Motorsport Hall to induct 17 at AutoShow celebration
Each of these gentlemen has made an indelible mark on the Canadian motorsport landscape and will be recognized for their great efforts and success
The first time I had the honour of being master of ceremonies for the annual Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame induction celebration was for the class of 2002, and I can remember it like it was yesterday.
It was held in early March, in a ballroom at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto, and 800 people attended a black-tie dinner and induction ceremony. The festivities ended at precisely 10 p.m., just as that year’s first Grand Prix of the season was about to start in Melbourne, Australia. Hall of Fame organizers had arranged to have the telecast beamed onto a large screen behind the stage in the ballroom and it was a nice added attraction for attendees, most of whom hung around till the checkered flag. It was a great night.
Several of that year’s inductees stood out. For instance, Roy Smith of Victoria, B.C., was inducted. Roy Who? Smith was a champion open-wheel and stock-car racer on the west coast of Canada and the United States — he won four NASCAR Winston West championships — who qualified and raced in three Daytona 500s, scoring one top-10 finish. Two years later, he and others died in a fishing-boat accident in the Pacific.
And then there was Guy Lombardo. Yup, the fellow who still owns New Year’s Eve, 43 years after his death, is an inductee of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. Why? Because in his day, Lombardo, of London, Ont., was a champion unlimited-hydroplane racer (15 Gold Cup-level victories) as well as North America’s most famous orchestra leader. As there were no known Lombardo relatives available to accept the honour on his behalf, then-mayor of London, Anne-Marie DeCicco-Best, came to Toronto to represent him. I thought that was a really classy touch.
But that was then and this is now. Two weeks from Saturday (Feb. 15), at the Canadian International AutoShow, I will once again MC the celebration, something I have done every year since with the exception of 2013, when I was inducted as a builder. Todd Lewis, a television personality best known for his motor-racing and hockey expertise, filled in for me that night and did a great job.
This year’s induction, which will be held at the John Bassett Theatre, downstairs in the north building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, site of the AutoShow, will be the largest ever. A total of 17 competitors, promoters and media personalities will be honoured. Here are short bios of each, written by recent Ryerson journalism graduate Bryce Turner, nephew of late Toronto Star sportswriter Randy Starkman:
The 2020 inductees are former road racer, driver-training advocate and Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame co-founder Gary Magwood; former Formula 1 driver Allen Berg; driver and high-performance instructor Robin Buck; Canadian Snowcross Racing Association co-founder and NASCAR team owner Ed Hakonson; driver and builder Larry Caruso; Canadian Grand Prix promoter Normand Legault; and international competitor Bruno Spengler, plus journalists Len Coates, Gerald Donaldson, Dave Franks, the late Graham Jones and the late Dean McNulty, Pierre Lecours, Tim Miller, Jeff Pappone, Dan Proudfoot and Eric Tomas.
Magwood was a driving force behind the creation of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1993. His career as a race-car driver began in 1967 when he campaigned in an under 2 litre sports racer in the Canadian Championship Series. That same year he competed in a 1967 MGB in the 12 hours of Sebring before moving on to manage a Can Am Challenge Series entry for Ecurie Soucy. From 1971-74, he operated his own racing school, the first in Ontario and only the second in Canada. Magwood has also distinguished himself as a journalist, driving-school instructor, speaker, conference organizer and advocate for better driver training.
Berg is a retired professional race driver from Calgary, who qualified for nine starts in Formula One with the Italian Osella team. In 1982, he won the Tasman Formula Pacific Series in Australia and New Zealand and then entered the British Formula 3 series in 198, where he raced against Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle and finished fifth in the driver standings. In 2002, he founded Squadra Fortia, which competed in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. His experience running his own team gave him a thorough understanding of the business of racing and he has significant experience working as a driver coach and technical consultant. Berg currently owns and operates Allen Berg Racing Schools, whose home base is WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Calif.
Buck, known as the “master of Mosport,” is one of Canada’s foremost racing drivers and high-performance driving instructors. He counts more than 45 years of motorsport-related experience and over the course of his driving career captured several championships, top-three finishes and track records in karts, Formula Ford, Formula 2000, Player’s GM Series, Firestone Firehawk, Corvette Challenge, Formula Atlantic, CASCAR Super Series and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. A current driver coach for competitors in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, NASCAR Pinty’s Series, Ferrari Challenge and Radical Cup, he enjoys a stellar reputation for mentoring young drivers and helping them launch careers in motorsports.
Hakonson is the co-founder of the Canadian Snowcross Racing Association and a multi-race-winning team owner in Canadian NASCAR racing. He began racing snowmobiles in the late 1960s and recorded multiple wins in the 250cc class before being recruited by Arctic Cat and becoming one of its first factory-backed racers competing in Canada and the United States. In 1976, he took his snowmobile and completed one of the longest open-water crossings in Canada at the time, an event televised on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. In 1983, he started his own clothing company, Choko, which became an important supplier of driver-branded merchandise and allowed him to sponsor and mentor CASCAR/NASCAR Canada championship driver Peter Gibbons. A NASCAR team owner since 2001, Hakonson has been a driving force both as an owner and as a builder in the lives of numerous Canadian racers.
Caruso began his driving career in 1960 in karts and over the next three decades competed in drag, stock-car, motorcycle and road racing, one of the few drivers to compete in a wide variety of series and vehicles. As early as 1987, he found the time and energy to give back to the sport he loved by mentoring an impressive list of young talent as a driver coach and driving-school owner, and, with the Porsche Advanced Driver’s School, travelled across Canada to all major road-racing facilities — Mont Tremblant, Shannonville, Mosport, Race City and Westwood. Caruso remains active in Canadian motorsport to this day.
Legault is one of Canadian motorsports’ most important promoters. In 1981, at the age of 25, he became the youngest Formula One Grand Prix du Canada general manager — a position he held until 1983. He had already begun to negotiate successfully with the then-president of the Formula One Constructors Association, Bernie Ecclestone, a relationship that would flourish and grow over the next two and a half decades. It was Ecclestone who requested that Legault return to the Grand Prix as general manager in 1989. In 1996, he founded GPF1 and the company was granted the rights to the Montreal race, which he promoted through 2008. Legault also promoted the CART series Montreal Molson Indy in 2002, 2003 and 2005; co-promoted the Champ Car Mont-Tremblant race in 2007 and the NASCAR Busch Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007.
Spengler is an accomplished racing driver who represented Canada in European racing for more than 16 years. He began karting at the age of nine and won his first championship two years later. He moved to cars in 2001 and raced European Formula Renault. In 2002, he dominated the Fran-Am Pro Championship, earning six wins en route to earning the championship. In 2005, he made history as the first non-European to earn a seat in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Series (DTM), racing for Mercedes. His 2012 DTM title, which he earned as part of BMW Team Schnitzer, is the last major professional racing championship won by a Canadian.
Here are the 10 reporters and broadcasters who will be inducted into the hall’s new media section, announced at last year’s AutoShow. While they were introduced as new members, their actual induction was delayed until this year:
Coates started as a sports copy editor at the Toronto Telegram in the mid-1960s before becoming Canada’s first designated motorsport reporter. He also wrote for the Toronto Star, held a media-relations job at Mosport and was the founding president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. He wrote the first book on sports-car racing in Canada, “Challenge!”
Donaldson covered hundreds of Formula One Grand Prix races for multiple publications, including the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. He was also involved in broadcasting for the CBC, CTV and TSN and has written many books about F1, including biographies of Juan Manuel Fangio, James Hunt and Gilles Villeneuve.
Franks, to this day, photographs racers and racing, particularly at short tracks across Ontario and at stock-car palaces of speed like Daytona and Charlotte International Speedways. His photos have been published in newspapers and magazines including Area Auto Racing News, Speedway Scene, National Speed Sport News and Inside Track Motorsport News. Franks has been taking photos of racing for more than half a century, including many from the early days, where photos would not exist without him having taken them.
Jones moved to England to pursue his passion for motorsports and writing, working in editing roles in the 1980s for Cars and Car Conversions magazine and Autocar. He returned to Canada in 1988 to become a motorsports writer and columnist for the Toronto Star before going back to England two years later to work in automotive public relations. Jones was editor of Racecar Engineering magazine when he died in 2011.
Lecours covered motorsports for more than 30 years for Le Journal de Montréal. He introduced Villeneuve to a sponsor, which allowed Villeneuve to enter the 1976 Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, which led to his F1 career. Lecours wrote a book about the Villeneuves, titled “Gllles and Jacques, the Villeneuves and Me.”
McNulty, who died last April, covered motorsports for nearly two decades for the Toronto Sun, Sun Media and later Postmedia newspaper organizations. He was best known for his coverage of NASCAR’s national races, but also covered everything from grassroots racing to Formula One. Postmedia dropped racing coverage when McNulty retired, making him the last full-time motorsports reporter at the national level.
Miller has been a motorsports reporter and columnist for the Hamilton Spectator for the past 35 years after leaving general reporting in the late 1970s to join Wheelspin News in order to focus on racing. Miller has covered everything from local speedways to drag racing to major series like IndyCar and Formula One. Miller has written several books about racing and has periodically branched out into public relations.
Pappone has written about motorsports in Canada for the past two decades, starting at the Montreal Gazette and writing for other CanWest newspapers. He wrote about racing for the Globe and Mail for 16 years before joining Inside Track Motorsport News as its Formula One correspondent. He’s also written for IndyCar.com,
Proudfoot was the first motorsport reporter for the Globe and Mail in the early 1970s where he also covered hockey. He wrote for the Toronto Sun for years, but also for the Hamilton Spectator, Toronto Telegram and the UPI wire service. Proudfoot also won an award for a story in Toronto Life magazine about attending his first racing school.
Tomas continues to host and produce Raceline Radio, a weekly syndicated radio show that airs across Canada. Tomas has been hosting and producing the program for more than 25 years. He’s also worked as a track announcer at Merrittville and Ransomville speedways and has anchored TV racing coverage in Canada and the United States. He’s also reported from the pits for IndyCar races on ESPN and on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway radio network.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome this year’s inductees,” said Dr. Hugh Scully, chairman of the board of directors of the hall. “Each of these gentlemen has made an indelible mark on the Canadian motorsport landscape and will be recognized for their great efforts and success, both in Canada and internationally. We congratulate them all.”
This induction is a public event. You are invited. If you enjoyed watching Buck race everything from formula cars to the door-slamming stock cars or got a charge out of reading stories in the Sun by McNulty or Proudfoot or the Spec by Miller or listening to one of the great voices in the history of auto racing when Tomas lets loose on Raceline, then make plans right now to take in the AutoShow during the day on Feb. 15 and the induction ceremony that evening.
For tickets, which also include admission to the AutoShow, go to cmhf.ca. Tickets will also be available at the door of the Bassett theatre.
Norris McDonald is a former Star editor who contributes to Wheels as a freelance writer. He is an inductee of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame and a consultant for the Canadian International AutoShow.