Thursday, July 2, 2015

Snapshots of Historical Canadian Motorsport's Cars

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Canada is a great land with great people. As a Canadian, I am happy each and every year on July 1st to celebrate a collective greatness with my countrymates. Barbeques, fireworks and the proud displays of the Maple Leaf flag is some of the ways Canada Day is remembered each year. During my Canada Day, I spent time reviewing photos I have taken over the years of race cars.

While it took me some time to prepare my presentation, I proudly display for you a sampling of Canadian motorsport history.

1986: Paul Tracy's Kroll Racing Frissbee-Chevrolet


Paul Tracy CanAm Car CIAS 2010
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Auto racing enthusiasts of the 1960s and 1970s would fondly celebrate the Can-Am Series. Auto racing greats such as Penske Racing's first superstar Mark Donohue, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Formula 1 race team founder Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme are just a few big names that wheeled some of the most exotic sports cars on the planet during the era. Along with some established and soon-to-be legends racing in the Can-Am Series, a fair share of young drivers got their start in the sports car challenge. Al Unser Jr. won the 1982 championship years before he reached superstar status in Indy cars. The Can-Am Series was also the scene where a young Paul Tracy captured victory in a 1986 race at Mosport. The 2003 Champ Car champion (and arguably also an Indy 500 winner like Unser Jr.) drove a Kroll Racing-owned Frissbee-Chevrolet to a win in the final race of the 1986 Can-Am season when he was 17-years-old.

The race car chassis was known as Frissbee and proved very popular in the latter years of Can-Am. The Frissbee was originally derived from a Lola T330 open wheel car design used in the Formula 5000 racing during the 1970s.


1992: Scott Goodyear's Mackenzie Lola-Chevrolet


Scott Goodyear 1992 IndyCar
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Scott Goodyear had a storied open wheel racing career. The Toronto-area native twice won the 500-mile CART race at Michigan International Speedway in the 1990s and later grabbed three victories in the Indy Racing League. However, Goodyear is most famous for his near-misses at the Indianapolis 500. One of those losses came in 1995 when a mistimed acceleration on a lap-190 restart resulted in him passing the pace car handing the Borg Warner Trophy to Jacques Villeneuve. On two other occasions, Scott Goodyear's effort resulted in a second-place finish.

In 1992, the first runner-up at the Indy 500 came in a record-setting close finish. Scott Goodyear and the Walker Racing #15 Mackenzie Financial Services-sponsored car qualified in the 33rd and final spot but thrusted towards a near win coming to the checkered flag. By just 0.043 seconds, Al Unser Jr. was able to hold off Goodyear.

2009: James Hinchcliffe Indy Lights Car


James Hinchcliffe Indy Lights Car 2009 Honda Indy Toronto
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Taken almost six years ago, this picture of an Indy Lights car may not appear on the surface to measure-up to historic status. However, this 2009 image of James Hinchcliffe driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsport's at the 2009 Honda Indy Toronto with the Indy Lights series seems like a picture that could become more significant in the future. Even back then, Hinchtown attracted a big crowd. On that weekend, he finished 3rd (equaling a career-best). We continue to wish James Hinchcliffe best of luck in a swift and speedy recovery.


2000: Multimatic Motorsports Lola-Nissan


Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans featured two Canadians. Both Chris Cummings and Paul Dalla Lana had an opportunity to greatness in their racing crashes come to an end (in the case of Dalla Lana, it wasn't until the last hour of the classic endurance race). While 2015 fell short on promise for our country's drivers, Canada had something big to celebrate patriotically 15 years ago.

Finishing 25th overall, the #32 Multimatic Motorsports' Lola B2K/40 with Nissan engine power claimed the top position in the LMP675 category. A race team based in Markham, Ontario, red and white practically flowed through the brake lines and engine oiling system of the class-winning car. While the chassis was a Lola B2K/40 design, it was built by the Canadian race team. An all-Canadian driving team consisting of Scott Maxwell, John Graham and Greg Wilkins piloted the vehicle for each of the 274 laps it completed on-route to the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP675 class win.

1984: Jacques Villeneuve's Canadian Tire March-Cosworth


Jacques Villeneuve 76 Canadian Tire IndyCar Front Shot
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

When you hear the name Jacques Villeneuve, us with general knowledge of Canadian motorsports would attach the name to the 1995 Indy 500 winner and 1997 Formula 1 champion. However, it would amuse many (as well as confuse) to know of Uncle Jacques. The brother of Gilles Villeneuve, the older Jacques also participated in motorsports. He attempted to follow his brother's path to Formula 1 but failed to qualify in all three races tries. Uncle Jacques' more successful career came with racing Indy cars. From 1982 to 1992, Villeneuve started in 36 races with the majority occurring between 1984 and 1986. His crowning achievement was a win at Road America in 1985 where he became the first Canadian to win a CART-sanctioned race.

I'm afraid I have to make an educated guess about this particular car but I believe it is a March chassis used in the 1984 season. According to some quick research I did, Villeneuve's and the Canadian Tire Racing team did run a March 83C chassis through at least the early part of the 1984 season.

 

2001: Chevrolet Corvette C5-R

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

The 2001 Rolex 24 at Daytona was one of those races I count myself lucky to have witnessed in any form. Thanks to Speed Channel (recently re-established in Canada as the Fox Racing Channel), I was able to watch not only the Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Earnhardt Jr. sharing a #3 Chevrolet Corvette but the #2 Corvette C5.R roll to an overall victory. Co-driven by Canadian Ron Fellows, there was certainly some pleasure watching him claim such a prestigious honour. The early 2000s was a bizarre time in sports car racing at Daytona International Speedway where the faster prototypes were beaten by slower GT cars. In 2000, a Dodge Viper won overall and the 2003 was won by a Porsche 911 GT3-RS machine.

As part of a celebration to Ron Fellows earning his path into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, a small display was put together beside the Auto Exotica exhibit at the 2014 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto.

The 2001 Rolex 24 at Daytona win was only one of many triumphs by the Windsor-born Canadian racer. One of the charter members of Corvette Racing and instrumental in the development of the C5.R, his career with the team from 1999 to 2007 included three class victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, two Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring wins and an American Le Mans Series GTS championship in 2003. Prior and after wins with Corvette Racing, Fellows also achieved a lot as a road racing specialist in NASCAR. How our Governor General's office has chosen to deny Ron Fellows' achievements as anything less than Order of Canada worthy is sad. This country is great for people like Fellows who explore great, new depths in the human experience and succeeds in a manner that gains world acclaim.


For a more detailed look at the display of Ron Fellows' racing career, I compiled the following YouTube video.




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