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Some race fans
may think that "big-time" road racing didn't come to Canada
until Mosport opened in 1961. Actually, professional races were
held two years earlier at the Harewood Acres circuit near Jarvis,
Ontario. Harewood was the premier circuit in Canada until Westwood
was opened in 1959. It continued
to hold that distinction for eastern Canada until the opening of
×Harewood began its life in August, 1940 as a military airfield supporting the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It was the home of Number One Bombing and Gunnery School. Over 12,000 trainees passed through until the airfield closed in February, 1945.
Harewood's new role as a racing circuit began in 1956 when the British Empire Motor Club (BEMC) was forced to give up its first airport circuit at Edenvale, near Stayner, Ontario. The owner of Edenvale wanted to conduct professional races at the circuit and kicked out the clubs. BEMC found another suitable former airfield on property owned by Russell and Larry Hare. BEMC signed a five-year lease for 150 acres of the 750 acre property. The property was on the Nanticoke Sideroad, three miles south of the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 6.
BEMC moved most of their equipment from Edenvale and added to the infrastructure with a three-story scoring tower and cement block pit wall. The new 3.5 mile track opened on May 19, 1956 for the Kaye Don Trophy Races for motorcycles. On June 16, the first sports car race event was held with Stan Dilley winning the main race in his MG TC. Admission was $2.00, with 4,500 spectators in attendance.
After the first season, some detioration of the runways forced the circuit to be reduced to 2.45 miles. A further circuit length reduction took place in 1959, this time to 1.9 miles. This would be Harewood's permanant length. The width varied from 30 feet to 200 feet.
On July 25, 1959 Harewood hosted the first Sundown Grand Prix. The O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix was a six-hour race that began in the daylight and finished in the dark. Harry Blanchard and Roger Penske covered 254 laps in a Porsche RSK to take the victory in the 50-car field.
The third big race of 1959 was the Stock Car vs. Sports Car Challenge Race on September 19-20. Earlier in the year, NASCAR Vice-President Ed Otto told Globe & Mail sports editor Gord Vipond that stock cars could beat sports cars on a road course. The Canadian Racing Drivers Association took him up on his challenge and the Stock Car vs. Sports Car Race was on. Otto had promised that ten top stock car drivers would appear, including Jim Reed, Lee Petty and Richard Petty. In the end, the only big name stock driver to appear was Lee Petty. Seven stock cars arrived at Harewood and two broke down during preliminary events, leaving only five to compete against 23 sports cars in the 100-lap main event. Harry Blanchard won the race in his Porsche RSK, followed by Francis Bradley in a Porsche RS, with Bob Clift finishing in third, driving a Corvette. The top stock car driver was Len Page who finished tenth in his Ford. Lee Petty dropped out after two laps due to a fuel pump failure. A crowd of 10,000 was on hand and the event raised $10,000 for a children's swimming pool fund championed by Gord Vipond.
The following year the first fully-sponsored professional sports car event was scheduled. The Carling 300 took place on May 28, 1960 at Harewood and this time over 15,000 fans showed up. Controversy erupted two days before event when the Sports Car Club of America announced that any SCCA-licensed driver participating in the Harewood event would lose his SCCA license. Some drivers such as Roger Penske and Bob Holbert took a chance and showed up to race. Others, such as Jim Hall, recalled his car as it was being shipped to Ontario. Penske won all three of the event's 100 KM heats to take the overall victory in a Porsche RSK taking the $1,900 winner's share of the over $6,000 purse. In second was nineteen-year old Canadian Peter Ryan, also driving a Porshe RSK.
Tragedy struck Harewood on August 13, 1960 with the death of Ted Pope. He was entering the chicane when he was tapped from behind, putting his car into a slide. The car hit a hay bale, rolled numerous times and crushed Pope under it. A sheet metal tonneau cover on the passenger side prevented him from ducking down, which was the typical response at the time. It would appear that he was wearing only a lap belt as the newspaper articles of time indicate that his belt was still fastened. Pope was a TV producer for CBC and was part of a three-car CBC racing team. The incident led the Canadian Automobile Sports Club to ban tonneau covers and to improve the regulations for roll bars.
The second O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix was held on October 1, 1960. The first and second finishers from that spring's Carling 300 teamed up to compete in the Sundown. Roger Penske and Peter Ryan took their Porsche RSK to victory over Francis Bradley and Ludwig Heimrath.
Between 1956 and 1960 other clubs, in addition to BEMC, organized regional events at Harewood. These included the Sports Car Club of Toronto, the Grand Valley Car Club, the North Toronto Motor Club and the CRDA.
It appeared that Harewood's days as a racing facility were numbered at the start of the 1961 season. The track's operators, the British Empire Motor Club, had been building Mosport and the new track was ready to open in June, 1961. BEMC moved its events to Mosport. Without a club organizing the circuit, the other clubs moved their events to Mosport as well. The track was comparitively quiet during the 1961 and 1962 seasons, only hosting MG Car Club events, a driving school, motorcycle races, a four-hour relay race and drag races. Most of these appear to be one-off events.
The Harewood Acres circuit was resurrected again in 1963. The London Automobile Sport Club (LASC) had been operating Green Acres, another former WWII airfield circuit, north of Goderich. The track surface at Green Acres had been falling apart and LASC was looking for a new circuit. The first event under LASC management was the closed-to-spectators Trilium Trophy Races on May 4, 1963. Chip Comstock won the 30-lap feature in his Lola Formula Junior. The following weekend was the official opener as a spectator event. Ludwig Heimrath took the win in the 30-lap feature driving a Porsche RS 60.
Over the next few seasons LASC implemented many improvements including repaving most of the circuit, building marshalls' stands, moving the wiring underground to remove the need (and the inherent danger) for poles and painting white lines to negate the need for haybales.
From 1963 to 1970 Harewood continued to host many club events. It was the home of the Great Lakes Trophy Races, the Mid-Summer Trophy Races, Burlington Autosports Club Challenge Cup for Sedans, the Trillium Trophy Races and various motorcycle races including the Ontario Grand Prix for Motorcycles. The track was part of the Canadian Road Racing Championship each year, both for sports cars from 1964 until 1968 and for the Gulf Canada Series for Formula A cars which made two visits in each of the 1969 and 1970 seasons.
The 1970 season was the end for Harewood. Owner Russell Hare sold the land to Texaco and the company built an oil refinery on the property.
More photos and program covers in the track database.
|May 9, 1959||Ray Carter||CRDA 500||Jaguar XKSS|
|July 25, 1959||Harry Blanchard / Roger Penske||O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix||Porsche RSK|
|September 20, 1959||Harry Blanchard||Sports Car vs Stock Car||Porsche RSK|
|May 28, 1960||Roger Penske||Carling 300||Porsche RSK|
|October 1, 1960||Peter Ryan / Roger Penske||O'Keefe Sundown Grand Prix||Porsche RSK|
|August 24, 1963||Dennis Coad||Great Lakes Trophy Races||Lotus 19|
|August 15, 1964||Ludwig Heimrath||Great Lakes Trophy Races||Comstock Cooper-Ford||August 14, 1965||Ludwig Heimrath||Harewood National Trophy Races||McLaren Elva-Ford|
|August 13, 1966||Craig Hill||Harewood National Trophy Races||Lotus-Ford|
|May 27, 1967||Nat Adams||CKOC Challenge Cup||Chinook|
|August 12, 1967||John Cordts||Harewood National Trophy Races||McLaren Mk.3 Chevrolet|
|August 10, 1968||Horst Kroll||Harewood National Trophy Races||Lotus Kelly Porsche|
|August 17, 1969||Bill Brack||Gulf Canada Series||Lotus GTX|
|September 27, 1969||Eppie Weitzes||Gulf Canada Series||Lola T142-Chevrolet|
|May 10, 1970||Eppie Weitzes||Gulf Canada Series||McLaren M10B-Chevrolet|
|August 9, 1970||Horst Kroll||Gulf Canada Series||Lola-Chevrolet|