By Barett Poley
Toronto, Ontario — February 20, 2017 — Is there anything that represents passion, heat, drive and motivation better than a Grand Prix car? Elementally speaking, it’s nothing more than some metal and plastic, fueled by a big-block heart and steered by a relatively small and fragile human being. But on a metaphysical level, a Grand Prix car is much, much more than that.
It is the human element which adds, or perhaps awakens, such danger, intrigue, and exuberance in the Grand Prix car and it’s precisely this human element which is made the focus of the “50 Years of Grand Prix Racing in Canada” exhibit at this year’s Canadian International AutoShow. It is a celebration not just of the cars themselves which are featured in the flesh, but a celebration of the humans that made it all possible.
A Grand Prix car can make hundreds gather to see milliseconds of action at a time, engines roaring at decibels that hurt our ears, flying past us, those hunks of metal, at hundreds of kilometers an hour, just metres away from the flimsy protective barriers that separate the crowds from the cars. A Grand Prix car can carry the hopes and aspirations of a man from being dreams into being legendary truths. A Grand Prix car can awaken in anyone the lust for speed and all of the wonderful terrible things that come with it.
The exhibit is invigorating and energizing to even the most jaded automobile enthusiast, offering a wealth of history from the Parnelli-sponsored automobile driven by Mario Andretti to the classic Grand Prix voice-overs. There’s also a focus on the people that made it happen, from the the drivers themselves to the hard-working pit crews.
The biggest draw of the 50 Years of Grand Prix Racing in Canada exhibit may be the 1997 Williams FW19 that Jacques Villeneuve drove in the 1997 European Grand Prix in Spain. It’s the same car that won him a Grand Prix Champion title. It was the first time and so far the only time it’s been awarded to a Canadian. This is the first time the car has been in North America since that 1997 season. Villeneuve’s car still bears the tire mark from where Michael Schumacher tried to run him off the track in that final race.