…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

St Jovite, Canada

I recently joined a few friends in a quiet corner of F1 paradise that used to be called St Jovite

Part One: “It’s idyllic…”

Part Two: “It was that sort of circuit…”

Peter Ryan scrapbook

Although Peter raced  for Canada on snow and Tarmac, he was actually an American citizen

Peter’s smudged caption says it all.  John was tragically killed at the Garmisch downhill in 1959

No doubt about Peter’s national loyalties when he raced the Porsche Spyder

Stirling Moss struck trouble with third gear and a damaged radiator at Mosport in 1961, but Peter Ryan was right up there with him in a similar car (Lotus 19).  Peter won the race – the September 30 Canadian Grand Prix for the Pepsi Cola Trophy.  Note maple leaf logo on the door

Having caught the attention of Colin Chapman, Peter was invited to race a third works Lotus 18/21 (to be entered by J Wheeler Autosport)  in the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen the following week.  He qualified on the seventh row (ahead of such names as Olivier Gendebien, Roger Penske and Jim Hall) and finished an excellent ninth.  Peter moved to Europe for 1962 but was killed in a Formula Junior slipstream race at Reims when his Ian Walker Lotus 22 touched wheels with Bill Moss’s Gemini.  Wrote Peter Garnier, the Sports Editor of Autocar: “During his all too-brief-spell on British and Continental circuits, he had proved himself to be extremely skilful and fast, with just that touch of fire which can often indicate the makings of a great driver.” 

All photos courtesy of the Ryan Family Collection

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23 thoughts on “St Jovite, Canada

  1. Raced there a few times! Such an awesome circuit. Going through corner two up and over the hill was always thrilling.

  2. Raced there a few times! Love that circuit. Pushing it through corner two, up and over the hill with the car getting light at the crest… always a thrill!

  3. I believe so. Jim Russell still very active on the circuit; and Mercedes, of course, with the Driving Academy

  4. Yes. The thing is to imagine all that in 1969 CanAm McLaren M12!

  5. Something tells me just about any Can-Am car would be a thrill just about anywhere! But yes, that would be magical…

  6. Peter Coffman on said:

    Or better still, in an M8B, which was the thing to have that year!

    Lovely video, thank you for making and posting it. I had just become a fan of the sport when Le Circuit was reaching its zenith; like you, I regret that I never saw a race there.

    One small point: “Mosport” is a contraction of “motor-sport”, and so the “o” is pronounced as in “low”. I’ve always believed that the “Mossport” pronunciation was popularized by Sir Stirling himself, who raced there several times and continued to visit in an official capacity as a sponsor’s representative during the heyday of the Can-Am. He seemed to positively enjoy mispronouncing the circuit’s name…

  7. Thanks Peter. I only mentioned the M12 because it was so difficult to drive… Interesting to hear the genesis of the “Mosport” name. I never knew that – and I attended the Canadian GP twice there (in 76 and 77). No-one ever corrected my pronunciation, but then I guess I was always talking to F1 people!

  8. Ron on said:

    Awesome piece! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Jim Cooke on said:

    Peter, very much appreciated your video-blog on ‘le Circuit’. Along with Mosport & The Glen, I was very fortunate to have seen GP at all 3 ‘real drivers’ circuit’..! I always wanted to know if there is a memorial stone or something like that in honour of Peter Ryan at Reims..? As a young Canadian, I was very proud of him, and thrilled to read Frank Gardiners’ tribute to his skills a couple of years ago..! I still work in Professional Racing today, but there was something special about the Racing in the late 60’s & 70’s that doesn’t exist today. What is it about those times, races and racers..? ? ? ?

  10. Thanks Jim. I don’t know of a memorial for Peter at Reims. I’m planning to visit the old circuit soon, so I’ll have a look. He certainly was a talent. Frank Gardner was impressed – which says a lot. And so were plenty of others. Another driver of that ilk, I think, was Troy Ruttman. The 1952 Indy winner, according to Dan Gurney, could also have been an F1 star. He raced at Reims in a Maserati in 1958.

  11. You’re welcome. Thanks. I hadn’t thought of the Peter Ryan connection before I visited Ste Jovite so it was in awe that I listened to the stories about him.

  12. Jim Cooke on said:

    One of the original runs on Mont Tremblant is ‘Ryan’s Run’, long, steep and fast; appropriate oui..? BTW, I think that we had dinner together with Mo Nunn @ Homestead back in the mid to late 90’s, when Mo & I both worked at Ganassi’s. Could that be..?
    Thanks again for all the terrific stories from the ‘Glory Years of Racing’ Peter..!

    Very appropriate! Remember the dinner well – fun days. All the best, Peter.

  13. Tom Pumpelly on said:

    St. Jovite and the bead pegs:

    I BELIEVE IT WAS THE PLAYERS FORMULA ATLANTIC SERIES in 1975 when I raced at St. Jovite. As I recall, 20 of the the 30 or so cars entered qualified within a few tenths of each other. Rahall, Brack, Villeneuve, Forbes Robinson, Gloy, Cobb, there many more notables.

    Withoug a doubt, for me there is no other track that brings back such memories. It was brutally fast and as exciting as the 3 downhill parts of the old Road Atlanta track combined. Perhaps more-so. I believe the Atlantic speeds were right there with the GP speeds a years or two before. I would have said that it was a track built specifically for the Atlantic cars except that St. Jovite preceeded even the old Formula B cars by many years.

    Just after going by the pits, there was a steep, uphill right hander which was flat out and after cresting the top most stomacs were in the driver’s throats for a few second, wheels spinning, when the track fell away through the steepest downhill I can remember.

    Some of the drivers there will remember that, at the time, there were no bead pegs in use to keep the tire beads seated against the sides of the rims. Until that race, the Atlantic series hadn’t seen such incredible cornering forces. I was the unfortunate soul that found a need for bead pegs in the first turn, that flat out – uphill right hander. It was more than the 18 or so punds of tire pressure could resist and the back left tire pulled away from the bead just as the pressures of the hill and the turn were at their greatest.

    My truly lasting memory of St. Jovite was, after the tire deflated, hitting the armco, knocking every corner of the car off and then sitting in the tub sideways at the top of the turn 1 hill, in the middle of the track, on-line, looking back at the oncoming traffic. My younger son probably owe his existence to Elliot (Forbes Robinson), who managed to miss me by inches before the yellow flags came out. And that was just the morning warm-up.

    Carl Hass was kind enough to loan me his team’s spare car for the race which went a lot smoother than the warm-up. As I recall, for the race, everyone raised their tire pressures by three or four pounds to avoid “Pumpelly’s fate”. Every wheel on every car had bead pegs by the following race.

    Despite the incredible g forces and the frightening incodent, St. Jovite was a place where real racing romance came alive. It was beautiful, mountainous, cool on most days, but certainly an experience all who drove there will remember. I can still feel the rear of the March 75B drifting far out to the left through the slow last turn with the tires lighting up onto the front straight, gaining speed for that uphill, right-hander.

    Tom Pumpelly

  14. Tom – many thanks for those memories. Beautifully written, too. I can picture you now, sitting there in that tub, trying not to look at what was heading towards you. Wonder what Gilles thought of Turn One? – Peter

  15. Wonduk Han on said:

    Peter, thanks for a fabulous video. What a pleasure to watch. Mt. Tremblant was my very first circuit to ever drive a race car (Jim Russell Racing School Formula Ford 1600), that was back in 1988 or so. I never reached the big league (or even the middle, anyway), but were fortunate to have tried many Formula Fords back then of many manufacturers. Mosport, Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, Thruxton, Suzuka, were my favorite circuits but the the very best is still St. Jovite’s Le Circuit Mt. Tremblant. The video was probably taken in late spring, I assume, so its green all around but the rich foliage in the fall is even better, it was like driving in a fairy tale scenery. It has draw backs. The winter was bitter cold (I remember the small pond at the entrance of Le Circuit still had a slight bit of ice left in April !), the summer has nasty black flies, it can snow in late September to cancel practice sessions, and drivers have hit or narrowly missed many deer during practice, but its still the best in the world. Thanks !

  16. Thanks Wonduk. Nice to read your story.

  17. Peter Vranckx on said:


    Thank you for your memories of “Tremblant”!
    I recognized your name, having worked as a marshal at the Jim Russell championship races in which you took part.

    And Peter, thank you for the wonderful trip back in time with Nigel, Chris Amon and the delightful anecdotes (including the one about Bruce McLaren charging up part of the mountain!).


  18. Clem Simmons on said:

    Hi Peter, I am just finding this piece about Peter Ryan now. Peter did end up getting has Canadian Citizenship and did ski for the Canadian Olympic Team. He was an excellence racing driver and surely would have been a success had he not met his tragic end. Peter can be found in the Family Cemetery up on Mt. Tremblant. He is buried there with his Mother and Father. I always pay my respects whenever I go up there for a track event.

  19. Thanks for that. A star we lost far too soon.

  20. Mike Bucci on said:

    Peter Ryan was the first Canadian to race in Formula 1 and the winner of the 1st Canadian Grand Prix in 1961. He switched to road racing after a skiing accident which left him with two broken legs at age 19. His accomplishments in skiing and road racing were remarkable for a young man who tragically lost his life at 22. He would have turned 75 on this year on June 10, 2015.

  21. Jim Cooke on said:

    Hey Mike. My Dad raced in the 50’s and sponsored some cars from his Dealerships in Toronto & Montreal in the 60’s. Going to races with my Dad I got to watch Peter in his RS-60 & Comstock Lotus 19…big thrill as I was a ski racer in high school as well. Question: Do you know if there is a marker in his memory along the circuit in Reims..? I want to make a trip & visit all the classic circuits..? Thanks for your post here. I am so happy I had the chance to see so many of the great drivers that Peter Windsor writes about here. Far more exciting men, machines & circuits than comprise F1 today, imho..!!! Thanks

  22. Hi Jim, I have never been there but I raced for someone who went there a few years ago to pay his respects to Peter. I seem to remember him saying there was one when we talked about it.

  23. Pingback: SportHistorisch am 10. Juni 2015 (7) | SportHistorisch by Ballkönig

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