The Canadian Grand Prix at le Circuit Gilles Villeneuve adjacent to downtown Montréal is a favourite for many people. We were all disgusted and distraught when the race was axed for 2009 and were equally delighted to see it return to the Formula 1 calendar this year. And it’s a pleasure to report that the race has rebounded in fine fashion, healthier than ever with a massive crowd all weekend. In fact, the place was sold out by the middle of last week with 300,000 paying spectators streaming through the gates and jamming the grandstands over three days.
Francois Dumontier is president of the Canadian GP, replacing long-time former promoter Normand Legault. Following Sunday’s resounding McLaren 1-2 sweep Dumontier said he could not have been more pleased with the perfect weather and huge crowds. He was delighted to see the revived race pull a larger percentage than ever of fans from around the world.
“This year we had more people coming from Europe and the States than in the past,” said Dumontier. “I would say 40 per cent of our crowd is coming from outside Quebec. It’s pretty amazing and I don’t really have an explanation for that. The Euro is struggling and the US dollar also, but the people are still coming. For the tourism business and our business community this is really good, because it’s new dollars coming into town.
“This is a result of a great package we provide in Montréal,” he added, “which is both the appeal of the track and attractiveness of the city. People enjoy staying in the city and dining in Montréal’s many great restaurants just as much as they love the setting and the race track on Ile Notre Dame.”
The track surface on the island remains abrasive and to get the best from their tyres the drivers had to work for their living last Sunday. But there were no problems with the track coming apart as there have been in the past. Dumontier was pleased the new paving worked.
“This is the same recipe that’s been used at Bahrain and Abu Dhabi,” he said. “They’ve also used it at the Nürburgring and we imported it here. We worked closely with our people here in Quebec and adapted the paving for our weather and climate requirements, and on Friday morning after the first session I went out on track just to make sure everything was holding up, and it was.”
I am one of many thousands who enjoyed the return of F1 to Montréal. It was a great pleasure to see the enthusiasm for the racing and it’s worth pointing out that the Canadian GP is now by far the largest road-racing event in North America, and is beginning to challenge the Daytona and Indianapolis 500s for the title of North America’s biggest motor race.
Of course, many people have high hopes for the revival of F1 in the US. Will it happen successfully in Austin, Texas? Austin promoter Tavo Helmund will be at Silverstone next month for the British GP where it’s said he will explain his plans to bring F1 back to America.
“We hope to create the same enthusiasm in Austin as we have here in Montréal,” said Bernie Ecclestone last weekend. That’s a tall order, but race fans across the US hope Helmund and Ecclestone will succeed in the Texas capital. If the Canadians can do it so well, why can’t America?