Every year around this time, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame distributes a media release announcing the latest inductees. Not every outlet uses every name. Some newspapers, including this one, will only write about the Hall if an employee makes the grade. Others, primarily radio and television, will only name someone if they are on the tips of everybody’s lips.
Sometimes it takes awhile for that to happen. Once, I was in the newsroom of the Star and I mentioned the name James Hinchcliffe. “Who’s James Hinchcliffe?” an editor asked. I said he was an IndyCar driver. “Never heard of him,” the guy said. Two weeks later, Hinch won a race and his picture was in the papers and on TV. I bumped into the editor in the men’s washroom. Before I could say anything, he said: “Now I know who James Hinchcliffe is.”
The power of the press. . . .
This year, the Hall announced it was inducting 16 new Hon. Members – 10 racers and builders and six in the Media category. It falls to me, then, to tell you about each of these people – half of them this week and half next. They will all be inducted at a special ceremony next February. Here we go, then:
JOHN BONDAR. With a partner, Bondar owns Shannonville Motorsport Park, which is just east of Belleville. He’s been preparing for this just about his whole life, starting first in 1982 as a volunteer
marshal and then as an amateur racer, winning three championships. Realizing he would never be world champion or an Indy 500 winner, he turned his talents to administration, serving the sport as vice-president and then president of the amateur Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs – Ontario Region. He created the Canadian Touring Car Championship in 2006 to provide the Canadian motorsports marketplace with a professionally organized sports car racing series. A friend and admirer, I urged him to do with Formula 1600 what he’s done with Touring Cars or to take over ASN Canada when it became available but he just laughed at me and bought a race track instead.
PHILIPPE BRASSEUR. One of the most important motorsport reporters and commentators in Quebec, Philippe created Pole-Position Magazine in 1990. A website, Poleposition.ca, followed the next year with an emphasis on Canadian drivers, series and events. He has been play-by-play announcer and analyst for the RDS Network’s coverage of NASCAR, the DTM and the Nissan Micra/Sentra Cup races since 2006 and host of all Canadian Rally Championship shows on RDS since 2007. He has been one of the track announcers at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres since 2002 and the narrator of a documentary about that legendary race weekend. As well as being a journalist, Phillipe has also been a competitor, with two victories in the Quebec Rally Championship in 1998 and ‘99.
PATRICK CARPENTIER. There are few drivers in the world who can honestly say they drove just about every racing machine going. Patrick Carpentier of LaSalle, Que., raced karts to CART Indy cars to NASCAR stock cars. He is one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet and one of the most talented. But it was nearly not to be. In 1996, right here in Toronto, Carpentier won the Toyota Atlantic race and when he opened the bottle of champagne to celebrate, the cork was stuck momentarily before leaving the bottle and when it came loose it hit Carpentier near the corner of his eye. A millimetre closer and it might have been calamitous. Since then, on podiums going right up to the one in Formula One, the corks are taken out of the bottles before being handed to the drivers.
CLARE DEAR (below). As a staff reporter for nearly 30 years with the London Fred Press, Clare Dear persuaded the newspaper to expand its motorsports coverage beyond the local speedway (Delaware.)
As a result, he enabled the newspaper to provide regular coverage of major racing events with a local touch that appealed to its readers while helping boost awareness and interest in the many facets of Canadian motorsports. He covered events at such far-flung venues as Le Mans, the Nurburgring, Indianapolis and Daytona and was the first (and only) Canadian to win the ARCA Series Motorsports Media Award. He also covered motorcycle and drag racing and conducted manufacturers’ reveals and road tests. Ask him about the time I got us lost in Montreal when we were reviewing a Nissan Kicks.
ALLAN de la PLANTE. Allan de la Plante is probably best known as the official photographer of Gilles Villeneuve. They first crossed paths when Gilles was racing a Formula Ford at Mosport in 1973 and later in the Canadian Formula Atlantic championship. Allan then followed Villeneuve around the world until May 8, 1982, when the driver was killed at Zolder, Belgium. In the fall of 1982, Allan published “Villeneuve”, a photographic essay. The book featured images of the drivers, tracks and personalities of Formula 1 and has been reissued several times. His photos were used as the basis for Canadas Post’s two commemorative stamps issued in Villeneuve’s memory. When I worked at the Globe and Mail in the 1960s, Allan’s father, Don Delaplante, was a police reporter.
GERRY FRECHETTE. The best-known motorsport reporter in Western Canada, without doubt, is Gerry Frechette. Over the course of 55 years, starting with the first Can-Am race at Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant in 1966 and including Gilles Villeneuve’s first F1 Grand Prix victory at Montreal in 1978, Gerry has covered hundreds of races as a photographer as well as a writer. He has worked for all of Western Canada’s racing publications and, during the 1990s, he was employed by Performance Racing News and Formula magazine and wrote for numerous race-event publications and programs. He has been awarded numerous citations for his work and was invited by the developers of Area 27 to document, in photos, the circuit’s progress from corn field to world-class race track.
BERTRAND GODIN. Karting, Formula 1600, Formula Atlantic, Indy Lights, Formula 3000 – you name it and you’ll see or hear the name Bertrand Godin of Saint-Hyacinthe, Que. He started kart racing in 1986 when he was 18. His many successes led him to Europe where he raced Formula Fords. He returned to North America to replace Claude Bourbonnais in the Indy Lights series for four races. In 1997, while racing in the Canadian Formula Atlantic championship, he won arguably the most important race of his career at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal as part of the Canadian Grand Prix. That again took him to Europe where he raced in the Formula 3000 championship but his career fizzled after that. He now supports himself as an automotive columnist and lecturer and a Formula E analyst for TVA Sports.
BRIAN GRAHAM. Not all members of the Hall of Fame are racers. This new inductee, Brian Graham, teaches others how to race. To say he’s been successful would be an understatement: Kyle Marcelli – Grand Am Continental Tire (since 2013), ALMS driver, IMSA Lites, NASCAR Pinty’s; Conor Daly – IndyCar driver, F1 test driver, GP2, GP3, Indy Lites, Pro Mazda; Spencer Pigot – 2018/19 IndyCar, 2015 Indy Lites Champion; Zachary Robichon – 2019 Weather Tech GTD, 2018 GT3 Porsche Cup Champion, 2013 Team Canada Scholarship Recipient (created by Brian Graham, by the way); Megan Gilkes – FIA W Series, British Formula Ford; Josef Newgarden – IndyCar (since 2013), IndyCar Champion 2017 and 2019. And about 20 others. Not bad, eh?
JOHN GRAHAM. John was a racing driver (he finished first in class in the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans, co-driving with Scott Maxwell and the late Greg Wilkens) and a promoter (he was the first to push for Molson to sponsor an Indy car race, which would have been held at Downsview). In additional to Le Mans, he had podium finishes at Daytona, Sebring, Petit Le Mans (2), Sears Point – where he also won the pole in his class – Mosport, Spa, Mt. Fuji and Adelaide. He also raced in the NASCAR Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series and the grueling Paris-Dakar Rally. His most successful promotion was the Moosehead Grand Prix in Halifax, which ran for five years. A master at finding sponsorship, he convinced Gordon Lightfoot to sponsor him in 1986, the last year of the Can-Am Series.
COLIN HINE. Colin Hine has been involved with motorsports as a driver, team owner and team manager, engine builder, chassis distributor in circuit racing, rally racing, and karting for 59 years in England and Canada. Since he moved to Canada in 1975, he has owned and operated Colin Hine Racing and won national championships in both Rally and Road Racing. Some of his drivers have included world-class drivers like Scott Goodyear, Paul Tracy, Walter Boyce, Ron Fellows, Stig Blomquist, Willy T. Ribbs, Jean-Paul Perusse and Bob Armstrong. After running a racing business and doing what was needed to help young drivers, Colin then became a race official for multiple IMSA series in Canada and the United States. In that role, he trained new officials in the role of Technical Inspector/Scrutineer.
JIM MARTYN. Not only was he the Voice for Mosport (now Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) for many years, he
was also the Voice of the American Le Mans Series (he travelled the continent announcing their races) and one of the Voices of Radio Le Mans. In short, the late Jim Martyn could do it all. When it’s said he was one of the voices of Radio Le Mans, he was the announcer selected by ALMS owner Dr. Don Panoz to put together and train a team to broadcast the world’s most famous endurance race. Jim nearly lost his life in the early 2000s at Le Mans when he pulled out of a track access road into the sun and was hit by a transport truck. He survived but the shock had a negative effect on his life and career. In later years, he worked for General Motors at auto shows and was a volunteer announcer at karting events,
KANDY MITTON. A Maritime radio and television personality, Kandy Mittton is an administrator as well as a drag-racing competitor. When the Atlantic Drag Racing Association was formed in 1998, Kandy volunteered as secretary/treasurer and held that job for 10 years before stepping down to race. She was the first woman to win the ADRA championship and the first woman to win Super Pro drag races in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. She raced at Lebanon Valley, N.Y., in September and went seven rounds, making it to the quarter finals before being eliminated. She was host of a TV series called “2Fast4U” where students from 13 high schools built drag cars over the winter and held a runoff at Miramichi Dragway every 24th of May weekend to determine who was best.
FRANK ORR. As comfortable talking to Jackie Stewart as he was Dave Keon, the late Toronto Star sportswriter was best known as a hockey writer. But he had a similar impact covering motorsports, including Canada’s first Indy car and Formula One races in 1967 as well as the Can-Am series, which became the leading North American road racing championship. As well as races, he chronicled the careers of drivers such as Paul Tracy, Greg Moore, Ron Fellows and Jacques Villeneuve — all of whom went on to become Canadian Motorsport Hall of Famers. With Canada entering something of a golden era in auto racing in the 1990s, Orr’s writing became a fixture in the Star’s Wheels section. He wore more than 30 books, including three on racing, the best-known being Five Minutes to Green, about George Eaton.
HOWIE SCANNELL. According to his biographer, Rick Sharples, Howie (Scooter) Scannel started racing in the mid-1950s and numbered his first car 41, which was the reversed number (14) of his hero, Hall of Fame member Wally Branston. His first night out, at Pinecrest Speedway, he crashed and broke his nose. He was not discouraged. Over his career, he drove jalopies, stock cars, B Modifieds, Super Modifieds and Late Models. He raced at the CNE Speedway, Pinecrest, Cayuga, Delaware, Flamboro, Nillestown, Bridgeport, Barrie, Oswego and tracks in Florida, winning races and some championships along the way. He was a fan first but he wanted to race, not watch. Since retiring, he’s been involved in coaching young go-kart racers and the stock-car racing careers of his son and grandson.
GLENN STYRES. In the backyard of his family home on the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, Glenn Styres built a 3/8-mile clay speedway where he races sprint cars himself and promotes races for others. He’s so good at this that the World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series, which races all over North America more than 80 times a season, named him Promoter of the Year not just once but twice. A sprint car champion himself, Glenn is also a public figure and role model in the Indigenous Community and has brought major networks to auto racing including the APTN Network, which is currently airing the Friday Night Thunder Series that takes viewers inside his Ohsweken Speedway. He’s a personal friend of Tony Stewart’s and a sponsor of NASCAR star Kyle Larson’s sprint car program.
BILL ZARDO, SR. During a 40-year career, Bill Zardo took Canadian stock car racing to new heights, while demonstrating hard work,
dedication and commendable sportsmanship. Born in Brampton in 1942, Bill got hooked on the sport in 1960 while helping his long-time friend Jim Halahan at Pinecrest Speedway. In 1981, Zardo went racing in the CASCAR No. 7 Lights Series and it was there that he won his first CASCAR Super Late Model Series champion. Zardo was arguably the No. 1 stock car racer of the ’80s but that wasn’t enough for him. He set his sights on making a splash on the international circuit in the ’90s, and started racing on the American Canadian Tour. He achieved his goal by winning the Flexmor Super Late Model title in 1996 and again at 53. He was inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.