As a kid in the Seventies, I used to look forward to the Toronto auto show every year. My parents had split up, which meant no more race cars for me, but my step-father always took me to the auto show and for a number of years that was the only place that I got to see racing cars. Then, at some point, someone in charge of the show decided that race cars did not belong at a show for new cars and the show got boring. Over the years, you began to see more fun, but never to the same level.
Until, that is, Jason Campbell took over as the General Manager of the show, now known as the Canadian International Autoshow. With a background in international motorsport marketing, think Red Bull, Campbell immediately set to work making the show fun again. It meant the return of motorsport in a big way, with a celebration of the 100th running of the Indy 500. With the fun came attendance and the 2016 show saw more guests go through the turnstiles than ever before.
To open the 2017 show, Campbell worked with my old boss, Norris McDonald and using their combined talents brought together a collection of individuals who have been influential in Formula 1 in Canada since the earliest days along with some incredible cars that were part of the action.
The day before the show opened for the media preview, a crowd of maybe 100 or so people gathered in a hall at in the MTCC to oogle race cars and listen to this group swap tales. The conversation began with Bob Hanna, the man who brought Grand Prix racing to this country.
Originally scheduled for an hour or so, the event ran closer to three, as people such as former Canadian F1 team owner Walter Wolf and F1 driver Alan Berg reminisced. As time progressed, Canadian racing legend Ron Fellows, who now co-owns Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (home of the Canadian Grand Prix when it was called Mosport) was followed by 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. The latter was joined by his Mother and Sister.
The racing machinery, which remains on display throughout the public show, is even more impressive. The Villeneuve connection is strong here, as the first car one sees when they enter in Gilles Villeneuve’s Ford Mustang, freshly restored and looking perfect. A Ferrari 312 T3 that Gilles drove sits across from the Williams driven by his son.
There is a Cooper, driven by Bruce McLaren and the ’78 Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing machine piloted by Mario Andretti. A Lotus driven by Ayrton Senna sits across from a Nigel Mansell Ferrari.
With the FIA Masters Historic Formula 1 Championship coming to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in June, the track also has a multimedia display in the collection, offering up free entry to the event, printed on cool reproductions of the 1967 Grand Prix of Canada tickets.
To learn more, visit the Canadian International Autoshow online