Return of Formula One to Mosport

Today’s Post by John Larsen

In the early 1970’s my father thought it would be a great idea to bring my younger brother and I to Mosport for the first time to watch an international race. We all enjoyed ourselves so much that Dad brought us back annually to the Canadian Grand Prix while it was held at Mosport and eventually to Watkins Glen, New York.

Earlier this summer, in what I can only describe as being in the right place at the right time, I was fortunate enough to be the series photographer for the Masters Historic Formula One series when they visited Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, previously known as Mosport Park.

My access allowed me to wander in their exclusive paddock area while the mechanics and drivers worked on their cars and track side to cover the cars at speed. I was thrilled to watch, listen and take photos of these rare Formula One cars at a track where most of them had previously been driven in the hands of such greats as Jackie Stewart, Francois Cevert, Graham Hill, Ronnie Peterson and the crowd favorite, Gilles Villeneuve. In fact, some drivers in the series even have their helmets painted to replicate the originals.

Given that most of the drivers and car owners could be described as gentlemen racers I was pleasantly surprised at the speed and skill that they had since this was the first time driving this historic race track. When the racers would return to the paddock after each session it was fun to see the enthusiastic chats that they would have with each other-along with a little teasing. While I was taking photos of the cars in the paddock, Allan de la Plante was standing beside me admiring the Ferrari 312 T4 that was driven so many years ago by the late Gilles Villeneuve. De la Plante photographed Villeneuve’s rise from Formula Atlantic to the Ferrari in Formula One and knew him very well. Much to my surprise Gille’s widow, Joanne Villeneuve, accepted the offer to climb into the car once driven by her late husband.

The drivers and crew were very engaging with the spectators and were more than willing to share stories of the history of the cars they were working on. Needless to say the Masters Historic Formula One series was a crowd pleaser-both off and on the track.

John Larsen is this blog’s Senior International Travel Correspondent John Larsen, whose website is www.photograffics.com.