Grand Prix from 1971 through 1977. Sid encouraged and supported Dr. Hugh Scully, with the support of Harvey Hudes, to establish at Mosport, one of the most advanced race medical intervention teams in the world at the time. (The Ontario Race Physicians continue to provide expert medical and related safety services at Mosport today).

In the spring of 1978, Sid was appointed the Medical Delegate for Formula 1 by Bernie Ecclestone and in fact attended virtually every Formula 1 race in the world for the next 25 years. Sid was elected the President of the FISA (Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile Medical Commission) in 1981 where he worked again with Dr. Hugh Scully to continue to improve the services in Montreal and, by association throughout Canada.

Labatts was a major sponsor of the Formula 1 enterprise in Montreal. In 1992, there was a ceremony in Montreal where Sid Watkins was presented with the “Labatts Award for Safety” by the Duke of Kent. (Sid was the second recipient of this award. The first had been Sir Jackie Stewart).

From 1992 through July of 2007, Sid continued to work actively with Dr. Jacques Bouchard and Ronald Denis as the Co-Medical Director’s of the Formula 1 race in Montreal. Without question, Sid’s support of the “Montreal model” was instrumental in establishing and maintaining a high standard of medical care in motorsport. The model created initially at Mosport and subsequently in Montreal has had significant positive effect on motorsport medicine and safety at virtually all motorsport events in Canada.

Professor Sid Watkins went on to become the President of the new FIA Medical Commission until his retirement from that position in 2007. In 1994, he was appointed Chairman of the FIA Expert Advisory Committee reporting to the President of the FIA. Organizing research groups for open cockpit, closed cockpit, rally and karting events, he was the founding President of the FIA Institute for Motorsport Safety in 2004. The “Institute” continues to do leading research in motorsport safety in all categories. In his capacity as President of the Medical Commission and President of the Institute, he served with distinction on the FIA World Motorsport Council.

Sid has bee the recipient of many awards related to his leadership in motorsport safety. In 1996, he was awarded the Motorsport Industry Association Achievement Award and also the Mario Andretti High Performance Award for Medicine. In 1997, he was given the R.A.C. Centennial Prince Michael of Kent Award. In 1998, he received the British Racing and Sports Car Club Silver Trophy for services to racing and in 1999, the Autosport Gregor Grant Trophy for Outstanding Contribution to Motor Sport. In December of 2006, on behalf of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety, he received the Society of American Engineering (S.A.E.) Award for Excellence in Safety Engineering. In July 2007, he was unanimously elected to membership in the International Council of Motorsport Sciences (ICMS) and to a position as Honorary Member of the Board. Remarkable, in July of 2008, he received the Motor Industry Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Motorsport Industry in the House of Lords in London, England.

In his professional career as a neurosurgeon, Professor Sid Watkins has been recognized as an outstanding surgeon, scholar, teacher and leader with a determined commitment to excellence which facilitated expert care to those injured in motorsport virtually anywhere in the world. It was recognition for the combination of world leadership in neurosurgery and in the development of motorsport medicine and safety that Sid Watkins was awarded the prestigious Order of the British Empire at the Jubilee Honours Ceremonies by the Queen in June 2002.

Professor Sid Watkins is unquestionably the leader of the past quarter century in the development of motorsport medicine and safety not only in Formula 1 races in Canada but across the country in all forms of racing.

Image via The Telegraph

Roger Peart

circuit gilles

Inducted 2010

While in school to become an engineer in the UK, Roger Peart’s involvement with motorsport began in 1949 when he worked as a racing mechanic. Moving to Canada, Peart began his own racing career as a rally driver, often behind the wheel of the Volvo factory team.

Moving to circuit racing in 1964, Roger Peart raced on tracks across North America, driving a variety of cars from Mini Coopers to Porsche 911, Formula Ford and several special sports racers.

In 1967, Peart became involved with the organizational end of the sport, acting as Chief Timekeeper, Chief Steward, Chief Scrutineer, Clerk of the Cource and Race Director at events across Canada. This would prove to be Peart’s primary role within the sport moving forward.

Having been Vice-President and then President of Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs (CASC), Peart became President of ASN Canada FIA, which is the governing body for motorsport in Canada under the FIA, the world governing body.

In 1978, Roger Peart designed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, which remains home to the Canadian Grand Prix. As Clerk of the Course and Race Director for the first ten years that the Canadian GP has been held in Montreal, Peart continues to be the National Steward at the Canadian round of the Formula One World Championship.

Following the creation of the Canadian circuit, Peart became increasingly active in Formula 1 track safety. Peart has served on the FIA Circuits Commission, which is in charge of safety standards at all tracks that host international racing events, since 1978 and has stood as President since 1998.

Roger Peart is also a member of the FIA Safety Commission, which has overall responsibility for motorsport safety and of the FIA Open Cockpit Research Group. This is a “Think Tank” group which focuses on open cockpit safety issues.

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

Al Pease

Inducted 1998

It is doubtful that any other driver in the history of Canadian motorsport has collected more trophies than Al Pease, winning a steady stream of regional and national championships in a variety of cars for almost 30 years. He drove a Gurney Eagle in the first Formula1 Grand Prix of Canada at Mosport in 1967, and he won the last race ever at Harewood in a Brabham BT21 in1970. He was also instrumental in getting the CASC to allow sponsors’ names on the side of racing cars, paving the way for a whole new generation of professional Canadian racing drivers.

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.

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