Circuit Mont-Tremblant - F1 races in the past, racing school today
The Circuit Mont-Tremblant, located near the village Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada, about 90 miles north of Montreal, is one of three race tracks which hosted the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix (the other two are Mosport Park and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve). Mont-Tremblant was the venue of the Canadian Grand Prix two times, in 1968 and 1970.
Besides Formula 1, Mont-Tremblant was hosting the races of the USAC Championship, Can-Am Series, Trans-Am Series, Champ Car World Series, Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and other competitions. In recent years, it mostly hosted historic racing events. The owner of the circuit, since 2000, is a Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, a father of Formula One driver Lance Stroll.
Le Circuit was opened in 1964
The circuit was opened in 1964. Since Mont-Tremblant was a popular winter sports venue since the 1940s, locals wanted something to do during the spring/summer months. One of the ideas was the racing circuit. Leo Samson, a local racing enthusiast, turned an idea into reality.
The Circuit Mont-Tremblant, or simply Le Circuit, was opened in 1964 during the summer and a first race took place in August. The original race track was a 1.56-mile (2.51km) 12-turn course, featuring a combination of uphill and downhill sections, fast turns, 90-degree bends and hairpins. In 1965, the extended course was opened, 2.65 miles (4.26km) long.
The Hump took many victims through the years
One of the main features of the new circuit was a big elevation change on the back straight, known as The Hump. The jumps and airbornes became the regular situations, so many drivers compared a circuit with the Nürburgring.
The Hump took its first victims during the practice for the inaugural Can-Am Series race in September 1966. Two Lola T70 cars went airborne and they were severely damaged, fortunately, the drivers were unharmed. The winner of the inaugural Can-Am race was the champion John Surtees with Lola T70 (Chevrolet).
Many different series took place at Mont-Tremblant
In 1967 and 1968, the USAC Championship had two double-header events at Mont-Tremblant. Mario Andretti was the winner in all four races, driving the Brawner Hawk (Ford). Many other North American competitions visited Mont-Tremblant during the late 1960s and the 1970s, such as Trans-Am Series, SCCA US Road Racing Championship, Formula 5000 or Atlantic Championship.
Canadian Grand Prix – wins for Denny Hulme and Jacky Ickx
In September 1968, Formula One came for the first time to the Circuit Mont-Tremblant. The 90-lap race was won by McLaren driver Denny Hulme after starting from the sixth position. His teammate Bruce McLaren finished second and BRM driver Pedro Rodriguez finished in third place.
This race was the 10th round of the 1968 championship season and all the attention was on four title contenders: Graham Hill, Jacky Ickx, Jackie Stewart and Denny Hulme. During qualifying, Jacky Ickx’s hopes of winning the world’s title ended, when he crashed his Ferrari 312 after the throttle stuck open. As a result, Ickx suffered a broken leg. Two years later, Jacky Ickx won the 90-lap race for Ferrari, ahead of his teammate Clay Regazzoni. Chris Amon (March) completed the podium.
Drop from the F1 glory to the level of local racing
Formula One didn’t return to Mont-Tremblant after 1970. One of the main reasons was the inappropriate bumpy surface that was too dangerous for high-powered and fast Formula One machines. The competitions which took place at Mont-Tremblant in the next couple of years were marked by severe accidents, for instance, Brian Redman‘s big crash during the 1977 Can-Am race, which forced him to leave racing for almost a year.
During the 1980s and the 1990s, the circuit was demoted to the level of local racing, with a few ownership changes. Then, in 2000, the circuit was purchased by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, a Montreal fashion mogul who had connections with Formula One because he was one of the sponsors of Lotus in the 1990s.
Lawrence Stroll gave a new life to Mont-Tremblant
Stroll hired Alan L. Wilson, a famous South African designer of race tracks, to redevelop the circuit according to modern FIA standards. He wanted to preserve the essential character of the course. The extensive makeover lasted until 2002. The complete 15-turn track was widened, run-off areas were created around the course, high-speed Turn 1 was reconstructed with an optional chicane and, the most important, The Hump was lowered.
The length of the circuit is 2.647 miles (4.260 km) and it can be divided into two separate courses, North Circuit (1.529 miles) and South Circuit (1.187 miles) because one more pit lane/paddock area was constructed.
Grand-Am Rolex and Champ Car was the last major series
After a re-opening in 2002, the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series was the first major competition that visited Mont-Tremblant. The 6-hour race was the penultimate round of the championship and Doran Lista Racing’s Dallara LMP-Judd took the victory. A year later, again in September, Brumos Racing’s Fabcar-Porsche was the victorious car. In 2004 and 2005, the race was held in May.
In 2007, the Champ Car World Series came to Mont-Tremblant. After the unification of two competitions into the IndyCar Series in 2008, there was no place on the calendar for Mont-Tremblant.
The Dutchman Robert Doornbos remained the only Champ Car winner at Mont-Tremblant, driving Panoz (Cosworth) for Minardi Team USA. It was the first win for Doornbos. Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power completed the podium. In that race, the fastest lap time was set. Tristan Gommendy earned a pole position with a time 1.16.776.
Home of the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School
In recent years, only national or local events are taking place at Mont-Tremblant but the circuit is mostly known as a home for the famous Jim Russell Racing Drivers School.
During the year, mostly cars from the past are running on the Mont-Tremblant’s circuit, because main events on the calendar are Spring Classic, Summer Classic and Fall Classic. In 2016, one of the events was the 50th anniversary of the Can-Am Series.
Address: Circuit Mont Tremblant, P.O. Box 2610, Station B Mont Tremblant, Quebec J8E 1B1, Canada
Phone: +1 819 425 6363
Official website: www.lecircuit.com