Featured Story Motorsport

Dumontier, Steckly, Kennington and Jacques Villeneuve named to Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame

Written by Norris McDonald

Four-time national stock car racing champion Scott Steckly is one of eight named to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame

Francois Dumontier, president of Octane Racing Group, promoters of the Grand Prix of Canada, and James Robinson, a television producer and documentary filmmaker who exposed racing to millions of Canadians, are two of eight contributors to motor sports in Canada who will be inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame next October.

Dr. Hugh Scully, chairman of the board of directors of the CMHF, in making the announcement today (Wed., May 23), unveiled a list that reflects the success Canadians have achieved in all aspects of motorsport.

The induction ceremonies will be held next Oct. 20 in the Glenn Gould Theatre at the CBC building in downtown Toronto.

The eight new members of the Hall of Fame, including two of this country’s most successful stock car racers, span different roles in motor racing and include an engineer, race event and association officials, the two drivers and Robinson, the accomplished broadcaster.

“The Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame proudly welcomes this year’s group of inductees, all of whom have excelled in their careers, whether on track, working behind the scenes, or behind a camera, ” said Scully, adding that Honda would be recognized in the International category reserved for motorsports personalities or companies who have made significant contributions to motor sports in this country.

“All of the inductees reflect the trademark talent in Canadian motorsport and the success that this country realizes when competing against the best the world has to offer. Congratulations to all the new members.”

The inductees are Formula Atlantic championship winning engineer Doug Crosty, Grand Prix du Canada promoter Dumontier, two-time NASCAR Canada champion Douglas James “D. J.” Kennington, TV producer/filmmaker Robinson, championship driver and race association official John Sambrook, four-time NASCAR Canada champion Scott Steckly, Honda Indy Toronto official Jim Tario and Formula One world champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve.

The following brief biographies were prepared by motorsport writer Jeff Pappone, who is a member of the board of directors of the Hall of Fame.

Whether he was building and engineering racing cars or running a team, one thing was always constant when it came to Doug Crosty: winning. The recipient of several awards for his skill with a wrench, Crosty was the engineering force behind one of Canada’s most successful Canadian racing drivers (and Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee),  Bill Brack, who won three consecutive Canadian Formula Atlantic Championships beginning in 1973. Crosty also managed Bill Brack Racing with a highlight being a sweep of the podium at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières in 1978 with drivers Brack, Price Cobb and Didier Pironi.

Although Francois Dumontier only became known to most after taking over the promotion reigns of the Canadian Grand Prix in 2009, he has been working in and around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the better part of 30 years. His leadership in the past decade ensured that Montreal will be a part of the Formula One calendar for the next 10 years after he negotiated a contract for the race until 2029.

Not only does he run the highest profile racing event in Canada, he also brought the NASCAR Xfinity Series to Canada, and supported feeder series, such as Formula 1600, as well as national and local sanctioning bodies.

After winning his first ever start in a stock car at the tender age of 16, there was little doubt that Douglas James “D. J.” Kennington would be a star in Canadian racing. Twenty-five years later, Kennington’s tally includes two NASCAR Pinty’s Series Championships on the strength of 26 wins and 16 poles in the series. Off the track, Kennington’s charity work is equally impressive, serving as a spokesman for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and visiting children’s hospitals across Canada.

If a Canadian racing series appeared on television in this country, it’s likely that Jim Robinson had something to do with it. With his connections to the broadcasting of Canadian motorsports events tracing its way back to the early 1960s, Robinson’s work exposed racing to millions of Canadians over the years, whether it was open wheel, stock cars, or motorcycles.

He also produced acclaimed documentaries on Gilles Villeneuve and the history of Mosport Park (now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park).

Although John Sambrook scored a national sprint car title early in his racing career, it’s his contributions off the track that set him apart. Sambrook spent the 50 years working with local, regional and national sanctioning bodies in almost every capacity, from designing tracks to serving as clerk of the course at national and international events.

In 1995, he joined the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC) as a driver and owner and continues to race today. He was inducted into the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières Hall of Fame in 2004 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the VARAC in 2017.

One of Canada’s most successful stock car racers, Scott Steckly won an unprecedented four NASCAR Pinty’s Series titles in his career, taking 17 poles, 19 wins, and leading 4,829 laps along the way. Steckly made an impression early, winning a street stock championship in his first year of racing. He moved up the ranks to compete in Canada’s premier stock car series at the time, the CASCAR Super Series, where he took 1999 Rookie of the Year honours in the Eastern Series. After retiring in 2015, Steckly continues to be involved in the Pinty’s Series as a team owner.

There’s little doubt that Jim Tario’s expertise and dedication played a huge role in the success of the Honda Indy Toronto over the past 30 years. In addition to helping design the original track for the inaugural event in 1986, Tario remains a central figure in the success of the Honda Indy as its director of track operations, key member of the safety committee , responsible for site planning, construction, logistics, infrastructure and the management of the race circuit. Several other cities hosting racing events have also benefited from his skills, including St. Petersburg, Fla., San Jose, Calif., São Paulo, Brazil, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Jacques Villeneuve followed in the footsteps of his father and Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee, Gilles Villeneuve, and found success on every level. Canada’s only Formula One World Champion, Villeneuve scored 13 poles, 11 wins and 23 podiums in 163 Grand Prix starts between 1996 and 2006.

His thrilling, title-securing, pass of seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher in the final race of the 1997 season remains one of the most dramatic moments in Canadian racing history.

Villeneuve’s victory in the 1995 Indianapolis 500 was equally dramatic after he unlapped himself twice to score an unlikely come-from-behind win and become the sole Canadian to drink the milk at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.