19 Aug CMHF GM Sid Priddle to retire after six decades in motorsport
CMHF GM Sid Priddle to retire after six decades in motorsport
By Bryce Turner
Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame (CMHF) general manager and inductee Sid Priddle will retire at the end of the year, following more than six decades in the motorsport industry.
Priddle got his start as a junior reporter in the sports department of the Montreal Star. In 1959, race promoter Rod Campbell suggested the newspaper get a staff reporter to cover motorsport, rather than a freelancer.
“My boss, at that time, called me in and said, ‘hate to tell you this, Sid, but you’re the low man on the totem pole, so you’re going to have to cover motorsport,’” said Priddle. “I said, ‘whoa – I can’t even drive a car,’ but that didn’t change it, didn’t matter.”
The first race Priddle covered was at an airport circuit near the Ontario-Quebec border. The president of the host racing club helped him understand the sport. As he continued writing about car racing, the articles became more about the characters and people involved, which gained popularity.
He convinced his boss to let him cover the Player’s 200 at Mosport Raceway (now called Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) in 1961, where his article ended up on the front page of the sports section. Driver Stirling Moss saw the article and was impressed. Word got around to the owner of the newspaper, who told the sports department that Priddle would focus on racing moving forward.
Following his time with the Montreal Star, Priddle was the editor of Track & Traffic magazine, worked for a film company, worked freelance and was in charge of public relations for several Formula One and IndyCar (then CART) events in Canada, including the first Canadian Grand Prix in 1967 and first Toronto IndyCar race, in 1986.
Priddle said his success selling tickets was thanks in large part to the drivers, who were the vehicle he used to promote races. Two of the drivers he became close friends with were Mario Andretti and Jackie Stewart, who he remembers joking around with.
“Jackie Stewart, he can’t read, he has dyslexia,” said Priddle. “(Stewart) used to kid me about ‘where is my itinerary?’ and I used to say ‘what for, can’t read the thing anyway, you’re just going to go where I tell you to go.’”
Priddle says the relationship with the two drivers showed him that the stars of the sport were good, down-to-earth people, who were very cooperative in helping to promote motorsports.
A satisfying moment in his career occurred at an Edmonton IndyCar race, where he used studies to convince a skeptical Edmonton Sun columnist that race car drivers are, in fact, athletes. This prompted the columnist have a change of heart and write about racers as athletes, for the newspaper.
The inaugural Toronto IndyCar race in 1986 – then known as the Molson Indy – was a special moment for Priddle, marking the only event where his entire family was involved. His wife Betty, daughter Deanne and oldest son Jerry worked in the media centre. And his youngest son, Stewart, travelled to shopping malls with a slot car layout of the track to promote ticket sales. Betty was also tasked with putting on a festival event held at Toronto’s City Hall.
Priddle recalls this time working with his family as “probably the most significant thing that ever occurred in my career.”
Priddle joined the CMHF as general manager in 2011, when he was called and offered the job amidst a change in board of directors. As general manager, he works on administrative roles, including responding to inquires, paying bills and looking after the bank account.
Some major events during his time with the CMHF included the addition of an international category of inductees and the hall’s shift to a digital archive, where race cars were sold and hard files were digitized, while the website shifted focus towards the induction ceremony.
Priddle was inducted into the CMHF during his time with the hall, joining the class of 2016 (2017 induction).
“It was somewhat humbling,” he recalls. “We had a Builder category. And for a guy who never raced a car, it was an honour to be inducted with all the great motorsport personalities in Canada of that era.”
Nominations are scored by an independent selection committee, with the scores shown to the board of directors, without names, to decide a cut-off for that year’s class of inductees.
With retirement looming, Priddle acknowledged Campbell as the driving force behind his career.
“Rod really was the one who opened the door for me in motorsport,” he said. “He was the one who influenced my career. I worked at the Montreal Star and I started off as an office boy and worked my way up, but it was Rod who really opened the door for the path that I took.”
Campbell also provided him with an opportunity in radio and gave him the phone call for the CMHF role.
“I did radio, which turned out to be really something that was good,” said Priddle. “I was a very uptight person, and this got rid of that, doing on-air stuff. And then Rod followed through right up until my involvement with the Hall of Fame.”
Campbell passed away earlier this year at the age of 89.
Discussing his decision to retire from his active role with the CMHF, Priddle – who recently turned 81-years-old – felt it was time to take a step back.
“I figured it’s time to just pass on the torch, make sure that we’re getting new ideas and new people involved, younger people involved,” he said. “Right now, what I’m doing is working with Robin (Virtue) and anybody else on transition of the duties.”
Virtue will take over the general manager role once Priddle retires.
The CMHF offers its congratulations to Sid Priddle for his outstanding career with wishes he and his family all the best in his retirement. As well, the Hall thanks him for his many important contributions to Canadian motorsports and his efforts on behalf of the CMHF.