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Can-Am: Born with a Bang

Submitted by on September 4, 2009

CanAm_005Pay attention Can-Am fans: here’s a superb film from the inaugural event in the Canadian-American Challenge for Group 7 monsters.

History was made on September 11 1966 at the fearsome, undulating road course of Mont Tremblant in St Jovite near the Canadian city of Montreal when many of the world’s greatest single-seater and sportscar stars lined up to do battle in mighty, Chevrolet V8-powered sledges built by great British constructors like McLaren and Lola. The grid was littered with top names: John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon, Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones. Scanning the entry list and the calendar for the six-race series, it’s easy to understand how Can-Am quickly became one of the biggest, fastest and most popular championships of the era.3495380070_9bf3d5ce46_oThe colour film, running to 10 minutes, and narrated with typical American enthusiasm, begins by building the atmosphere – with the help of numerous glamorous female racegoers! – and setting the scene for Can-Am’s curtain-raiser. An extra treat before the 75-lap race gets underway is an on-board lap with US sportscar star Masten Gregory (still the last man to win the Le Mans 24 Hours in a Ferrari incidentally) in his road car. The bespectacled American drives slowly, pointing out speeds, racing lines and (numerous) hazards on the way. How Chris Amon could have averaged 100mph around the 2.8-mile circuit in his McLaren racecar is a mystery.

I won’t spoil it for you by revealing what happened in the race. Crank up the volume, sit back and hang on to your desk. The Can-Am phenomenon is born with a bang!malcolminstjovite600x42xn2The series moved to Bridgehampton in New York State a week later, where the circus was joined by Texan racer/engineer Jim Hall’s recently completed and extraordinary Chaparral 2Fs for Hall and former F1 world champion Phil Hill to give the Lolas and McLarens a fright. Deep joy!

Henry Hope-Frost

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Images: classicracingphotos.comKennethBartonMotorsport

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