Formula 1

Bob Hanna Recalls Bringing Formula 1 to Canada

Over the past 50 years, Canadian race fans have been thrilled by being able to watch Formula 1 in their home country, whether in Montreal or at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP). For those efforts, they have to thank Bob Hanna.

Hanna was the man responsible for bringing Formula 1 to Canada, kicking up discussions about getting a Formula 1 race back in the 1950s.

“We found most of the drivers that thought it’d be a good idea, but they wanted structure,” Hanna recalled to a group of reports at the Canadian International Auto Show.

Hanna took charge, forming The Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs (CASC), primarily a promotional committee to help plan, promote and present automobile racing to Canadian race fans. The discussions never took off in the 1950s, though. Instead, they picked up after another change in Canadian history – the opening of Mosport Raceway in 1961, which is now known as CTMP.

Before Mosport opened, races were held on abandoned airports in Ontario, left over from World War 2. However, now with the road course opening in Bowmanville, Ontario, it gave people a place to race – catching the attention of Formula 1.

“We got a sponsor, and they said if we got F1, they’d support us all the way,” Hanna recalled. “So we started putting the pieces together. We said that we could do everything that we need to do, and had the right support people, so we put in an application in ’66 for ’67. We ended up on the provisional calendar in ’67, and the final dates aren’t answered until November. In November, we got a date on the calendar – not the date we wanted, but we were happy that we got on.”

With a date in hand, it seemed everything was in place for the first Canadian Grand Prix in 1967, but that wasn’t the case.

“At that time, the Formula 1 constructors were a loosely group, and you had to negotiate with each team,” Hanna said. “We had Andrew, who was with Lotus, so he acted as a liaison with the teams. At that time, they had a series of starting numbers that had been agreed by the English track owners and the constructors. At that time, it was $2500.”

After negotiations, they settled on a price of higher value, enabling plans to continue to go ahead. But Hanna’s job wasn’t done yet as there were more pieces to the puzzle – such as bringing the cars to North America. Hanna said his group was put in charge of arranging “for the shipping of the cars, equipment, personnel from Europe to Toronto and back because they needed to be back for the Italian Grand Prix.”

Hanna’s team went about the steps required, getting the measurements of the cars and equipment, so they build crates to size to put the stuff in for flight transportation, and arrange accordingly in the planes.

Everything seemed to go according to plan, for Hanna – until the day of transport.

“The morning they were supposed to leave, I got a call,” Hanna recalled.”They said, ‘Mr. Hanna. I’m afraid we need to call the whole thing off. The crates are too big and won’t fit.’ After I picked myself up off the floor, I said calling it off is not an alternative. I called for the shipping agent, and she got on the line and said, ‘I gave them the exact measurements for the crates, but they decided to make them a little bit bigger. So don’t worry, I got a crew of carpenters on the tarmac rebuilding the crates. They’ll be finished in an hour.’”

Once the crates were rebuilt, correctly this time, everything was loaded into the plane and transported over to North America with ease.

As they say, from there on, the rest is history.

For fans that are interested in Formula 1 history, though, there’s a special exhibit currently on display right now at the Canadian International Auto Show.

Taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from February 17 and 26, the event offers manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their new car line-ups for the year, as well as concept cars. There is also other significant automobile-related exhibits featured throughout the event – including 50 Years of Grand Prix Racing in Canada. The display features seven racecars, including the Williams F1 car driven by Villeneuve at the 1997 European Grand Prix in Spain to the championship. Details surrounding the show can be found at http://www.autoshow.ca.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

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