Since I joined the Motorsport Club of Ottawa in 1997, I have wanted work at the Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. In our club’s 50th Anniversary book, there were many photos of MCO members working at the pinnacle event of Canadian motorsports.
The weekend began on Wednesday when I drove to Montreal to help with the setup of the IMSA tech area. This involves setting up the car lift and scale, then levelling both (very difficult in this case because the pavement was sloped) and setting up the awning.
On Thursday we completed our technical inspections of all competitor vehicles and driver safety equipment.
Friday was the first of the track sessions. This introduced me to the special procedures for the support series at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. All the support series were paddocked north of the hairpin, at the far end of the island from the pits and starting grid. An hour before our session starts, we line up the cars on a false grid near the paddock, on the narrow road along the Olympic rowing basin. At 30 minutes before the session, we move the false grid further up the road to the next false grid area. This is right next to the track fence, so we could watch the other sessions, including one of the Formula-1 practice sessions.
Finally, when the previous session ends, we are ready to move to the pit lane. Moving from the last false grid area to pit lane is only possible via the track, so it can only be once all the vehicles in the previous session are off the track. If the previous session was another support series, they are moved out of pit lane and drive counter-race back to a different track exit near the first false grid area, at the same time as our series moves up into pit lane. As it is a long distance, no one can even walk to or from pit lane – they must be on golf cart or pit bike. There is no way to enter the pit lane without a Formula-1 paddock pass, and we were not issued with those valuable passes.
In pit lane, we had to stay on the right hand side, away from the Formula-1 garages. There was a row of pit lane marshals down the centre of pit lane keeping us away from the garages. All the pit equipment for the Porsche teams was pushed up against the outer pit lane wall.
But just being at the circuit and being in pit lane during the Formula-1 weekend was so amazing. I have wanted to be part of the weekend for so long.
Our final race was the last event before the Formula-1 race on Sunday. This meant we were told we had a hard cut-off time. Unfortunately the previous session had caused damage to the track guardrails, which delayed our start. The Clerk of the Course (Support Series), Cindy Armstrong, was able to get the Porsche GT3 Cup series most of our track time by pushing out the session end time.
After the final post-race technical inspection on Sunday, we started the teardown of the IMSA equipment and trailers. We got everything down and most equipment packed away when we walked over to the hairpin to watch the first few laps of the Formula-1 race. We left the island after that, while the race was still on; if we had not left then we would be forced to stay for 2 hours after the race before they allow cars on the exit bridges.
This weekend was a dream from me, to be part of a Formula-1 weekend.