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History of Harewood Acres

Some race fans may think that "big-time" road racing didn't come to Canada until Mosport opened in 1961. Actually, professional races were held two years earlier at the Harewood Acres circuit near Jarvis, Ontario. Harewood was the premier circuit in Canada until Westwood was opened in 1959. It continued to hold that distinction for eastern Canada until the opening of Mosport.

Harewood began its life in August, 1940 as a military airfield supporting the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It was the home of Number One Bombing and Gunnery School. Over 12,000 trainees passed through until the airfield closed in February of 1945.

Harewood's new role as a racing circuit, began in 1956 when the British Empire Motor Club (BEMC)
was forced to give up it's first airport circuit at Edenvale, near Stayner, Ontario. The owner of Edenvale wanted to conduct professional races at the circuit and kicked out the clubs. BEMC found another suitable former airfield on property owned by Russell and Larry Hare. BEMC signed a 5-year lease for 150 acres of the 750 acre property. The property was on the Nanticoke Sideroad, 3 miles south of the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 6.

BEMC moved most of their equipment from Edenvale and the new 3.5 mile track opened on May 19, 1956 for a motorcycle event. On June 16, the first sports car race was held. Admission was $2.00 for that event.

After the first season, some detioration of the runways forced the circuit to be reduced to 2.45 miles. A further circuit length reduction took place in 1959, this time to 1.9 miles. This would be Harewood's permanant length. The width varied from 30 feet to 200 feet.

Circuit Configurations
click on a config to enlarge
1956: 3.5 miles
1957-1958: 2.45 miles
1959-1970: 1.9 miles


In late 1958 there was much discussion in the Ontario racing community regarding increasing the professionalism of the racing. Some believed that it was inevitable that racing in Canada be taken to the next level. Others feared that the increased costs would actually hurt the sport. Those advocating professionalism won out and the Canadian Racing Drivers Association organized the first professional sports car race in Canada. The CRDA 500 was held on May 9, 1959 and offered over $4,000 in prize money. About 10,000 fans were on hand to see the victory by Ray Carter of Hamilton driving a Jaguar XK-SS.

Roger Penske, winner of the 1959 O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix

On July 25, 1959 Harewood hosted the first Sundown Grand Prix. The O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix was a 6 hour race that began in the daylight and finished in the dark. Harry Blanchard and Roger Penske covered 254 laps in a Porsche RSK to take the victory in the 50-car field.

The third big race of 1959 was the Stock Car vs. Sports Car Race on September 19-20. Unfortunately, few of the promised top-name stock drivers appeared; Lee Petty was the only one name driver to appear in the the race won by Harry Blanchard.

The following year the first fully-sponsored professional sports car event was scheduled. The Carling 300 took place on May 28, 1960 at Harewood and this time over 15,000 fans showed up. Controversy erupted two days before event when the Sports Car Club of America announced that any SCCA-licensed driver participating in the Harewood event would lose his SCCA license. Some drivers such as Roger Penske and Bob Holbert took a chance and showed up to race. Others, such as Jim Hall, recalled his car as it was being shipped to Ontario.

Penske won all three of the event's 100 KM heats to take the overall victory in a Porsche RSK taking the $1,900 winner's share of the over $6,000 purse. In second was nineteen-year old Canadian Peter Ryan, also driving a Porshe RSK.

Peter Ryan in 1960 - Porsche RS60

The second O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix was held on October 1, 1960. The first and second finishers from that spring's Carling 300 teamed up to compete in the Sundown. Roger Penske and Peter Ryan took their Porsche RSK to victory over Francis Bradley and Ludwig Heimrath.

It appeared that Harewood's days as a racing facility were numbered at the start of the 1961 season. The track's operators, the British Empire Motor Club, had been building Mosport and the new track was ready to open in June, 1961. BEMC moved it's events to Mosport. Without a club organizing the circuit, the other clubs moved their events to Mosport as well. The track was comparitively quiet during the 1961 and 1962 seasons, only hosting some closed-to-public events such as MG Car Club events and drag races.

The Harewood Acres circuit was resurrected again in 1963. The London Automobile Sport Club (LASC) had been operating Green Acres, another former WWII airfield circuit, north of Goderich. The track surface at Green Acres had been falling apart and LASC was looking for a new circuit. Over the next few seasons LASC implemented many improvements including repaving most of the circuit, building marshalls' stands, moving the wiring underground to remove the need (and the inheirant danger) for poles and painting white lines to negate the need for haybales.

From 1963 to 1970 Harewood continued to host many club events. It was the home of the Great Lakes Trophy Races, The Mid-Summer Trophy Races, Burlington Autosports Club Challenge Cup for Sedans, The Trillium Trophy Races and various motorcycle races including the Ontario Grand Prix for Motorcycles. The track was part of the Canadian Road Racing Championship each year, both for sports cars from 1964 until 1968 and for The Gulf Canada Series for Formula A cars which made two visits in each of the 1969 and 1970 seasons.

The 1970 season was the end for Harewood. Owner Russell Hare sold the land to Texaco and the company built an oil refinery on the property.

Winners of National and International Races at Harewood Acres

May 9, 1959
Ray Carter
CRDA 500
Jaguar XKSS
July 25, 1959
Harry Blanchard/Roger Penske
O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix
Porsche RSK
September 20, 1959
Harry Blanchard
Sports Car Vs. Stock Car
Porsche RSK
May 28, 1960
Roger Penske
Carling 300
Porsche RSK
October 1, 1960
Peter Ryan/Roger Penske
O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix
Porsche RSK
August 24, 1963 Dennis Coad Great Lakes Trophy Races Lotus 19
August 15, 1964 Ludwig Heimrath Great Lakes Trophy Races Comstock Cooper-Ford
August 14, 1965 Ludwig Heimrath Harewood National Trophy Races McLaren Elva-Ford
August 13, 1966 Craig Hill Harewood National Trophy Races Lotus-Ford
May 27, 1967 Nat Adams CKOC Challenge Cup Chinook
August 12, 1967 John Cordts Harewood National Trophy Races McLaren Mk.3 Chevrolet
August 17, 1969
Bill Brack
Gulf Canada Series
Lotus GTX
September 27, 1969
Eppie Weitzes
Gulf Canada Series
Lola T142-Chevrolet
May 10, 1970
Eppie Weitzes
Gulf Canada Series
McLaren M10B-Chevrolet
August 9, 1970
Horst Kroll
Gulf Canada Series
Lola-Chevrolet


Photos

Alfa-Lotus 1960

Danny Shaw 1960


The chicane - 1960


George Fejer on the left and Nat Adams, both driving Chinooks battle through Gunnery corner in 1967


Craig Fisher in a Simca Abarth -1964


Formula Vee 1967 - Gunther Decker in a Kelly Vee leads Brian Robertson in his Beach Vee

Brian Robertson leads a group of Formula Vees in 1967

Dave Greenblatt 1960 in his Gorries-Sadler-Corvette

2 Volvos 1960


A Lotus 7 in 1964, shared by Ian Duff and John Greenwood - 1964


Mini in 1968


Rudy Bartling in his Porsche - 1964


A Le Mans start at a 100 mile event in 1956


A Le Mans start in 1960


Start of a race in 1966

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