One of Canadian motorsport’s pioneer racers who went on to become a famous race official and continued throughout his life to be an all-’round booster of the sport, Wallie Branston, has died at age 90.
An energetic and vigorous man until just a few years ago, Branston had been in ill health recently and that old heart — the heart of a lion — gave out on him Thursday morning.
I have had few heroes in my time but Wallie was one of them. I’ll tell you why: he was national sales manager for Subaru Canada when he was 79. He’d just overseen an expansion of the company’s national dealer network when he was asked to retire. As someone who’s working well past “normal” retirement age, I can tell you that Wallie was my kinda guy.
He lived, ate and breathed automobiles and he did everything – everything – in racing. His amazing contributions were recognized in 1997 when he was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.
He was one of a half-dozen original stock car racers in the Toronto area. He was one of the first stock car racers in Canada to have major sponsorship. He raced on both dirt, pavement, road courses and ovals. He was a performer in an automobile thrill show that scared the living daylights out of the people watching. He raced sports cars and was a rally driver. When Mosport opened in 1961, Branston was the flagman/starter and he did that job for 15 years.
You can’t have a more complete automotive career than that.