After staging a very successful public race at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, you’d think that our local karting club, the Ottawa-Hull Kart and Recreation Club (OHKRC) would be getting ready to accept a flood of new members.
We’d had a full house of spectators, the racing had been terrific, and we passed out all of our information brochures (well, all but one, which I still have today…)
But instead, things were getting complicated.
- There was still no local track on which we could race since the owners of Capital City had converted the speedway to a dirt track.
- As a result, club members were traveling to other cities to go racing, not always as a group and the club atmosphere was beginning to erode.
- And we were about to find out about a new organization in town, populated by some of our own club-mates, who were starting to think that things should be run somewhat differently.
But I wasn’t thinking about all that. At a very young 21 years of age, I took life as it happened and didn’t think any deeper than I could see. And I wasn’t alone in missing the signs that things were starting to unravel in the Ottawa club.
Ste Leonard, Montreal – Ste Leonard race data sheet
Instead, I was getting ready to travel to St. Leonard in Montreal, Quebec, for a parking lot race hosted by the Montreal club. The Quebec region was very serious indeed about their kart racing. Their clubs were affiliated with the Canadian Automobile Sports Clubs (CASC), formerly the Canadian arm of the FIA (now it’s the ASN Canada) which oversaw most motor racing worldwide including Formula 1.
We arrived in Ste Leonard on a warm sunny Sunday in July to be greeted by throngs of Quebec-based karters for one of the biggest races I’d ever been to. In practice, I found the track rather slippy. Also, tires marked out the course, which is never a favorite of mine because if you hit one… well, who knows where you end up.
Starting behind 19 other entries in the first heat, I stalled on the pace lap trying to let the pack catch up to me. AWK-ward…!
Then in the second race, I RAN OUT OF FUEL after seven laps. Things were not going very well so far.
But in the third heat, I worked my way from 19th to third by the ninth lap! …and then my throttle cable snapped. Ugh…
Thoroughly incensed at my bad luck, I immediately found the throttle linkage on the carburetor with my hand and finished the race with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the engine operating the throttle. At least that was something to be a bit proud of.
When they announced the overall finishing positions, I was classified fourth. After all the troubles I’d had, I couldn’t believe I’d finished that high (and neither could some others), but the officials were adamant that it was correct. So I quit arguing…
Mont-Ste Hilaire, Montreal
A week or so later, some of our club members visited Mont-Ste Hilaire, just east of Montreal close to Riviere Richelieu. I didn’t go, but Jon Snadden reported that the track was quite bumpy. Nevertheless everyone seemed to have had a good race and, again, they were warmly welcomed by the locals.
Back in Ottawa, I started to hear about an organization called Share 50/74. As I quickly learned, this was the company that owned the land on which our new track was to be built.
The news caused a bit of a stir among OHKRC members because many of us had the mistaken impression that it was the club and the club members who owned the land. After all, it had been the club who held raffles and events to raise money to build the track.
Now, some club members were asking what happened to that money and some were not very happy with these revelations. In addition, we also learned that Share 50/74 was largely made up of some of our fellow club members who were now offering to sell shares in the company to help finance completion of the track.
The price to play was $500, about the same as I’d bought my kart and engine for, and rifts were beginning to appear.
Ste Rosalie, Quebec – Saint Rosalie race data sheet
Leaving behind controversy for the weekend, I went alone to the next race at St. Rosalie, Quebec (annexed by Saint-Hyacinthe in 2002 so you won’t see it on a map anymore).
Want to own prints of these pictures? Check out our gallery.
Although a bit narrow, the track was nice and smooth with a long straight and banked corners on the backside of the course. There were two classes being run: the 100cc McCulloch class (mine) and a class for either national or international spec engines (I don’t remember which but likely national).
My main competition for the race win was a fellow we’d met earlier — Richard Fugère. I didn’t have the correct gear for this long straightaway and though I was quicker through the twisty section, Richard had the legs of me on the straight and would gain about a kart length on me each time. But I could quickly catch him again in the turns and stayed very close to his bumper.
We ran like we were chained together for most of the race and, on the second last corner, he spun. I braked too hard and nearly let him recover and take the race, but I squeaked it out and took the flag first.
In the second heat, he didn’t make the same mistake and I finished second, right behind him.
In the third heat I started from pole but didn’t get a good start. While chasing him again, I crested the small hill on the back straight and the chain flexed off the gear when I landed. I retired and he won the third heat.
Overall I got second place for the day. My consolation was that we broke the lap record in Sunday morning practice by a very small margin, if Niki’s hand on my stopwatch was correct.
Meanwhile back in Ottawa, I received an invitation from Share 50/74 to buy shares in the company.
Before I bought in, they shared a plan whereby a group of shareholders would be asked to take out individual bank loans for $1,200 and collectively pay to pave the track. For a 21-year old just recently out of college, $1200 was not a small amount of money. I could have bought two racing karts with that money or it would have paid half the loan on my (used) Dodge van.
But after some thought, Niki and I proceeded to join because I was interested in helping get our Ottawa track finished and this looked it would be the only way to do it. Raffles and Euchre nights only brought in so much money.
Jon, Fred Zufelt, Dave Elliott, Paul Joinette, Al McRory, me, and others were part of the group who borrowed the money.
For the rest of the summer, Paul worked with the pavers at the Quyon site to complete the track and get it ready for racing. Early in September we got the word that it was done and we just had to wait a few weeks to let the pavement cure before racing on it…
But if the emergence of Share 50/74 had helped to sow the seed of division, the forthcoming attempt by the OHKRC to hold their 1977 championship in the few weeks remaining in the Canadian autumn would fray nerves to the breaking point.