Roger Hamel of the Austin Healey Club du Quebec called and asked a simple question, would I like to join them for the Canadian Grand Prix F1 Pilot’s Parade. As an F1 fan, I’ve been to a few different races, but like a bunch of potted plants being delivered, the driver introductions have typically consisted of everyone being thrown on the back of a flatbed truck and shown all at once. Not so in Canada.
For the past 13 years, the club has provided as many Big Healeys as required to give each F1 driver his own chauffeured ride around before the race. It gives the crowd a chance to see their favorite driver on his own. It also gives 20 or so club members a unique opportunity to be part of motor racing’s greatest spectacle. No offense to my fellow Americans, but what Indianapolis does once per year in the US, F1 does every other weekend around the world throughout the spring and summer.
Traveling to Canada feels a little more international than it once did. Have your passport ready. And contrary to stories we sometimes see on the web, French Canadians are universally friendly, welcoming, and speak better English than I do – although that last bit isn’t saying much. As part of the lead up to the race, Roger took us on a tour of Montreal. My assignment was to drive the second of two family cars with another of his guests on board. Having no clue as to where we were, or how to get my recalcitrant phone to download GPS maps, I stuck to Roger’s bumper like glue.
The old section of Montreal consists of cobblestone streets and cafes. Although it was relatively quiet mid afternoon, no doubt the joint gets to jumpin’ come evening. The real highlight for me though was Schwartz’s old time deli. Like a Labrador let loose in the pantry, I could have eaten smoked meat sandwiches and pickles until I exploded. It was that good and then some. About the last thing I expected to see in Montreal was a Jewish deli, so what an incredibly welcome surprise. As one might expect in a french speaking region, all the food throughout the trip was superb.
Sunday morning, race day, we headed out early, had breakfast (naturally), and organized ourselves for the drive into the track, which is to say Roger rode heard on us cats. Who got which F1 Pilot was determined by drawing lots. My pick was Daniel Ricciardo, a young Australian driver from Perth, on the Scuderia Toro Rosso team. He proved very friendly and communicative in the car, although there wasn’t time to get the full run down on how one travels from the west coast of Australia to the height of auto racing in Europe. Hard work is no doubt a very large contributor to the process.
The actual drive around was amazing. Imagine having more cameras pointed at you in a ten minute span, than in the entire rest of your life combined. For more about the adventure, and what it’s like to be part of the show, watch for my column in the next issue of Moss Motoring.