Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Canadian Motorsport Hall Of Famer" Bob McLean Born - September 24, 1933

September 24, 1933 - March 26, 1966
Bob McLean
(Photo; www.thecoralsnake.com)
Born:Australia, Home: Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Bob started his driving career in 1957 with an MGA, racing frequently at his home track, the very new Westwood Racing Circuit in Coquitlam, located close to his hometown of Vancouver British Columbia. By all measures, McLean was well liked and respected on the road racing circuits.

In 1965, McLean set out with his 1.6 litre twin-cam powered Lotus 23B to conquer the Canadian Driving Championships, a venture which would see him travel extensively. By air and by ground he travelled to every national event that year, covering nearly 100,000 kilometres. After a season of dominant performances, he was successful at winning the Championship, a remarkable accomplishment considering the eastern Canadian "establishment" drivers and their bigger and faster cars.

Early in 1966, Bob McLean earned a spot with the Comstock Racing Team, a Canadian endurance-racing team. Sharing the driving with fellow Canadian driver Jean Oulette, they piloted one of the team's two Ford GT40s in the 16th Annual Sebring 12 Hour Grand Prix of Endurance for the Alitalia Cup race at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida. This was a showdown battle between Ford and Ferrari. Shortly after McLean took over driving duties in the fourth hour of the race, his Ford GT40 crashed into a utility power pole and exploded into flames, killing McLean.

Bob McLean left behind his wife Kathie and their two young children. McLean's death was a huge blow to the motorsport community. The funeral procession to his final resting place in Burnaby included a line of cars that reportedly stretched out some two miles, a testament to the fact that he was well admired.

McLean was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1993. In more recent years, McLean was featured in a Peter Lipskis documentary entitled King of Westwood.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Peter Revson Wins Canadian Grand Prix - September 23, 1973

September 23, 1973
(Photo; Laurie Button - Own work)
American Peter Revson wins the "Labatt's Canadian Grand Prix" at Mosport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. This Grand Prix saw the first ever use of a safety car in Formula One. Eppie Wietzes drove a yellow Porsche 914. Wietzes stayed in front of Howden Ganley's Iso-Marlboro car by mistake, which allowed several drivers, including eventual winner Peter Revson, to gain a lap on the field. Also this is the first Grand Prix to have a car with the number 0, as driven by Jody Scheckter.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"Canadian Motorsport Hall of Famer" Earl Ross Dies - September 18th, 2014

September 4, 1941 - September 18th, 2014 
Earl Ross
(Maritime Motorsport Hall of Fame Photo)
Born in Fortune, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
A Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame and  Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame member, Earl is the only Canadian to have won a NASCAR Cup Series race. Earl started his racing career in the late 1960's, driving hobby cars, then he began racing a late model stock car for the McKichan brothers at Delaware Speedway.

He was known for being one of only four non-American drivers to have won a NASCAR Cup Series race, the others being Juan Pablo Montoya, Mario Andretti, and Marcos Ambrose. Ross' only NASCAR win came at Martinsville Speedway on September 29, 1974 during the Old Dominion 500. His car was owned by the legendary Junior Johnson and sponsored by the Canadian-owned Carling-O’Keefe Breweries. After qualifying 11th, Ross beat Buddy Baker to the line by more than a lap, thus making him the first and still the only Canadian to have ever won a Winston Cup event. Ron Fellows however has wins in the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. At that time, Earl was the first rookie to win a Grand National race since Richard Petty accomplished the feat several years earlier.

The win was the push needed for Ross, who could only afford to run a partial schedule, to win the Winston Cup "Rookie of the Year" in 1974. After competing in only 2 events in '75 and '76, Ross retired from NASCAR racing. He recorded 1 win, 5 top-5's and 10 top 10's in 26 races.

Ross competed in a number of regional racing series throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, including time on the ASA circuit (Bob Senneker, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and Alan Kulwicki were competing at the same time) and CASCAR Super Series (which later became the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series) against Canadian legends like Don Thomson Jr. He also participated in regular Friday night racing at Delaware Speedway before his ultimate retirement in the late 1990s.

Earl Ross died on Thursday, September 18th, 2014, at his home in Ailsa Craig, Ontario, Canada. He was the age of 73.

In a statement released in Daytona Beach, NASCAR paid tribute to the Canadian.
“NASCAR extends its condolences to the family and friends of Earl Ross, a true racer whose considerable on-track success helped grow the sport internationally."

“Ross was the first Canadian driver to win a race in what is today known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and he did it at one of NASCAR’s most historic tracks for one of NASCAR's most historic owners. His 1974 win at Martinsville for Junior Johnson helped lay the foundation for the sport's tremendous growth in Canada, and beyond.”

Earl Ross was inducted into the the P.E.I. Sports Hall Of Fame in 2008, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2011

For more check out; Norris McDonald on Earl Ross at wheels.ca

"Canadian Motorsport Hall Of Famer" Billy Foster Born - September 18, 1937

September 18, 1937 - January 20, 1967
Billy Foster

Born in Victoria, British Columbia.
Besides driving in NASCAR, Foster also drove in the USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1964-1966 seasons, with 28 career starts including the 1965 and 1966 Indianapolis 500 races, making him the first Canadian to race in the "Indy 500". He finished in the top ten 10 times, with his best finish in 2nd position in 1966 at Atlanta.

Foster died in a crash during practice for a NASCAR stock car race at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California. Foster is the only Canadian racing driver to have been fatally injured at a NASCAR event.

He and Mario Andretti became best of friends, building a close relationship which Andretti claimed he would never do again with a fellow racer because Foster's death so significantly affected him.

Foster was cousins with musician, producer, composer, arranger David Foster and with Canadian stock car driver Jim Steen.

He was inducted into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1993.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Miaskiewicz Edges Kroll At Mosport Can-Am - September 15, 1985

September 15, 1985
The SCCA Can-Am Challenge at Mosport, saw polesitter Horst Kroll jump to an early lead over Championship leader Rick Miaskiewicz. Following a routine stop while exiting pit lane a Miaskiewicz crew member accidentally stepped in Kroll's path and forced him to stand on the brakes to avoid contact. As an angry Kroll jumped back on the throttle the car spun and stalled on the pit exit. As he watch Miaskiewicz drive off with the lead and the rest of the field in tow a frustrated Kroll coasted down the hill to corner one and jump started the car. Over half a minute behind the leader the race seemed all but over, but for anyone who knows Horst, the word quit is not in his vocabulary.

With the race winding down and Horst on a blistering pace, the pit-board messages informed Kroll of Miaskiewicz's decreasing lead. On the closing laps with ever increasing pressure from Kroll, Miaskiewicz had a brief encounter off track at Moss corner leaving Horst breathing down his neck as he crossed the finish line. 

It was now off to St Louis with Miaskiewicz and Kroll locked in a dogfight for the championship. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tracy Wins, Kroll Claims Can-Am Title - September 14, 1986

Continued from} 17-Year-Old Paul Tracy Grabs Can-Am Pole - September 13th, 1986

Mosport - September 14th, 1986

Horst Kroll
Following a late night at the shop a tired crew were at the track early Sunday morning to work on the race setup. Having not spoken to Tracy yet, and with only a few hours sleep, a tired Kroll was focused on his own job at hand, finishing ahead of Bill Tempero, and the championship he had chased for so many years would be his.

The start of race would quickly have concerns for Kroll. As he entered corner one the oil light came on causing him to back of the gas and championship rival Bill Tempero slipped into second behind Tracy. From his vantage point, Kroll could only watch in disbelief, "He's leading the race, Tempero is behind him, and I am forced to sit back" Kroll said with a laugh later, "Oh my God, there goes my championship, he's going to stick with Paul"

Lap ten saw Tempero grabbed the lead briefly. "Paul going off the track in corner 5, through the cars, bits are flying" says the wily veteran, knowing his only option is to hang back and finish, "Tempero has the lead and I just have to sit back and watch him win" However, Paul fought back regaining the lead two laps later with a nice move on the inside of corner 8. Paul never looked back as he held the lead the rest of the way to become the youngest winner in Can-Am history.

Things got even sweeter for Kroll as Tempero drop out with clutch failure. Horst reclaimed the number two position for another HKRacing 1-2 finish and finally the Can-Am Championship he had chased for so many years. With this race Horst would also go into the Can-Am record book with the most consecutive finishes in series history at 22.

 After the SCCA took back control of the series, the Can-Am Teams (CAT) declared their independence and devised a championship that included the four existing Can-Am races plus an extra race at Hallett, Oklahoma, in October in which Horst was declared the CAT Champion also.

 More about the Paul Tracy weekend can be found in Kroll's interview with author Paul Ferriss in the book, "Never Too Fast: The Paul Tracy Story"


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

17-Year-Old Paul Tracy Grabs Can-Am Pole - September 13th, 1986

Mosport - September 13th, 1986
17-year-old up and coming star Paul Tracy, wasted little time in grabbing the attention of a field of veteran Can-Am drivers. After being forced to sit out his scheduled testing the day before, the eager teenager quickly found the pace and left the track that evening with the pole position locked up.

After a typical September rain, the cautious team owner Horst Kroll forced the eager young driver to sit the day before. Taking the car around the track himself for 4 laps and satisfied with the performance, Kroll turn it over to Tracy.

Calm and experienced, Kroll had driven Mosport many times over his 25-year career. With Tracy having only one session to adjust to the bigger car and some 400 plus horsepower over his regular F-2000 ride, Kroll felt it necessary to help the young driver. In Krolls own words "Paul, I would like you to drive behind me and we'll get faster every lap" Kroll was aware of Tracy's reputation for on-track aggression, but was shocked when the young driver showed he was more than ready for the challenge. After a few laps Kroll decided "Goodbye Paul, I put my foot in it and do a lap, I look in my mirror and this kid is behind me" Say's Horst "Every time I stepped it up a notch the kid was still in my mirror. I could not shake him. I knew then and there he had talent."

After satisfying results with Paul edging Horst for the pole, however the Kroll Racing team were in for a busy night. On the closing laps of Saturday qualifying, a strong crosswind spun Kroll into a guardrail between corners 8 and 9 and the car facing the track. Horst jumped out of the car just in time to watch a hard charging Tracy slam into it, sending the crew back to Kroll's shop for a long night and two cars to repair. To be continued.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Jacques Villeneuve Wins At Road America - September 11, 1994

September 11, 1994
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve driving the Player's/Forsythe Green Racing entry finished .609 seconds ahead of Al Unser Jr., to win the CART "Texaco/Havoline 200" at Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, USA. Villeneuve inherited the lead after fellow countryman Paul Tracy lost an engine. Tracy started from the pole and led the first 35 laps in the Marlboro/Roger Penske entry. Other Canadians in the field were Scott Goodyear (7th) and Claude Bourbonnais (Crash).