|It was a close
call but it appears that Canada will be on the 2004 F1 schedule after
all; or maybe not. The saga continues in the fall of 2003.
No Grand Prix in Canada? "Ridiculous!" you say. "Unheard of!" you say.
Ridiculous, yes; unheard of? Nope; it's happened twice before.
The first Formula 1 Grand Prix of
Canada was held at Mosport in 1967. In 1968 it switch to Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant, then
back to Mosport in 1969 and back to Tremblant in 1970. In 1971 Mosport became the
permanant home of the Canadian Grand Prix and was contested every year. Well, every year
Bernie & Max vs Harvey & Bernie
Traditionally, the two North American F1 venues - Mosport and Watkins
Glen - shared the transportation costs to bring the F1 teams to
North America. In addition, each track contributed to a combined
purse that was expected to include a share of $240,000 for Mosport
In the summer of 1975 the Formula One Constructor's Association
(FOCA) informed Mosport and Watkins Glen that they would have to
each put up a larger purse for their respective races in 1975 with
Mosport's share being $277,000. Both tracks put up a unified front
opposing the increase for a time but eventually Watkins Glen gave
in to FOCA's demands. Mosport continued to hold out, but in early
August, a representative called FOCA representative Bernie Ecclestone
at the German Grand Prix to inform them that Mosport would pay the
increased purse. The next day FOCA announced that since Mosport
would not pay the standard purse for a non-European race, then the
FOCA members would not attend. FOCA did not have the authority to
cancel the race but since most teams were members of FOCA, it appeared
that the race would not happen.
As usual in these situations there are two sides to each story.
The two sides in this case were Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley
from FOCA and on the other side were Harvey Hudes and Bernie Kamin
Mosport's position was that they had made an agreement with FOCA
in 1973 that detailed the costs for transportation and purses covering
the 1973 - 1975 races. Mosport admitted that they had missed a deadline
(by a few hours) to confirm the 1975 purse but that FOCA was not
being faithful to the 1973 agreement by raising the purse cost.
FOCA's position was that Mosport had never signed the agreement
and had missed the payment deadline. Mosport appealed to the FIA
but the FIA ruled that they could not force the FOCA teams to participate.
Hudes argued that FOCA was making an example of Mosport in order
to intimidate the European circuits so that he could raise the purse
cost in 1976. Hudes made an attempt to contact F1 teams that were
not part of FOCA. He was only able to secure 6 cars. He and the
event sponsor, Labatt Breweries, agreed not to run a race in those
conditions. The race was be cancelled and the court battles were
There was racing at Mosport on the scheduled Grand Prix weekend.
The track held a "Grand Free" weekend featuring the Bulova
Formula 100's, Bulova 2.5 litre Sedans, a Gold Cup Super Vee race,
an airshow by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and a raffle for Mosport's
Porsche pace car. As the name suggests, the "Grand Free"
weekend was a no-charge event to specatators.
Mosport formed a company called Mosport (New York) Corporation and
filed an injunction against Watkins Glen with an attachment order
holding back over $130,000 of the purse for the Watkins Glen race.
Over the winter the racing community was fairly pessimistic that
there would be a 1976 Grand Prix of Canada despite it being tentatively
included on the schedule. By June the situation was looking more
optimistic as Mosport and FOCA had been in negotiations to hold
a 1976 race in exchange for Mosport dropping their lawsuit. In addition,
Mosport was talking with Labatt about increasing their financial
commitment in order to offset the increased purse.
Everything came together and Mosport was back on the schedule for
1976, although it's days as an F1 venue were numbered. The 1977
race would be the last F1 race at Mosport. The event moved to Ile
Notre-Dame in Montreal for 1978.
1987 - Labatt vs Molson's
Following the 1986 Grand Prix of Canada, FOCA made an agreement
with California race promotor Jack Long to organize and promote
the 1987 Grand Prix of Canada. Long, in turn, signed a sponsorship
agreement with Molson's. Unfortunately, Labatt Breweries had first
right of refusal for Circuit Gilles Villeneuve at Ile Notre-Dame.
Labatt also had an agreement with Canadian Automible Sports Clubs
(CASC) for exclusive rights to Grand Prix in Canada.
In January, 1987 the issue went to court. A lower court ruled that
the City of Montreal could make a deal with Molson's and Jack Long.
Labatt appealed and the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned that ruling.
Upon this ruling, Jack Long took the position that he would move
the race back to Mosport. By March, Bernie Ecclestone had grown
tired of the fighting and dropped Canada from the 1987 schedule.
The court battles continued past a September deadline set by FISA
and it appeared that Canada would be off the 1988 schedule as well.
When the 1988 schedule appeared in October, Canada was included
as a tentative date. In early December Labatt withdrew it's court challenge freeing
up Long and Molson's to sign with the Ile Notre Dame circuit. There
was still one barrier; Formula One had a limit of 16 races per season
and Canada was the 17th. This was also resolved on December 23 when
Mexico asked to be removed from the 1988 schedule due to economic
Canada was back
on the schedule for 1988. This brings us to 2003 and the issue of
tobacco sponsorship forcing the cancellation of the 2004 race. There
has been some talk that if Canada loses the race, we'll never get
it back. Keep in mind a quote from Bernie Ecclestone in 1987 when
the last race was cancelled, "I've had enough now. I'm finished.
And when they go, they go forever. There are other people waiting
busily in line for races, so I don't need these problems."
So there's always