1969 Canadian Grand Prix flashback

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Jackie Stewart had the 1969 championship wrapped up with three rounds to spare

There’s no Canadian Grand Prix on the calendar this year – but FOTA and many F1 fans hope the sport will return soon. F1 Fanatic guest writer Andrew Tsvyk looks back on one of the earliest world championship round in Canada.

While this year’s Turkish Grand Prix was taking place in front of largely empty grandstands at the otherwise excellent Istanbul circuit, the race could have taken place in another country. One whose population had been religiously attending their home Grand Prix for the last four decades, before the event was unceremoniously thrown out from the world championship calendar last November.

The country in question is Canada, which held an almost uninterrupted run of races from 1967 at some of F1’s best-loved venues.


Formula 1 first arrived in Canada in 1967 and saw Jack Brabham win the race at Mosport in a car carrying his name. The event was also briefly held at the picturesque Mont-Tremblant venue, before settling in Montreal for good in 1978.

Between 1967 and 2008 46 races were held in Canada, which makes it one of the oldest Grands Prix on the calendar.

The Canadian event was originally one of the later rounds of the championship. As a result, the race often had a huge impact on the outcome of the world championship. In 1967, Brabham’s win gave the Australian an outside shot on retaining the title (which eventually went to his younger teammate Denny Hulme), while the 1968 event saw Denny Hulme take the chequered flag, catching Graham Hill, the world championship leader, in the points race.

In 1969, the battle for the drivers’ crown had been finished long before the big circus set its foot in Canada. Such was the dominance of Jackie Stewart and his Matra-Ford that year that the Scot clinched his first world title in Italy, with three rounds still to go in the 1969 Formula 1 championship.

Pole for Ickx

Nevertheless, even with the drivers’ title settled, there was still plenty of action in qualifying. Brabham’s Jacky Ickx took a surprise pole, after posting a lap time, which was about 0.5 of a second quicker than that of Jean-Pierre Beltoise (Matra-Ford) and Jochen Rindt(Lorus-Ford). Beltoise, Rindt and Stewart posted identical times of 1:17.9, but the Frenchman did it earlier than his Austrian and British counterparts and therefore took second spot on the starting grid.

Fifth position went to the 1967 world champion, Denny Hulme, in a McLaren-Ford, while row three comprised Jo Siffert’s Rob Walker-entered Lotus, Graham Hill’s works Lotus entry and Jack Brabham in a car carrying his name.

After failing to win a race in 1969, Ferrari decided not to cross the Atlantic for the final races, leaving it to the North American Racing Team to fly the Prancing Horse’s flag in the New World. However, the privately-entered Ferrari was well off the pace.

As was commonplace in the sixties, the grid was bolstered by local entrants. These included Gilles Villeneuve’s future Formula Atlantic sparring partner, Bill Brack. But the fastest Canadian in practice – 47-year old Al Pease – was a whopping eleven seconds off Ickx’s mark, which nonetheless was good enough to place his Eagle-Climax 17th on the grid.

Rindt takes an early lead

At 2pm local time, when the race got underway, Austria’s Jochen Rindt shot into the lead in his Lotus-Ford. Pole-sitter Ickx remained second, while France’s Jean-Pierre Beltoise fell down to third. But the new world champion was about to change that.

Stewart had already clinched six victories on his way to the crown, but there was no indication that the Matra driver would stop there. Having taken third position away from team-mate Beltoise on lap two, Stewart continued his charge up the leader board, slipping by Ickx two laps later.

Then, on lap six, the Scotsman hit the front, relegating Rindt to second after an exciting battle around Mosport’s challenging bends.

Stewart versus Ickx

Rindt struggled to match the pace of the leaders and Ickx soon found a way past the Austrian and set his sights on the race leader.

A breathtaking duel ensued, with both of the protagonists trading fastest lap times. However, it soon emerged that Stewart was not faster than his foe, and then Ickx stopped the clocks at 1min. 18.1, leaving the Scot with no response. It became clear that it was only a matter of time before Ickx would lead.

Stewart fiercely defended his place, unwilling to let Ickx through. But on lap 33 the pair caught a back-marker, and the Belgian decided to make a play for the lead. With neither of the drivers wanting to give an inch of space to the other, the green Brabham banged wheels with the blue Matra and the two cars left the track.

This proved the decisive moment of the race, as Ickx managed to get back on track ahead of Rindt, the best of the chasers. Stewart, having stalled his engine, was unable to recover.

Stewart’s demise left Ickx in a race of his own. He remained untouchable for the opposition till the chequered flag, recording his third Grand Prix triumph.

Denny Hulme, like Stewart, was left ruing what might have been. Sixth at the end of lap one, the New Zealander powered by the likes of Siffert and Beltoise, displaying enough speed to challenge for a podium. Unfortunately, a faulty distributor on Denny’s M7A brought The Bear’ s race to a premature end on lap nine.

They say that the art of winning requires an ability to take advantage of the other’s problems. On a beautiful autumn afternoon in Canada Jacky Ickx proved that he had mastered that lesson.

Brabham and Servoz-Gavin profit from retirements

After winning the 1969 Canadian GP, Jacky Ickx was joined on the podium by his team-mate Jack Brabham who managed to get by Jochen Rindt in the closing stages of the race. This would prove to be Black Jack’s best result of the year, as the rest of the season was marred by a string of retirements. In addition, the triple world champion was forced to miss three races due to foot injuries, sustained in a testing accident.

The other drivers worthy of mentioning include Johnny Servoz-Gavin and Al Pease. While Johnny’s performance at the wheel of a 4WD racer saw the 27-year old Frenchman score a point despite being six laps down, Al Pease drew the observers’ attention for the wrong reasons. Despite being much slower than the rest of the field, the local driver proved to be unwilling to cooperate with the leaders, forcing them to take unnecessary risks in order to overtake him. At one point Pease made contact with the front wheel of Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s Matra, which did not leave Ken Tyrrell impressed. Infuriated, Uncle Ken headed to race control, urging officials to intervene. As a result, Pease became the only driver in the history of Grand Prix racing to be black flagged for going too slow.

The verdict

I have nothing against China, Malaysia, Bahrain and Singapore becoming Grand Prix hosts, but they should not be happening at the expense of the likes of Great Britain, France, Argentina and Canada.

Of course, a circuit like Montreal is lagging behind the likes of Istanbul and Sepang in terms of facilities. And Sakhir, Istanbul and Sepang arguably provide drivers with more overtaking opportunities.

But this means nothing, if the battle takes place in front of empty grandstands. Grand Prix racing is all about atmosphere and tradition. And here one has to agree that Montreal has these in abundance.

1969 Canadian Grand Prix, Mosport – 90 laps

Pos. # Driver Car Time/Gap Starting position
1. 11 Jacky Ickx Brabham-Ford BT26 1h 59min. 25.7 1
2. 12 Jack Brabham Brabham-Ford BT26A +46.2 6
3. 2 Jochen Rindt Lotus-Ford 49B +52.0 3
4. 18 Jean-Pierre Beltoise Matra-Ford MS80 +1 lap 2
5. 14 Bruce McLaren McLaren-Ford M7C +3 laps 9
6. 19 Johnny Servoz-Gavin Matra-Ford MS84 +6 laps 15

35 comments on “1969 Canadian Grand Prix flashback”

  1. i think it is high time f1 returns to canada. i liked montreal. the champions corner is such a challenge. it has caught out even the greatest of drivers. pity villeneuve jr couldn’t win a race there. ironically crashed out in that very corner in 1997. i also think its high time to replace the boring magny-cours with the legendary paul ricard circuit at le castellet. the track has been modernized sine the death of Elio de Angelis. ironically it wasn’t the impact that killed him,rather the suffocating plumes billowing out of his ultra radical brahbam that chocked him to death. the circuit is also a pioneer in modern safety.The track is known for its distinctive black and blue runoff areas known as the blue zone, which is used instead of gravel traps of other circuits, the runoff surface consists of a mixture of asphalt and tungsten. Should that not prevent the car from stopping, there is the red zone, a more abrasive run off area, which would require a car to return to the pits for a new tyre. Also, rather than a tyre barrier, a tecpro barrier. its high time FIA & bernie give importance to both the french colonies.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      3rd July 2009, 12:21

      Problem with le Castellet or Ricard at the moment is the spectator and competitor facilities. According to their website there are 12 garages . . . and this is what they say about spectators

      Ten years after the last event attended by spectators (the “Bol d’Or”), the Paul Ricard HTTT is again opening its doors to spectators and can accommodate up to 4,000 spectators for motor racing tests and races, as well as club meetings.

      So Bernie would have to do many millions of dollars worth of work on the circuit to bring it anywhere near the standards he expects from other circuits. And I don’t think that’s very likely.
      What do you mean by ‘the French colonies’?

  2. Totally agree, MP…
    I like a lot Paul Ricard, but I mean the long version, not the short without the first “s” and the shorten Mistral straight.

    1. The only problem that i would have with paul ricard is that it is owned by Ecclestone.

  3. “Of course, a circuit like Montreal is lagging behind the likes of Istanbul and Sepang in terms of facilities. And Sakhir, Istanbul and Sepang provide drivers with more overtaking opportunities.”

    Well if CVC/Ecclestone charged a lot less for race hosting etc, i’m sure Montreal could get facilities upgraded and have the circuit itself improved.

    In my opinion Formula One cannot really and truly be called F1 while it stays away from areas like Canada, France,USA, Argentina,Mexico, South Africa And Britain if Donnigton fail and MAx and Bernie go back on their word for Silverstone to host the race next year.

    Like Keith says thetre is nothing wrong with races in places like China, Malaysia, Bahrain and Singapore just not as replacements, but as additions to a calendar.

    1. A recent trend in venues, which I find rather disturbing, is that they are moving east. F1 is becoming a decidedly Eurasian thing.

      With no races in the Americas save Interlagos, and the loss of several European venues, it’s actually become more “Asian” than “Eur”.

      Ah, Bernie, Bernie, we thought we knew ye.

  4. “Like Keith says thetre is nothing wrong with races in places like China, Malaysia, Bahrain and Singapore just not as replacements, but as additions to a calendar.”

    keith didn’t say it. the credit goes to the guest writer Andrew Tsvyk, who i must really appreciate for really enlightening us about the history of canadian gp.

  5. Sorry to Andrew Tsvyk. I am so used to Keith Collantine’s articles.

    And thanks to mp4-19b for pointing it out to me.

  6. And it was a very enlightening article too Andrew.

  7. The canadian GP must be back on the calendar as soon as possible. But to help this, the race organisers should make use of this forced break (I hope it’s just a break) and resurface the track. What happened there in 2008 was embarassing for a GP race.

    1. Now Xanathos you should have a look at my post further up from you here.
      If Montreal had more money to spend by having less to pay Bernie then all the work could be done i’m sure.

      1. Imola spent many millions on upgrades but San Marino hasn’t got its’ GP back, scunnyman. :(
        It isn’t always as striaghtforward as it seems.

        1. But the difference with the San Marino race it is held in Italy, and most people believe that no country should have more than 1 race per season. And yes i know San Marino is it’s own country, but if somewhere like say Guernsey had a race then people would say it is Britain having 2 races.
          The only country i would possibly agree having more than 1 F1 race is USA because of the population and the size of the country. An east coast and a west coast race for example.

          I wonder how many people would prefer a return of Canada over Imola???

    2. I agree completely. It was embarrassing to watch the track fall apart to the point where it couldn’t be navigated safely. I really want Canada back, but the 2008 race had me saying, “Come on, guys. Get it together and resurface the entire track.”

  8. Of course I’m with you: Montreal needs to be back…

  9. THe most unbelivable thing is that Montreal, in this era of overtaking problems, has always provided good races.

    Take 2005, 2006, 2007 races for example. They were awesome compared to Turkey those years. And that without any rain whatsoever.

    Montreal has always been an incredible circuit. And drivers loved it. And we loved it. And manufacturers loved it. And Bernie… erm, no, he didn’t…

  10. Ahem. I live in Montreal, and I’ve been to the races three times here now. Once in 1984 when Nelson Piquet won, and twice since – I was just on the other side of the hairpin when Kubica had his scary crash. In 1984, with general admission tickets that cost like $25, my dad and I sat on the grass about 50ft from the starting grid – spectacular. The races since – forget seeing anything unless you pay through the nose.

    I know that the event is always a big hit with drivers, but I’ve said for years that this must surely be because of the nightlife and the very, very healthy female population of this city.

    In my opinion the track here is boring, the facilities are nowhere near where they ought to be, and last year at the hairpin, they were desperately filling in giant holes in the asphalt the night before the race because the organizers can’t get their heads around working with appropriate materials. (… which was just pathetically ironic because this city is the bad roads capital of the world)

    When the race was pulled from the calendar I thought it was a blessing in disguise. I figured that someone would decide to put up the money, completely redesign and overhaul the track, and attract F1 back that way. From what we’re hearing here, the race will likely be reinstated next year in its present state, which I think is a pity. Don’t get me wrong I’d love for F1 to come back here, as well to other North and South American venues, but for all the popularity of the Montreal event, for my money the track here is not up to par.

    1. Thanks for the viewpoint from a local- since I’m visiting Montreal for the first time next week, I look forward to your description of the city itself ;)

      I very much hope that the track is fixed to the pointr where it is capeable of hosting F1 again in the near future. Obviously the cold dose a number on asphalt surfaces, so the surface at CGV requires a bit more upkeep than at other F1 venues.

      1. Gman,

        I’d be surprised if you found I was wrong about the eye-candy this city has to offer. As for the track, it is open to the public when no events are scheduled so you may well take the opportunity to walk, rollerblade or bike it – and that probably wouldn’t be much of a detour, since it’s situated close to some of the main tourist attractions (i.e. Old Montreal, Casino, etc…) do let us all know what you thought of the sights!

        1. Thanks for the perspective- I am staying close to Old Montreal and do hope to visit the track while in town. As for the roads, I’m quite sure my hometown may be the runner-up in that department!

  11. What happened to Mosport Park? Montreal is nice but Mosport Park is awesome – I mean, I’ve never been to the place myself, but I believe that many who have played Grand Prix Legends would agree with me that the design of circuit is amazing. Why a place like that is never considered for hosting the Canadian GP anymore?

  12. Stop complaining about races not coming to your tracks.

    Think of ow many years it took for those races to become classics. Now give the new tracks the same amount of time, and then if they have not reached the same status, start discussing it.

    Reading day in and day out about why the British HAVE to have a race in their HOLY country is endlessly irritating.

    Canada is not the only country which does not have a F1 race. There are loads of other country’s who are in the same boat. Also please dont come with the history this and that, its utterly pointless. If you loved that race way back when, then buy the DVD.

    In 30 years when China is being removed from the calendar because they want to have the first moon race, people are going to complain about how China is a historical race and almost 20% of all F1 fans are from china etc, etc, etc…

    Commentators: Your only wasting your time by complaining (as am I).
    Authors: Stop forcing your opinions on us. Propaganda is for the Nazi’s and Americans, not the public.

    1. I’m not the editor of this web site or the autor of this article, but as both an American citizen and a fellow guest writer, I find your closing reference exceptionally offensive and completely out-of-line.

      It appears your opinions regarding which nations should host races differs greatly from my own and that of many other readers. If that’s the case, fine- we’re all entitled to our own opinions, and i’m sure the editor would consider you for writing a guest post of your own on why racing in front of near-empty grandstands at government-financed places in Asia is great, if you so desired.

      But just because you’ve got a different take, don’t go insulting anyone. Voicing our own opinions to allow for constructive conversation is a great aspect of sites like this, so I encourage you to take the high raod, knock off the insults, and join in some of the good stuff here.

  13. “I know that the event is always a big hit with drivers, but I’ve said for years that this must surely be because of the nightlife and the very, very healthy female population of this city.”

    There you go Gman Montreal a place for you. And you know what i am talking about lol

  14. 46 Canadian GPs between 1967 and 2008? This doesn’t add up…
    Montreal was already “punished” in 1987 because the fans stormed the track at the end of the 1986 race, and 1975 was also skipped.
    The author must counting from 1961, before the Canadian GP was part of the Formula One World Championship.

    Also, to those concerned with the condition of the pavement at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, I saw an article about a month ago indicating the whole track was repaved by the current NASCAR promotor.

  15. Agree on Mosport Park track.

  16. having read these articles about goodwood and overtaking it has got me wanting to watch some season reviews over the weekend, while not doing the july 4th thing. Only i can’t work out what seasons to watch from 1975 to say 2006.

    can anyone suggest some years for me please?

    1. Well from what i’ve been told, 2003 was one of the best seasons in recent memory. I wasen’t watching myself then, but it had many good moments from my understanding.

      1. Hey Gman yes 2003 was one of the best seasons of all time and if you get the chance to watch the review or better all the races in full DO SO. Especially the Brazilian race where Alonso made one of the stupidest moves ever when he ignored waved yellows and ran into debri. Could have killed himself.

        2003 has already been suggested so will be watching it soon thanks bud

        And don’t worry too much about the anti Americans theyh are in the minority. He must be anti British too.

  17. 1986 is a thriller

    1. Thanks Antifia.

      Unfortunately i have watched a lot of 86’s races recently. Mybe i should have excluded that year.

      I agree very good year and i am a Mansell fan. Shame about the tyre.

  18. From local Montreal news Radio website:

    City buys F1 equipment
    Sat, 2009-07-04 03:48.
    Thomas Daigle
    The City of Montreal has taken another step to host a Formula 1 event in 2010.

    Officials have purchased equipment on Ile Notre-Dame, belonging to former Grand Prix promoter Normand Legault.

    The City shelled out $1.5 million for the gear, that is said to be essential to hold races at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

    Formula 1 officials will release the 2010 race calendar in the fall.

  19. An excellent article that reminds many of us of the great races produced by the Canadian round of the championship, at all venues it has visited over the years.

    I hope Montreal returns to the calendar as soon as possible- aside from the track surface issues and ticket prices, the event represents everything that a Grand Prix should be. But on that same note, while the return of Montreal would be a positive in nearly every aspect, we still need a Grand Prix of our own here in the United States as well.

  20. Great post. As a Canadian fan I find myself not even sure where to focus my energies.

    Our TSN rebroadcasts the once ITV now BBC feed, but now that its on the BBC the commercials that TSN adds really mess up the coverage – plus they’ve dropped their pre-race show (that said, torrents have informed me that the actual BBC coverage is quite good). The poor coverage demonstrates the level of interest TSN (CTV etc.) feels is there for F1 and as the local broadcaster they need champion the Canadian GP.

    With the recent split it was tough to even figure out to whom Canada should be making their case to.

    Here’s hoping that F1 comes back to North America in some form: Montreal, take over the Toronto Indy, Watkins Glen (still inside a days drive for most that would go to Montreal) or some big high-profile return to something like a New York street circuit.

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