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1967 Mt Tremblant 4-Hour race, May 21 1967

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Jon Mello:
[An English-language translation of the V8 Passion article shown above courtesy of Craig Wheeldon. Thank you, Craig!]

The History of Trans-Am Racing at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant in St-Jovite, Quebec from 1967 to 1971

In the mountains

The Trans-Am Series gave Canadians the chance to be part of the birth, evolution and development of the pony car. It gives us pleasure to present to you some of the most beautiful cars that were built, driven and owned by Canadians, at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant in the late 1960s/ early 1970s.

Caption P. 28 - The Camaro that won the invitational non-championship race in 1967 was piloted by Dick Guldstrand and Tom Payne. It was prepared and sponsored by Dana Chevrolet. This was the first Camaro to win a race in the TA series, as well at St-Jovite. Shown here is the Yenko Sports Car entry of Dick Thompson and Don Yenko. Yenko was well known in Chevrolet performance circles.

In 1966, the Sports Car Club of America took steps to set up the Trans-American Sedan Series, which will quickly became known as the Trans-Am Championship. This series raced on American tracks with a few detours to Canada.

From 1966 until 1969 races were held to three hour limits with two distinct categories. The first group represented sedans of 2-liters or less engine capacity and the second group of cars were from 2 to 5 liters. The second group are the type of cars this article will focus on. Throughout the series from 1966 to 1972, cars and rules were modified somewhat, but remained with the original idea to promote the pony car class for which the manufacturers saw a very big potential. These cars were powerful, medium sized and priced affordably for the common man.

At first, the media interest for the Trans-Am amounted to only a few lines in specialty magazines. Media attention grew later, when manufacturers became interested in gaining publicity while their cars ran throughout North America. It was then that the official teams, supported by the manufacturers, began to participate. By having the financial means, the manufacturers hired experts to form teams that could win the championship. The saying at the time was: "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday."

Entry to the race

The first to become involved in the manufacturers’ official racing adventures was Ford supporter Carroll Shelby, who designed the famous Cobra and Mustang GT 350, since it was a logical extension for him to prepare Mustangs as well. Shelby also built and sold cars to private teams while representing Ford from 1966 to 1969, before Bud Moore took over from 1969 to 1972. Competitors following this lead included Roger Penske for Chevrolet from 1967 to 1969 until Jim Hall (Chaparral) took over for Chevrolet in 1970, Ronnie Kaplan for Javelin (American Motors) in 1968 and 1969, who was followed in Javelin preparation by Roger Penske from 1970 to 1972. Pontiac was supported by Jerry Titus’ team of Firebirds from 1968 to 1970, and finally Chrysler actually had two teams in 1970: one formed by Dan Gurney (All American Racers) and the other by Ray Caldwell (Autodynamics Corp. ). These teams represented the best builders of chassis, engines and suspensions at the time and were combined with renowned drivers such as Parnelli Jones, George Follmer, Mark Donohue, Peter Revson and many others.

Without going into all the details concerning the rules for the cars, there were many changes required to accept the participation of certain brands. The basis for the rules, however, was a sedan with a minimum production of 1000 vehicles that had a wheelbase of 116 inches, a 22 gallon fuel tank and an engine cylinder capacity not exceeding 5000cc (5 liters), while maintaining a minimum weight of 2900 pounds, excluding driver and fuel .

We could go into much more detail about the specifications of cars and the regulations to allow entry for some of them...

Further north

To our delight, this series was run in Quebec five times at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant and twice at Sanair. At its first appearance, there was an "invitation to the series" (non-championship race). For this occasion there were a number of participants who were thrilled with the atmosphere and the track itself. The race was won by the team of Dick Guldstrand and Tom Payne. Payne was familiar with the circuit because he had participated during 1965 and 1966 in international races while driving a Shelby American factory Cobra. The winners were driving a Camaro prepared and sponsored by Dana Chevrolet, for whom Guldstrand was employed as Manager of their Performance Division.

Caption P. 29 top right - Gordon Dewar from Ontario always had very nice cars. Here, he’s driving his Trans-Am Camaro in 1970. He had previously owned a factory Javelin that he had bought from Ronnie Kaplan.

Caption P. 29 top left - One of the cars prepared by John Todd of Montreal was driven by Derek Johnson and sponsored by the Snyder Automobiles Chevrolet dealer. This car won the Canadian championship.

Caption P. 29 middle left – The Camaro of Mark Donohue accelerates from the pits at Mont Tremblant. This car won the race in 1969.

Caption P. 29 bottom left - The second Penske team car driven by Ronnie Bucknum.

Caption P. 30 top - In 1970, John Todd changed car color and Jacques Duval drove the Camaro for a test at Mont Tremblant. Craig Fisher drove the car later.

In 1968, the official arrival of the series at Mont Tremblant included the participation of factory teams entered by Roger Penske (Sunoco Camaro), Carroll Shelby (Shelby Mustang) and Ronnie Kaplan (Javelin), combined with private American entries.

The race was won by Mark Donohue and the Penske team, followed by George Follmer, who was part of the Javelin team at the time. To complete the podium, there was the second Penske team car driven by Sam Posey. The surprise of the weekend was the fourth-place finish by Canadian driver Craig Fisher, who was driving a brand new Firebird built by Terry Godsall of Toronto and owned by Robert Gagnon of Montreal. Robert Gagnon was an active owner with several cars in his possession, including a Shelby Mustang that had finished sixth at Sebring, having been driven by Quebec drivers Favreau, Amyot and Samson. Gagnon bought the 1968 Sebring-winning Camaro from Roger Penske and owned a Nova as well as the famous Firebird that finished fourth at Mont-Tremblant.

Caption P. 30 bottom left - This Camaro was originally a Titus / Godsall factory Firebird, that Richard Brown used to win at Trois-Rivieres (Three Rivers) when race organizers held a race for the fastest sedans in Canada called the Coupe du Maire (Mayor’s Cup). He ran several times in Trans-Am with this car. Richard became a member of the TODCO team later.

Caption P. 30 bottom right - Maurice (Mo) Carter was one of our best representatives on Canadian Trans-Am circuits. He was sixth at Mont Tremblant in 1970, driving his Camaro. In 1971, he bought one of the Chaparral factory Camaros from Jim Hall.

1969, the year ...

The 1969 series brought interesting new local elements. First, as a quick summary, note that there was already a preview to the 1970 season, due to the strong presence of manufacturers. Chevrolet was represented by Roger Penske with 2 cars, including the Camaro of Mark Donohue. There would be two teams from Ford, one each from Shelby and Bud Moore Engineering with 2 cars per team, two factory Javelins and a new team named Trans-Am with 2 cars. General Motors had asked SCCA for permission to use the name Trans-Am on the new Pontiac Firebird. The cars were built by Jerry Titus, formerly a driver for Shelby, and funded by Terry Godsall of Toronto.

Local participation included 12 highly seasoned Canadian participants in the class for 2 liters or less, and 7 in the class for up to 5 liters. Among these was Maurice (Mo) Carter of Toronto, a competitor who had run on a number of occasions in Quebec , Dick Brown, who was driving a Trans-Am Firebird recently acquired by Robert Gagnon from the Titus / Godsall Racing Team, Jean- Guy Roy of Shawinigan who was driving for Gelinas Automobiles and Larry Gilbride, who had bought the (ex Penske) Camaro from Robert Gagnon, not to mention Leon Alain who, with friends, had modified a Camaro that had appeared in many races. Between 1969 and 1972, Alain and Roy had both participated in many Trans-Am races in Canada and the United States. The team to beat from Quebec was undoubtedly that of John Todd (TODCO Racing Team) who could be proud to have built several cars, mainly Camaros, for the series which gave nothing away to the American teams. Based in Montreal, John Todd prepared a car for Craig Fisher that had been involved in a lot of Trans-Am races, and another for Derek Johnson, who participated in the Canadian Sedan Championship as well as the east coast Trans-Am races.

Canadian Preparation

The TODCO cars’ preparation and detail were exceptional and results were quickly apparent. Johnson competed in the Canadian Championship while Fisher had good results in the U.S. The best example in 1969 was a fourth and sixth position for the two TODCO Racing drivers at Watkins Glen, two weeks after Mont Tremblant, despite fierce competition from top teams. Unfortunately for the Mont Tremblant race, after suffering an engine failure, George Follmer , driving a factory Mustang, dropped oil on the track during the opening laps. This resulted in a monster pile-up, eliminating both Mustangs from each of the two official teams and additional private entries. Donohue’s Camaro was the winner, followed the Firebird of Jerry Titus and Donohue’s teammate, Ed Leslie. Canadian Carter finished sixth, Jean-Guy Roy 12th, while the other Quebec representatives had their own share of trouble.

Caption P. 31 top - In 1972, Jean-Guy Roy finished ninth at Lime Rock in Connecticut at the wheel of this car.

Caption P. 31 center right - Jean-Guy Roy was the star of the Mauricie region of Quebec. When he was younger, he had been part of a musical group, and the Shawinigan driver made the local series his own. Between 1969 and 1972, he participated in many Trans-Am races.

Caption P. 31 bottom right - This was the 14th Z28 Camaro to come from the factory in December 1966. It was prepared by Doug Duncan at Gorries Chevrolet for Craig Fisher. The car finished second in the Daytona Trans-Am in 1967.

Caption P. 32 top - Bob Grossman had long been a sports car competitor, participating in endurance races at the wheel of Ferrari for the NART Team. He also succumbed to the lure of a pony car, driving a Camaro.

Caption P. 32 bottom - The TODCO Racing Team Camaro, driven by Dick Brown in 1971 at Mont Tremblant. This car was called the most beautiful car in the series with its rainbow colors! In 1972 the car was repainted blue and sponsored by Sunoco Canada, still prepared by John Todd and owned by Don Duncan.

Constructors in force

Next would be the decisive year of the Trans-Am! In 1970, all U.S. manufacturers were represented with two cars each for Mustang, Camaro, Javelin, Firebird, Cuda and Challenger, not to mention private participants. This was the first year with separate championship classes, having 2 liters or less in one race and up to 5 liters in another. There were 37 participants in the 5 liter category race. Imagine the start at Mont Tremblant, with 37 pony cars at Turn 1 going into the following descent; quite a sight to see and hear! The result was a third victory in the series for Mark Donohue, but this time driving a Javelin (Penske had changed to American Motors with a 3-year contract), followed by the 2 Mustangs of Follmer and Jones. Among the Canadian participants, Mo Carter of Toronto finished in sixth place for a second year, and Jean-Guy Roy was 10th. Francois Guertin, the brother of the owner of the Sanair racetrack and driving the Camaro which formerly belonged to Gagnon and Penske, was 14th in his first Trans-Am experience, while Normand Perron, who drove the old car of Leon Alain, finished 18th. Dick Brown made a good start but did not finish the race, having taken possession of the old Robert Gagnon Firebird, which he turned into a Camaro to cut costs by installing Chevrolet mechanicals. The Montreal-based TODCO team of John Todd had built and prepared a new- for- 1970 version Firebird for Derek Johnson, which didn’t do well in the standings due to lack of development for the vehicle. The Camaro driven by Johnson the previous year was given to Jacques Duval, who finished in 17th place. There are fond memories of this weekend, which included two Trans-Am races, a Formula 5000 (Formula cars with 5 liter engines) and another for Formula B, which was the equivalent of Formula Atlantic.

Final laps and then gone ...

1971 was the last year at Mont Tremblant for the Trans-Am series. In fact, the series had lost some of its luster as the factories all quit, except American Motors with Mark Donohue who had the challenge of winning the Championship at all costs. Many factory cars had been sold to private owners, including Mo Carter of Toronto who bought a Jim Hall Chaparral Camaro. The race was less exciting because the Javelin’s main competition, the Mustangs of George Follmer and Peter Gregg, were not backed by Ford, with predictable results. Among the favorites from Quebec, Francois Guertin was our best representative in 9th place, Jean-Guy Roy was 12th and Leon Alain, having bought his old car, finished 17th. John Todd used magic to turn his 1970 Firebird into a Camaro which he entrusted to Dick Brown without very good results for the race. In 1972, the TODCO car was repainted blue, sponsored by Sunoco Canada and had success in Trans-Am racing. During the 1971 race at Mont Tremblant, the TODCO Camaro was called the most beautiful car in the series due to its rainbow colors!

Today, many of these cars are sought by collectors to restore in the style of the period. Quebec is rich in stories of beautiful cars that belonged to Quebecers and other Canadians, such as Cobras, Mustang GT 350Rs, the factory Corvette Grand Sport 004, cars from the Can-Am series, as well as the famous Trans-Am cars already mentioned.

N.B. The Trans-Am Series was back at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant in 1977 and 1978 under new rules for sports cars and sedans.

Our thanks to: Dominic St-Jean and the website www.autocourse.ca.

Caption P. 33 top - This was the TODCO Racing car driven by Craig Fisher. Craig finished fourth at Watkins Glen in 1969 and obtained very good results in the United States.

Caption P. 33 middle - Leon Alain, who modified, prepared and drove his Camaro from 1968 to 1972 in regional races, also participated in Trans-Am series races in Canada and the United States. He was a valiant competitor, who didn’t have the financial resources of the top teams but managed to run with them.

Caption P. 33 bottom - Francois Guertin did very well in Trans-Am driving this Camaro, formerly owned by Roger Penske. Francois made a few trips to the U.S. and represented Canadians well with good results, especially when one considers the strong American competition.

Many thanks Craig, and Jon, for posting this info - sure brings back some memories.

This track was/is one of the most challenging race tracks you will find anywhere.  I urge all those who are able, to do a track day, or take your race car there.

 That run down the front slightly downhill straight, then the dip, and up over the hump (full-tilt boogie at 120 mph plus), and then down that steep incline, then flattening out quickly for the turn 2 righthander under compression and heavy steering (remember, no ps in those days), before setting up for the turn 3 lefthander, will test anyone. That combination was the key to getting down the following straight. I never had much luck there - exhaust fumes in 70, flat tire in 71, and a very tired street engine in 77, but enjoyed every minute there - actually qualified there in 71 with a time that would have put me on the front row in 67!  The track is in a very picturesque part of "la belle provence".

Robert Barg


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