At the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on February 15, 2017, with a roster of special guests headlined by Canadian Formula 1 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, the Toronto Star’s Norris McDonald hosted a sneak preview of the 50 Years of Grand Prix Racing in Canada special exhibit that will be on display throughout the Canadian International AutoShow on February 15-26.
Thanks to private collectors and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum, eight historic cars were on display for the event, consisting of Bruce McLaren’s 1961 Cooper Climax T55, Mario Andretti’s 1974 Parnelli VPJ4, Jody Scheckter’s 1978 Walter Wolf WR6, Ayrton Senna’s 1987 Lotus 99T/5, Nigel Mansell’s 1990 Ferrari 641, Michael Schumacher’s 1991 Benetton B191, Gilles Villeneuve’s 1978 Ferrari 312T3 and Jacques Villeneuve’s 1997 Williams FW19.
In addition the eight historic cars on display, the exhibition features a personal photographic showcase from the Villeneuve family archive, the first showing of Gilles Villeneuve’s 1971 Boss Mustang he drag raced in his youth, classic Formula 1 historic documentaries profiling the early Grand Prix events at Mosport (now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a history of Canadian racers that have competed in Formula 1 and displays from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve/Grand Prix du Canada.
As part of the opening ceremony, many of the individuals responsible with creating and maintain the Canadian Grand Prix’s history were in attendance, including Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve designer Roger Peart, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame’s Dr. Hugh Scully, three-time Canadian Grand participant Bill Brack, former Formula 1 broadcaster Brian Williams, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s Ron Fellows, past Canadian Grand Prix president Normand Legault and current Canadian Grand Prix president François Dumontier and Jacques Villeneuve’s mother Joann and sister Melanie.
The group shared their stories in building the event into what it has become today, including Roger Peart’s story about vandals stealing the plaque crediting Peart with the track’s design on Le Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve’s start/finish line and Villeneuve recalled his championship-clinching battle with Schumacher at the 1997 Spanish Grand Prix with his now famous candour.
The Canadian International AutoShow will be open to the public on Friday, February 17 and closes on Sunday, February 26. For event info and tickets, visit autoshow.ca.
By James Neilson with files from Kalvin Reid