Canada’s motorsport scene is booming … with no signs of slowing down.
Though its origins can be traced back to the later decades of the 19th century, auto racing hasn’t always been classed as a premier sporting event in Canada. You could argue it took the advent of the annually staged Canadian Grand Prix for motorsport to begin stoking broader interest across the Great White North. You wouldn’t be wrong, either.
As the single largest annual sporting competition held on Canadian soil, and one of the most popular circuits of the Grand Prix in its high-octane entirety, Montreal’s historically celebrated Formula One showdown has long played a critical role in magnifying Canada’s motorsport scene on the world stage.
“This is the first race on the North American continent each year and the unofficial commencement of summer,” explains François Dumontier, Formula One Grand Prix du Canada’s President and CEO. “People not only embrace it, but welcome it.”
The Canadian Grand Prix generates a considerable reputational gain for Montreal and it’s seen as a tremendous boom for the local economy. And ever since the darling of Quebecois motor racing aficionados, the iconic Gilles Villeneuve, scored his storybook win on what was then called the Circuit Île Notre Dame, it’s become deeply ingrained as part of the city’s vibrant personality.
Dumontier actually identifies Villeneuve’s 1978 victory as the turning point for motorsport in Canada. “People really started rooting for the hometown hero afterwards,” he reveals. “Even now, fans stop us to say they were there with their fathers, and can remember seeing snowflakes when Gilles was presented with his trophy.”
Still, despite the Canadian Grand Prix’s enduring prominence and the triumphs achieved at elite international levels by legends like Villeneuve, Canadian racers remain something of a rarity on the major international circuits.
The recently announced partnership between sports betting platform SportPesa and the Racing Point Formula One team hope to rectify that. By expanding Canadian opportunities at the highest echelons of racing, the new SportPesa Racing Point F1 squadron is determined to prove they understand the importance of Canada in motorsport. They further believe they can elevate it to more pronounced global prestige through an injection of funds, aerodynamic upgrades and ambitious performance targets.
Heavily backed by a billionaire-led Canadian consortium and with one of the most promising drivers emerging in the sport behind the wheel, Canada’s own Lance Stroll, the rejuvenated outfit (formerly known as Force India) is the first to launch a Formula 1 car in Canada, throwing down the gauntlet at the biggest names in the sport, as well as sending the message that a Canadian team is capable of pulling itself closer to Formula One’s big three: Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
As Dumontier looks ahead to the Canadian Grand Prix’s fast-approaching 56th edition, where SportPesa Racing Point F1 will compete as the sole Canadian team in the run, the significance of the endeavour isn’t lost on him.
“This is a game-changer. Lance has already managed to step on the podium and qualify on the first line of the grid. Now that he’s able to drive a better car, we can only expect great things.”