05 May Gilles Villeneuve, the Man Who Made the Circuit
Everyone in Canada knows who Gilles Villeneuve is. Everyone in Canada knows about the Montreal Grand Prix that is held here every year and the circuit that is named after Villeneuve. But what is the story behind it and how it all got started?
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been the venue for the Montreal Grand Prix for almost 30 years. It is owned by the city of Montreal and opened in 1978 under the name of Mosport Parkle. Other former names include Ile Notre-Dame Circuit.
The idea of a Canadian circuit was brought about by the amazing success of the Canadian racer Gilles Villeneuve, so authorities came up with the effective solution of connecting all the roads on the Ile Notre-Dame, which has been artificially built in order to host the World fair in 1967. The man-made island was built in less than a year (10 months) from approximately 15 million tons of rock, and it is located aalongside the Saint Lawrence River. The idea was quite unique at the time and got a lot of recognition worldwide. Even today tourists come here just to see the circuit, even when there are no races going on.
The circuit is 4.361 km long and has 14 turns and it is well-known for both its hairpin bends that require a lot of caution and skill to handle safely and for the kilometer long straight where speeds get amazingly high. Its “wall of champions” is also famous all over the world, being the chicane which caused three world champions (Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, and Damon Hill) to foul out. Moreover, the circuit’s first lap is notorious for the accidents that occur in the tight Senna curves area, demanding strategies with up to two safety cars. The costs of building this instant F1 hit went up to 2 million dollars, which has surely been worth it thanks to the spectacular racing shows that have been going on here for years.
However, the future of the Montreal Grand Prix is clouded, as Bernie Ecclestone reportedly asked that improvements should be made on the circuit as a condition for extending the race contract. The Circuit’s paddock being one of the smallest requires floating platforms in order to enlarge the area that is available. The promoter of the race responded to Ecclestones demands by saying that although improvements of the facilities were to be expected, it was premature to advance exact amount of costs needed for the work.