Dusk was now descending swiftly like an ominous black cape on our ‘straggling’ young bodies as cars zipped by on Quebec’s old, and narrow Highway 148, unencumbered by concern for our ever-hopeful thumbs! By now, cars were becoming fewer and further between. Our thumbs had gotten us thus far — the middle of nowhere — and ‘there were miles to go before we sleep”! Credit to Robert Frost.
Suddenly, a brand new Pontiac Parisienne roared past us; then braking hard, slowed, and on came the reverse lights. Bingo?
As Steve and I scrambled into the cavernous front and back seat of our ‘saviour’, quickly learning that my home-made sign “Mt. Tremblant” had worked its magic! The Surgernor car salesman was heading there as well – in a new car no less – and saw our sign in the fading autumn light.
Only one year ago, The Federation International d’Automobile (FIA) had consented to Canada’s request to host The Canadian Grand Prix for the country’s Centennial Year 1967. I had to be there!
My fervent enthusiasm had been nurtured by reading Henry Manney III in Road &Track about the magical and mystical world of Grand Prix Racing! And, Jim Clark — the unbeatable Scotsman — was my hero and scheduled to be at Mosport International Raceway in 1967.
A poor paying job pumping gas at Shopper’s City Top Valu Gas bar had yet to provide for “wheels”; nor much jeans jingle, unfortunately put paid to the idea.
Thus, the 1968 Canadian Grand Prix at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant was the goal. The jingle in the jeans was a little better, but still without wheels (well, I did have a 55 oil-burning Ford V8 with no gears but third) sitting in my poor parents drive, but…that is another story.
But here we were on board a flying new Pontiac from Surgenor Motors on our way. No tickets; little money; no provision, not even a sleeping bag, but unbridled excitement, at least on my side as my buddy was not really a racing enthusiast!! Oh well…c’est la vie!
Darkness was fully on as we arrived at the Le Circuit-Mt Tremblant track. Shivers of excitement tickled my neck. Now the plan? Actually, in recalling the arrival, there really was no plan, aside from seeing the Grand Prix. What possibly could go wrong?
Recall: little money; no tickets, nor a place to stay. So as I scrambled into the trunk of the big Pontiac, while Steve hid under a tarp in the back seat – or was it the other way round? We did, however, get in!!
Recollection of how we got through the night remains, well, er ‘murky’! We did party at some night club which was jumping at 200 mph, begging the question, how we were able to ingress/egress the circuit, clearly?
We did eat breakfast at the little restaurant right beside the creek in St.Jovite I recall Saturday, after spending the night at the track, likely in the cavernous Pontiac. What matters we were at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Sadly, a large hole for me was the loss of Jimmy Clark, killed that Arpril in Hockenheim, Germany in a flimsy Lotus F2 car when he crashed into the trees following a suspension failure. I was devastated.
Just then a I heard a commotion and folks running toward the front straight as a chopper landed just aside the Player’s start stand. Turns out it was the new Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Given I was a supporter, I thought I would hop the very flimsy wire fence at pit out, and say “bonjour’!
While security was not like it is today, I did not get close enough to shake his hand, unlike Denny.
Now the race was gridding. How were we to watch the GP without any tickets? Well, that was easy…I suggested we “walk” round the perimeter of the circuit, starting at turn one, and find a “good” spot! There was no “Easy Button” either in those days.
I don’t know if anyone has ever attempted that trek, but I counsel against it. Nearly two and half hours slogging through bush, undergrowth and God knows what else, we did make it by the Chequered Flag. And the only thing we saw was an occasional blur of a Grand Prix car, but every time the sound of the Matra wailed by almost, almost, made it worthwhile.
Exhausted, damp and, well, at least for me, somewhat satisfied we had made it to the sophomore Canadian Grand Prix, we piled back into our stranger’s Pontiac heading back to Ottawa.
Arriving home, my Mom asks somewhat grumpily, “Where have you been”?, I replied, “…at Steve’s”.
Next year it would all come right at Mosport in the MGA…LOL.