TROIS-RIVIERES, Que. – A large part of this city’s downtown is blocked off to traffic – one entire intersection is taken up by a giant Ferris Wheel – as the annual Grand Prix is warming up for its 49th renewal.
Lest anyone forget, it was the tremendous performance in 1976 of Gilles Villeneuve in the Formula Atlantic race here that brought him to the attention of, first, McLaren in F1 and then Ferrari.
Created in 1967, Canada’s Centennial year, the Grand Prix is now more than just one race through the streets of this city that’s 130 kilometres west of Quebec City. It is held over two weekends, promoted as GP3R, and the headline event Sunday, a round of the 2018 NASCAR Pinty’s Series, will bring the 2018 festival to a close.
Last weekend, a classic auto rally was held as well as rallycross racing. This weekend, the Canadian Touring Car Championship will kick things off on Friday with a night race under the lights. Several rounds of the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada, the Formula Tour 1600, the Canadian StockCar Championship and the Nissan Micra Cup will also be raced heading into the Pinty’s finale on Sunday afternoon.
Nissan Canada is the principal sponsor of the weekend and, as well as promoting the Micra Cup races, has multiple activities planned downtown and in the paddocks for the enjoyment of the tens of thousands of people expected to attend.
Of note will be the racing debut in the Micra Cup of the Mayor of Trois-Rivieres, Yves Levesque, who plans to compete in both of the weekend’s races.
On Saturday night, at Parc Portuaire in downtown Three Rivers, Nissan will present a show, “From the Track to the Nissan Stage.” After the success of last year’s show, this year’s presentation will showcase comedian Étienne Dano and singer Travis Cormier. A fireworks display, “La Magie des feux,” will take place immediately after the performance.
Also happening this weekend is the annual motorcycle racing extravaganza at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Back in 1978, John Long and his BMW R90S flat twin made history winning the first Canadian Superbike race at CTMP. Long and his bike will return to the legendary track today through Sunday as Canada’s top motorcycle road racers compete in the Superbike Doubleheader and the national Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship season finale, with Long serving as Grand Marshal for the weekend.
Now 67, Long, of Miami, Fla., won the race 40 years ago after trailing Canadian Lang Hindle for every lap except the white flag lap – a coil failure stopped the Canadian rider with one lap to go. Long rode a cautious race, mostly by himself just behind Hindle.
“It turned out the frame (on my bike) had a big crack in one of the gussets under the tank,” explained Long. “I decided I couldn’t win that race, because I couldn’t go up the back straight wide open. I thought I had the corners covered pretty well, I had raced (at CTMP) a number of times, but that weave was a real problem. I’m very excited to return to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as a Grand Marshal after all these years.”
Current Superbike star Jordan Szoke, of Lynden, Ont., will be back looking to secure his fourth consecutive (and record 13th overall), Mopar Pro Superbike Championship riding his BMW Motorrad S1000RR.
National titles will also be determined in Liqui Moly Pro Sport Bike, Magneti Marelli Amateur Superbike, Parts Canada Amateur Sport Bike and the Lightweight Sport Bike Series, all part of a full slate of weekend racing action.
Off-track, Jordan Szoke’s Extreme Show returns to perform a high-adrenaline freestyle motocross show on Saturday and Sunday. Unlike traditional motocross, freestyle places more emphasis on the abilities of the daredevil riders who perform mesmerizing jumps over a stretch of up to 75 feet.
On Saturday night the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival presents the Outdoor Movie Night featuring award-winning film Dream Racer. Honda, BMW and Harley-Davidson will also be offering demo rides Saturday and Sunday.
Honda will also be running its Junior Red Riders program for 6- to 12-year-olds to learn how to ride in an environment that is designed to be safe, fun and community-focused. All these off-track features are included with event admission – and please remember that kids 16 and other are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
Here is the other auto racing news going into the weekend:
– A manufacturer with a deep connection to Canadian racing and a long history of global motorsport success, Honda is the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame’s 2018 International inductee. “We are pleased to recognize the great contributions made by Honda to motorsport not only in Canada, but also around the world,” said Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame chairman Dr. Hugh Scully. “Honda has been a powerhouse over the years and it’s clear that without Honda, Canadian racing and global motorsport would be much poorer. Its connection to some of the most important events in Canadian racing are a testament to its dedication to this country’s long motorsport heritage.”
We’ll have more to say and report on this important recognition as CMHF induction time draws near.
Finally, the sale this week to a consortium headed by Lawrence Stroll of Montreal of the Force India F1 team has brought many questions: What will be the team’s new name? Who will be the sponsor? Who will drive? Is Bernie still involved, as in: did he broker the deal? Remember, this team was originally Jordan. Every time someone who bought it wanted out, Bernie stepped in and arranged the sale.
So many questions; so little time . . .