Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Racing hall of famer Al Pease helped design Formula One track

Al Pease, a Toronto race car driver, failed miserably at two Canadian Grand Prix races in the 1960s, earning a reputation as one of the worst Formula One drivers ever. But his checkered Formula One performance overshadowed an otherwise stellar racing career.

Mr. Pease died on May 4 at his home in Tennessee, at the age of 92. He was named Canada's driver of the year in 1964 and was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1998.

Mr. Pease was one of only two Canadians among the 17 drivers to qualify for the debut of Formula One racing in Canada, held in 1967 at Mosport, the track near Bowmanville, Ont., which he helped design. He drove a year-old, American-built Eagle chassis with a 2.7-litre Coventry Climax engine. He experienced battery problems at the start and, early in the race, which was conducted in a dangerous downpour, his battery quit.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Pease got out of the stalled vehicle, ran up the hilly course to the pits to retrieve a fresh battery, returned to the car and installed it himself. He got his car going again, crossing the finish line only seconds behind the winner, Jack Brabham of Australia. By then, however, the Canadian was 43 laps behind the pace, an achievement of sorts in a race lasting only 90 laps.

Two years later, Mr. Pease returned to Formula One racing at Mosport driving the same vehicle, by now three years old and literally a museum exhibit, as it had been on display at Man and His World on the former Expo 67 site in Montreal.

The 47-year-old driver was game for the contest, but his uncompetitive machine frustrated the other teams and their complaints caused course officials to show him the black flag, an order to return to the pits where he was disqualified after just 22 laps. Being ordered from a race for being too slow was a humiliating end to a brief Formula One career.

Alan Victor Pease was born to May and Albert Pease on Oct. 15, 1921, in Darlington, England. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, serving as a pilot. After the war, he moved to Toronto, where he worked as a commercial artist for four decades.

He was a successful racer and became known for driving British Motor Corporation cars. He won the Sundown Grand Prix of Endurance at Mosport in 1964, completing 101 laps in four hours with co-driver Don Kindree in an Austin-Healey 3000. Mr. Pease also won an hour-long race in an Austin Cooper, as well as a production race in an MGB.

On his induction, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame noted "it is doubtful any other driver in the history of Canadian motorsport has collected more trophies than Al Pease, winning a steady stream of regional and national championships in a variety of cars for almost 30 years."

Away from the track, he successfully lobbied the Canadian Automobile Sports Club, the sport's governing body, to allow sponsors' names to be painted on race cars. His own sponsors included Castrol, the British lubricant company, and Honest Ed's, the Toronto bargain emporium.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Pease ended his track career in 1988, by which time he was racing vintage sports cars in Ontario.

He died at his home in Sevierville, Tenn. He leaves Elaine, his wife of 40 years, three daughters, three granddaughters and a sister. An animal fancier, his cat was named Lotus after the British model of racing cars with which he had success in the early 1960s.

To submit an I Remember:

Send us a memory of someone we have recently profiled on the Obituaries page. Please include I Remember in the subject field.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨