The History of Grand Prix Racing in Montreal

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With the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal just winding down for another year and racer Daniel Ricciardo heading home with the win, there’s no time like the present to take a look at the long and rich history of Grand Prix racing in Canada.

Mosport Park and the Beginning

Grand Prix racing in Canada got its start in Mosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario in 1961, attracting several international and Formula One racing stars with auto careers. The majority of these first races were won by drivers with previous experience in Formula One racing or drivers that had won the Canadian Grand Prix a year or two prior. In 1967, it was decided that the event be run as part of the Formula One world championship.

Move to Quebec

It was after the introduction into the Formula One championship that the location of the Canadian Grand Prix would alternate between Mosport Park and Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec. The Grand Prix was held in Mont-Tremblant in 1968 and 1970. However, after disputes with local racing authorities and growing concern about how the harshness of Quebec winters would affect the condition of the track, 1970 was the last year that the Mont-Tremblant circuit would hold the Grand Prix. Mosport Park would again become the sole holder of the event until 1978, when Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame became the official location for the track.

Safety Concerns at Mosport

Following the decision in 1970 to relocate the Grand Prix back to Mosport Park, there were several years of incidents and growing concern from people employed as auto mechanic or automotive technician about the safety of that track and the resulting effects on the vehicles and the drivers. Intense flooding and rainfall in the 1971 race led to complications and in 1977 a particularly awful accident due to the increasingly bumpy Mosport track led the committee to deem the park unsafe, and construction began on a brand new track on Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame.

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Ile Notre Dame

Starting in 1978, the event was held at the newly constructed Circuit Ile Notre Dame on Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame. The first winner of the Grand Prix at the new location was Quebec native and racing legend Gilles Villeneuve. Take a look at what some call “the most spectacular driver ever”:

Gilles Villeneuve’s life was cut tragically short after an awful crash in the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix, on his final qualifying lap. In his honour, the circuit at Ile Notre Dame was then renamed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a name which it carries to this day.

One of the most celebrated races in the world, the Canadian Grand Prix has a long, rich and storied history. One that we hope will stretch on for many more years to come.

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