For our Toyo Tires F1600 Championship Driver Profile this week we feature another veteran of the series and one of the top storytellers to be sure! Marshalling at Mosport, racing at The Glen, and breakfast in Montreal with an F1 great! Read on for the details and learn much more about Bill Tebbutt:
How long have you been racing?
Since 1986, so that would be 32 years.
How did you get involved in racing?
Was a gear head at a very young age. By the time I was four I could name every car on the road by make, model and year. It was fate, I suppose, to find my way into a race car. It was the only thing I ever really dreamed about being able to do. Prior to driver’s school, I marshalled for a few years. This was at the tail end of the Can-Am series. There are few things as exciting as standing behind the guardrail at corner 7 as a field of Can-Am cars comes by at full chat. I had so much fun marshalling as a starter for the Escort 24 Hours, and the World Endurance events at Mosport. My first racecar was a GT2 MGB, an ex Molyslip series car. I was in university, and I can still remember former owner John Cosgrove dropping it off at my parent’s house in Kitchener. Decades of bent, too short and worn out parts spread across their front yard. They didn’t speak to me for a while. A high school pal was an engineering student at Waterloo (a VW nut), and he introduced me to a fellow student – that guy went on to design Indycars for Swift. He never publicly admitted that his first race car experience was my MG.
How long have you raced F1600?
Since 1989, save for a short diversion into vintage and a couple years off for illness. Let’s call it 25.
How many race cars have you owned?
Ugh. You gonna tell my wife? I’m going with a conservative 14. Formula Atlantic, FF, Formula B, S2000, production. Lola, Swift, Van Diemen, Titan, Crossle (for about a day until the police came), Zink, MG, Vega, Merlyn, Hawke.
What is your # and why did you choose it?
82. Target age for retirement from racing.
What other classes have you raced?
GT 2. Sports 2000 (vintage), Formula Atlantic (vintage). Ice racing.
What track raced has been your favourite?
The Glen. I love the history of the Glen. Seneca Lodge for food and beer (sometimes we skip the food!) Racing through corner two in rain and into a fog so dense on lap one that in a FF national race you could only see the rain light in front of you. Barely! But if you had asked my favourite corner, I would say Oak Tree (Nelson Ledges) during the Great Pumpkin Races. It is a super-fast banked left-hand corner, and blasting through there in late fall, between the oak trees with the leaves falling, is just wonderful.
What track would you love to race around?
Spa! Eau Rouge. Having watched so many F1 races over the decades, it just looks like the consummate rush to do that corner bravely.
What is your greatest racing memory?
Although the result was a disaster (front master cylinder failure just after the start), qualifying for and starting the Runoffs in 1997 capped a great season. Driving a 12-year-old Van Diemen against a battalion of DB1s and newer VDs and finishing 5th in NE Division was pretty neat. Especially without ever taking a corner off the car to do it. And my girlfriend Elaine came all the way from Halifax to watch: and she’s still here!
I actually have a second “Greatest Racing Memory.” Some years ago, after his retirement from F1, Johnny Herbert was in Montreal at the GP. I had a client down for the weekend, and (though a convoluted series of circumstances) I ran into Johnny in a bar at 8:30am! Well, actually, he was having a coffee at the bar prior to speaking at a breakfast event. I walked over and suggested that if he didn’t have any plans for breakfast that he was welcome to join the two of us. Showing a complete lack of judgement, Johnny bounded over, and we started talking about racing. When he realized that I was an amateur racing hack, the deal was sealed. He skipped the promo he was hired to do, and we talked for about an hour and a half. If you really want to light the man up, ask him how he enjoyed being Schumacher’s teammate! I learned an awful lot about Schumi and his ‘engineers’, Sir Jackie, Colin, and a pile more guys. Johnny was a riot, a true gentlemen but unbridled and unrepentant. He shared some wonderful memories (eg. greatest F1 car he ever drove = the Lotus in his first ever F1 test. Worst = any of the Stewarts!) It was a ‘colourful’ and memorable morning.
Favourite driver from any generation?
Martin Brundle. Fearless, unrepentant, unlucky and tragically flawed. Fantastic!
Do you plan to be on the grid in 2018?
Yes indeed. I am restoring the ex-Wagland RF 91 for David Clubine as we speak, and will be in the car for the 2018 season if David lets me!
Drive/Car Pictures by Richard Coburn