Al Pease

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Last updated: 6-October-2001


Before Formula One Formula One After Formula One

Before F1

Honorary Member of the CMHF, despite his F1 drives

Formula One is a very different kettle of fish these days compared to what it used to be like. Nowadays, it's a mega-professional, highly-organised sport (business?) with massive media coverage, where even backmarkers can be household names in their own countries. Gone are the days of one-off local entrants and weekend hacks, which is a shame, because many of them have provided some of the most interesting stories in Grand Prix history.

Take Al Pease, for example. A Canadian from Darlington in England, on paper his Grand Prix career seemed more than pathetic, to the point some have dubbed him the 'worst ever' F1 driver. But they do not know the whole story: to the Canadian motorsport fraternity Pease is nothing short of a living legend, inducted as an Honorary Member of the 'Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame' in 1998.


Joins British Motor Corp, driving MGs and minis with much success

The CMHF say that "It is doubtful that 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". In the 1950s, having moved to Canada after WWII, Pease began doing club races in a small sports car, which Richard Jenkins informs us was a Riley. He then joined rivals the British Motor Corporation in the late 1950s, and raced for them well into the 1960s in local sports car competitions, driving MGs and Minis in particular.

He won stacks of national, regional and class championships in the process, but what specific results we do have belie the spectacular success he achieved. Testament to this, he was voted 'Driver of the Year' in 1964, by the Canadian Racing Drivers' Association. In the 1964 Bridgehampton 500km race he was the only MG runner, but he retired. In the 1965 Sebring 12hrs, sharing an MG DRX 256C with American Brad Pickard, he came home an uninspiring 32nd overall.

Al had great success through into the 1960s driving MGs for the British Morot Corporation.
Al had great success through into the 1960s driving MGs for the British Morot Corporation.


Races in SCCA Formula A; campaigns Lotus 47 sportscar for Castrol

Throughout the 1960s, Pease also raced in single-seaters, for example a Lotus 23, a car which was notable for having the name 'Honest Ed' emblazoned down its side. A moderately successful result was 8th in the non-championship 1963 Canadian GP. Later in the decade, from 1967-9, he took part in three L&M Championship SCCA Formula A races, so Allen Brown says. In 1967 at St. Jovite he crashed out, while he failed to start at Thompson in 1968, and retired at the Mosport event the same year.

But in terms of his sports car exploits, despite parting company with BMC, he continued to race successfully, forming a new association with Castrol, the lubricant maker. In 1967 he campaigned the Castrol-Lotus 47, and one of his wins that year was in the first support race for the USAC Telegram Trophy event. But it was shortly before the 1967 World Championship Canadian GP at Mosport, that Al Pease's story got really interesting!

Formula One
Castrol Oils

Enters his home GP - winds up quite slow, but not as slow as some

At this stage, Pease was no spring chicken. He was just a month and a half shy of turning 46, but Castrol had no qualms about entering him into the Canadian GP at a track he had helped to design, Mosport. He was to drive an Eagle T1G (car 11) with a 2.8 litre Climax L4 engine that they had managed to procure. In this uncompetitive machine, out of 19 entrants Pease was 16th quickest in practice, but would end up being bumped up to 15th on the grid when Jo Siffert did not start in his Cooper.

Pease's time of 1:30.1 was 7.7 seconds behind Jim Clark's Lotus on pole. He was surprisingly faster than both Eppie Wietzes and Mike Fisher, both driving Lotuses, but he was admittedly 2.8 seconds slower than Jo Bonnier in 14th. 18th quickest would be the once-obscure Tom Jones (not the Welsh crooner!) with a time of 1:51.9, and he was not allowed to start. Gotta love some of these private entrants!

Al and the Castrol team pose for a happy snap during the 1967 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport.
Al and the Castrol team pose for a happy snap during the 1967 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport.


A comedy of errors: slow driving, dead batteries, torrential rain and spins galore

Now, the records alone make Pease look utterly atrocious. In horrendously wet conditions, Sir Jack Brabham won the 90-lap race. Pease crossed the finish line 10 seconds after Sir Jack - but a whole 43 laps down!! He had completed 47 laps at an average speed of 69.4 km/h. Naturally, Al was not classified. While Clark and Jackie Stewart had both retired, they were still ahead of Pease, and even Wietzes had completed 69 laps come race's end.

In fact there was a bizarre chain of events to explain this appalling showing, and it started when he was delayed for 6 laps at the beginning when his Eagle would not start on the dummy grid and his mechanics had to change the battery. Of course, this was not his own doing, and it would not be his only battery problem that day!


Water drenched Al struggles round; tries again next year

He finally came onto the track, but several laps in, at the part of the track furthest from the pits he spun in the admittedly very wet conditions. His Climax engine was so waterlogged the car would not start - the battery was flat. Not once contemplating simply retiring, Pease decided to run the length of the track in the teeming rain, back to the pits to get another battery - and then run back and install it, all by himself. So in the end he was 43 laps behind, almost half the race in arrears. Amazing.

A year later, Castrol entered him again, in the same car/engine combination (car 25 this time), at the Canadian GP at the Mont-Tremblant track at St Jovite. Jochen Rindt was on pole in the Brabham with a time of 1:33.8, while Pease was dead last out of 22 on 1:49.6, a whole 15.8 seconds off, despite having done well at this track in sports cars. He was even 8.4 seconds slower than the next car, Bill Brack's Lotus.

Despite monsoonal rain, it was an astonishing 43 laps down on the winner that Pease finished the 1967 Canadian GP.
Despite monsoonal rain, it was an astonishing 43 laps down on the winner that Pease finished the 1967 Canadian GP.


Engine crank gives Al some headaches, and they miss qualifying

True to form though, there is a story behind this too. Apparently, Tom Prankerd tells us, trying to discover a problem with his engine, Pease single-handedly stripped his Climax V8 only to find an Allen key or some such jammed in the thing!! What's more, he and the team were unable to put it all back together again in time for qualifying, and Pease was forced to sit out the race, eventually won by defending World Champion Denny Hulme.

For a part of 1969, Pease's lost his trusty Eagle into Castrol's hands, and so he raced a Lola T140 with a Chevrolet engine, entered by John Maryon in the Gulf Canada Series, a nine-race championship for Formula A and F5000 cars. In the first race of the series at Mosport he came 3rd, but after that mechanical problems kept him on the sidelines. It was only at Harewood, the 7th race of the series, that he returned, colliding with Horst Kroll and then crashing out of the race altogether.


He's back - "Pease, Sir, I want some more".

Meanwhile, Castrol had put his Eagle on display at the chauvinistically titled 'Man and His World' exhibition in Montreal (they'd never name an exhibition like that these days!). But a month later, when it was time for the World Championship round at Mosport once again, Pease, almost 48, dusted off the car (which had now been sitting in a room for quite some time) and was entered by Maryon for the race.

Jacky Ickx was on pole for Brabham with a 1:17.4. Pease was 17th out of 20, 11.1 seconds behind. But Pete Lovely, who was 16th, was a whole 5.6 seconds ahead of him! Having said that, Pease was faster than Brack, John Cordts and Silvio Moser, the latter recording a time of 1:41.4.

Back for more in 1969, Al Pease's car 69 Eagle-Climax goes through the motions at Mosport before being black-flagged.
Back for more in 1969, Al Pease's car 69 Eagle-Climax goes through the motions at Mosport before being black-flagged.


Struggles to keep the dog on its leash, Moser and more the victims

This is the captivating part, though. The Mosport officials this time disqualified him after he had done just 22 laps (a lot less than half what the leader had done). The amazing thing is that, as Richard Jenkins correctly tells us, before he was pulled out of the race he had already managed to shove Moser off the track! Indeed, Tom Prankerd has informed us there was more to the story.

Wrestling a car that was well past its use-by date, it was Pease's slow entry into one of Mosport's sweeping curves that caused Moser to swerve, and clout the armco. Afterwards, despite his best efforts, Pease became something of a moving chicane, and seemed to be not very courteous to drivers behind him when being lapped, which was happening quite a bit! Legend has it Al appeared to be having a good scrap with anyone who came up to pass him, regardless of how many laps ahead they were.


Black flag ends a memorable F1 career

Admittedly, the dog of a car at his disposal doubtless contributed to it, but things began to come to a head when a rather savage chop on the Canadian's part damaged the suspension of the under-rated Jean Pierre Beltoise, and then his purported repertoire of blocks and unorthodox lines destroyed a superb five car battle for third place.

When another swipe almost eliminated Stewart, Ken Tyrrell had seen enough. The Matra boss lodged a protest with the organisers, who immediately black-flagged Pease for being too slow. We certainly can't think of any other time where this has happened. And thus ended a surreal chapter in an otherwise overly-successful career!

After F1

Black flag ends a memorable F1 career

Pease was nearly 50 by this stage (although age need not be a barrier: Juan Fangio retired in his late-40s while Luigi Fagioli actually won a race at 51). But in 1970 he continued racing Formula 5000 and Formula A cars, winning the last ever race at Harewood in a Brabham BT21. He also raced a Brabham BT23b with a Climax L4 engine. He eventually quit when it all became too expensive.

Throughout his career, Pease was an influential player in Canadian motorsport. He was instrumental in getting the Canadian motorsport governing body, the CASC, to allow sponsors' names to appear on the side of cars, thereby taking the sport in Canada to a whole new professional level. Since then, though, his main participation in motorsport has been in Canadian vintage car racing, in which he dabbled from 1983 to 1988.

Pease took a memorable victory at the very last race held at Harewood, in Formula A in 1970.
Pease took a memorable victory at the very last race held at Harewood, in Formula A in 1970.

Personal Once the owner of an art advertising studio, Al has otherwise slipped into retirement, and currently lives in Sevierville, Tennessee, USA.

There he indulges in the odd spot of car restoration, loves eating seafood and relaxes sipping a vokda and orange juice!

Click here to read our Interview with Al!

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