The Leyton House team has rather been in the doldrums this season, a factor which has seen its two drivers, Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin, drift from the front half of the grid in 1988 to scrambling for qualifying in 1990. In fact at the time of going to press, after the Canadian Grand Prix, the team had yet to score any points and on a couple of occasions both drivers had even failed to qualify, the low point being in Brazil where neither made it to the grid. The arrival of the Ilmor engine for the team’s exclusive use cannot come quick enough.
Whether Canada marked a turning point is difficult to say. Only Capelli managed to qualify, and that at the back of the grid, but at least he was able to chalk up his first finish of the season.
I definitely had a feeling of great satisfaction at the end of the Canadian Grand Prix. It was the first time for a while that I had seen the chequered flag at the end of a race which is a step in the right direction for the Leyton House team.
I had forgotten how tiring a Grand Prix can be, though, or at least a Grand Prix on a track like Montreal which, even at the best of times, is tough on the driver. And this was not the best of times for me or anyone else.
We all had one of those difficult situations where the track was neither wet nor dry. There had been a shower before the start but it was soon pretty obvious that the fat tyres on our cars would quickly dry the racing line out. I came in to change to ‘slick’ dry weather tyres after 13 laps.
That was an improvement — so long as you stayed on the racing line. Elsewhere, the water was still lying on the ground and if you got onto that with smooth tyres, it was like walking on ice with leather soles. Very difficult, but I have to admit I would prefer that to constant rain because the water does not drain away on the surface at Montreal; it really is a dangerous situation for the drivers as the cars are already unstable because of the many bumps on this circuit.
Apart form that, though, it is an enjoyable track from a driver’s point of view and it is also a pleasant place to be. The circuit is situated on a man-made island in the middle of the St Lawrence seaway. It was built originally for Expo ’67 and then they made a lake on it for the rowing competitions at the 1976 Olympics. After that they couldn’t think what to do with the island — so they built the race track! It’s a very pleasant situation and the paddock is right beside the rowing lake.
Each year the mechanics have a race across the lake in home-made boats. It’s a fun event with each team supposedly building their craft out of bits on hand in their pit. One year the Lotus team converted a portable toilet and rowed across in that!
Last year Leyton House were disqualified for using an engine in their boat — I thought it showed some good initiative — so imagine our surprise when Ferrari won this year with a boat they had specially made back at their factory in Italy! And it had an engine as well!! Not quite the spirit of the event, but still the fun is taking part. For me the real fun in Canada came as I took the chequered flag rough.