Professor Sid Watkins

Image via The Telegraph

Inducted 2010 – Significant Contributor – International – Road Racing


Professor Sid Watkins, “the Prof,” is a virtual icon in motorsport worldwide 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 in 1974 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 and Dr. Hugh Scully met at Mosport during the Canadian Formula 1 race in 1974.He was encouraged that Dr. Scully, co-founder of the Ontario Race Physician organization in 1968, with the support of Harvey Hudes, had established at Mosport one of the most advanced race medical intervention teams in the world at the time.


The Prof and Hugh Scully became very close associates and friends and worked together to improve motorsport medicine and safety around the world from that time forward. (The Ontario Race Physicians continue to provide expert medical and related safety services at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park {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. In Paris in 1981 the original FIA Medical Commission was founded by Watkins [UK], Scully [Canada…and effectively the Americas], Isserman [France], Rovelli [Italy], Nalda [Spain] and Scarlot [Monaco]. Sid was elected as President of the FISA (Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile Medical Commission). FISA evolved to today’s FIA Medical Commission with membership expanded around the world.


Labatt’s 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 “Labatt’s Award for Safety” by the Duke of Kent. (Sid was the second recipient of this award. The first had been Sir Jackie Stewart).


After Hugh Scully stepped down, from 1992 through July of 2007, Sid continued to work actively with Drs. Jacques Bouchard and Ronald Denis as the Co-Medical Directors 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. {Hugh Scully, together with a few selected physicians and engineers, were invited to be co-founders at a ceremony in Paris}.


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 been 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, on the recommendation of the Chair, Dr. Hugh Scully, he was unanimously elected to membership in the International Council of Motorsport Sciences (ICMS) based in Indianapolis, and to a position as Honorary Member of the Board.


Remarkably, 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 but in all forms of motorsport around the world, including Canada.