1969 Canadian Grand Prix flashback

Posted on | Author Andrew Tsvyk

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