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PHOTO CREDITS

Left: The Locomobile Type 1906, "Old 16", driven by George Robertson on its way to winning the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island.

Center: Action during the 1916 Vanderbilt Cup event at Santa Monica with William Bolden (#12) leading Omar Toft.

The First Canadian Grand Prix
by Russell Jaslow


The Canadian Grand Prix is a strong fixture on the World Championship circuit in Montreal, Quebec. The first race of this event was a far cry from todayís style of races and the cosmopolitan environs of the French Canadian city. That first Canadian Grand Prix took place on one of the most famed yet isolated tracks -- Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, approximately 70 miles northeast of Toronto.

Mosport, whose name came from the concatenation of MOtor SPORT, not from Stirling Moss who did help design the circuit, was completed in 1961. The big event held there was a sports car race which they called the Canadian Grand Prix. Winners of that event were Peter Ryan, Masten Gregory, Pedro Rodriquez two years in a row, Jim Hall, and Mark Donohue.

However, any racing fan knows that a true Grand Prix is one that includes the Formula 1 cars and counts points towards the World Drivers Title. Canada had worked for years to acquire such an event, and in 1967, to help celebrate their Centennial, they were finally awarded one. It took place on August 27 and would prove to be quite an interesting race thanks to Mother Nature.

Practice, Qualifying and A Club Race Atmosphere

These were the days far removed from the ultra professional and ultra safe modern times of Grand Prix racing. And, some would say, a bit more fun. The cars were all housed under one large tent placed in the infield, and it was not uncommon to see the likes of Colin Chapman sitting on a toolbox due to the lack of chairs.

The corner of the tent set aside for the BRM team. See more photos in our 1967 Canadian Grand Prix photo gallery. Photo courtesy of

In the first practice session, Jim Clark went off in Turn 1 and slowly backed it into the fence. He was forced to go to the backup car which displaced local favorite, Canadian Eppie Wietzes, who had to wait for the broken car to be fixed. This prompted the local press to criticize Lotus for bringing too many cars for only four mechanics to service.

Jim Clark won the pole with a time of 1:22.4, just barely ahead of his teammate, Graham Hill, who was at 1:22.7. Dennis Hulme qualified third at 1:23.2. Those three made up the front row. Back in those days the field was configured in a 3-2-3-2 alternating order for the standing start.

Other doings in practice resembled a club race of today. Mike Fisher was forced at one time to take apart the gearbox of his Lotus-BRM to solve a leaking oil seal problem because all the friends who volunteered to help him were not mechanically inclined.

Jo Siffert, who qualified in the unlucky 13th spot, did not start the race due to an age old problem -- he ran out of parts after a crown wheel and pinion broke twice.

The "Three-Part" Race

As the race approached, the skies got darker and the 55,000 fans were wondering whether to pull out their umbrellas. When the drivers got into their cars, the rain began to fall. On the reconnaissance lap, Chris Amon, driving the lone Ferrari, spun and caused all three of the BRM H16ís to pirouette in unison. All recovered to make the start.

Jim Clark battles the elements. See more photos in our 1967 Canadian Grand Prix photo gallery. Photo courtesy of

Clark, from the pole, had the advantage of seeing where he was going and grabbed the early lead. However, this being the first rain race of the 1967 season, he and his teammate quickly learned how ill-suited their cars were to the wet. Having the most horsepower, 400, in the field was a great asset for a dry track, but a terrible hindrance in these conditions. Meanwhile, the Repco-Brabham V8ís of Hulme and team owner Brabham were truly suited for the rain.

Hulme immediately slotted in behind Clark and by the fourth lap, the man leading the points title took the lead. Hulme opened up a huge lead while the rain continued to fall. The Kiwi thrilled the crowds at Turn 2 by consistently holding 300 yard opposite lock slides all the way down this diving, treacherous corner.

Bruce McLaren spun off on the third lap just after passing Jack Brabham for fourth spot. McLaren dropped back to 12th, and then began a masterful drive up the field. By lap 13, he was back in third place.

Jochan Rindt pulled into the pits on lap 4 to have his rollbar disconnected, but was unable to get the Maserati engine to fire again.

Chris Amon repeated his warm-up lap spin on the opening race lap. He resumed in last place. Amon would eventually work his way back to sixth place and grab the last championship point.

Hulme worked his way to a 26 second advantage over McLaren, who had since passed Clark for second, Jackie Stewart, Clark, who continued to fall back in the order, and Brabham. The latter four were separated by a mere second. Then, the rain stopped, and the track dried out. The "Flying Scot" was back in his element. The second part of the race would begin.

With the ability of applying the Lotus power to the ground, the underpowered Brabham had no chance. Clark quickly passed Stewart, then dispensed with McLaren on the next lap and began his pursuit of the helpless Hulme.

On lap 58, Clark caught and passed Hulme for the lead. In the process, he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 54 at 1:23.1 which tied the course record set by Dan Gurney in a Group 7 Can-Am car. Then, just as quickly, this part of the race was over. The rain returned. This time with a vengeance.

With the rain falling heavier and heavier with each passing lap, visibility was a major problem. David Hobbs stopped for a clean set of goggles on lap 60. Stewart did the same four laps later to clean off his car from an off course excursion. A lap later he repeated his agricultural racing maneuver and finally called it quits with a sticking throttle cable.

Clark was still able to hold onto his lead but not for long. Running through a river of water, his electrics got soaked and his engine stalled. He pulled off the course.

A Brabham passed him for the lead. It was not Hulme but rather his boss, Jack. Jack Brabham was the only driver smart enough to apply anti-fog to his goggles before the race. Hulme was forced to pit twice. First, for a new set of goggles, then for a visor to be put on his helmet.

Dan Gurney had the most interesting goggle adventure. Not wanting to pit, he would slow on the main straight right in front of the guardrail to have his mechanic toss him a new set. He couldnít stop on the course for that would be considered receiving aid on the track which was not legal.

The first time, the toss missed, and the goggles wrapped themselves around the suspension. The second time, the transaction was successful. It was a good thing, because before that Gurney was forced to shield his eyes with his left hand while driving with the other.

Meanwhile, Graham Hill spun and stalled the car. Hill promptly jumped out of the car, push started the car himself, and hopped back in to finish the race! Try that in a Grand Prix race today.

Brabham went on to win while Hulme maintained second place. American Dan Gurney grabbed the final podium spot, a lap down. Hill brought his re-started Lotus back to fourth place, another lap down, and Mike Spence finished fifth, three laps down.

Jack Brabham was able to master the changing conditions better than anyone else which enabled him to win the race. See more photos in our 1967 Canadian Grand Prix photo gallery. Photo courtesy of

Jack Brabham almost didnít make the race. Driving in from Oshawa, he got caught up in the massive traffic jam heading to the track. He was able to hitch a ride in an ambulance, perhaps the last vehicle any racing driver would like to be in, and was able to make the start thanks to the flashing lights and sirens.

Despite Brabhamís challenge with that victory, Hulme would go on to win the 1967 World Drivers Title denying Brabham a fourth championship.

The Subsequent Years

The first Grand Prix was a huge success, and Canada was given a permanent spot on the calendar. The event alternated between Mosport and Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant in St. Jovite, Quebec for the first four years. Mosport became the permanent site between 1971-1977 with the exception of 1975 when it was cancelled due to a financial disagreement between the organizers and entrants.

Despite being one of the most challenging tracks in the world, Mosport did not keep up with the standards of the European tracks, and the drivers began to voice their discontent.

The race was moved to a street circuit on the Ile Notre Dame situated in the St. Lawrence seaway in Montreal. Built on the site of Expo í67, it was constructed in just 3 months. It took a few years and some modifications before the drivers were happy with it, but it has now become an enjoyable facility for the circuit.

It was renamed Gilles Villeneuve Circuit in 1982 after the great and much beloved Canadian driver was killed earlier in the season. He won this race in 1978. With the exception of 1987 when the race was cancelled due to a dispute over sponsorship and 2009 due to a contract dispute between the promoters and Formula One Management, it has been held here ever since.

Results of The 1967 Canadian Grand Prix

Pos ST DRIVER          NAT  CAR                LAPS
 1   7  Jack Brabham   AUS  Repco-Brabham V8    90  2:40:00.0  82.65 mph
 2   3  Denis Hulme     NZ  Repco-Brabham V8    90  2:41:09.0
 3   5  Dan Gurney     USA  Eagle-Weslake V12   89
 4   2  Graham Hill     GB  Lotus 49-Ford V8    88
 5  10  Mike Spence     GB  BRM H16             87
 6   4  Chris Amon      NZ  Ferrari V12	        87
 7   6  Bruce McLaren   NZ  McLaren-BRM V12     86
 8  14  Jo Bonnier     SWE  Cooper-Maserati V12	85
 9  12  David Hobbs     GB  BRM V8              85
10  13  Richard Attwood GB  Cooper-Maserati V12	84
11  17  Mike Fisher    USA  Lotus-BRM V8        81
    16  Eppie Weitzes  CDN  Lotus 49-Ford V8    70  Wet Ignition
     1  Jim Clark       GB  Lotus 49-Ford V8    69  Wet Ignition
     9  Jackie Stewart  GB  BRM H16             65  Sticking Throttle
    15  Al Pease       CDN  Eagle-Climax 4      47  Running (too few laps to be classified)
    11  Chris Irwin     GB  BRM H16             18  Sticking Throttle
     8  Jochen Rindt     A  Cooper-Maserati V12	 4  Electrics
DNS     Jo Siffert     SWI  Cooper-Maserati V12     Broken Starter Motor
DNS     Tom Jones      USA  Cooper-Climax V8        Too Slow

Race Distance: 90 laps of 2.459 mile circuit -- 221.31 miles.
Race Weather: Wet, drying, then wet.
Fastest Lap: 1:23.1, 106.53 mph, Jim Clark, Lotus-Ford V8.

Bibliography

For more details concerning this subject, consult the following:

Blunk, Frank M. "Clark Gains the Pole for Grand Prix of Canada." New York Times, 27 August 1967, pt. 5, p. 23, col. 1.

Blunk, Frank M. "55,000 See Brabham Triumph in 220-Mile Canadian Grand Prix In The Rain." New York Times, 28 August 1967, p. 41, cols. 1-3.

"Brabham Surfs to Victory at Canadian GP; Hopes of Clark, Hulme and Gurney are Drowned." Car and Driver, November 1967, p. 107.

Donaldson, Gerald. Grand Prix of Canada. Avon Books, 1984.

Manney, Henry N. "1-2 For Brabham." Road and Track, November 1967, pp. 77-81.

Morrison, Ian. The Guinness Guide to Formula One. Guinness Superlatives, 1989.

"Race To The Title." Newsweek, 11 September 1967, p. 56.

Copyright © 1999 by . All Rights Reserved.

 
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