By Fred Baumann
Less than a month before the next Canadian Grand Prix on June 11, the legendary Jackie Stewart and the “first lady of the race in Canada” Joann Villeneuve revealed commemorative stamps featuring five of the most famous winners of the race May 15 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
The stamps were issued May 16. They mark the 50th anniversary of professional, open-wheel automotive racing in Canada, which began in the 1960s when the Canadian Grand Prix alternated races every year between Mosport Park in Ontario and Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec.
The race later moved to a course on Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal. In 1982, the track was named Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in honor of Canada’s greatest race car driver, who died 35 years ago this month in a crash while qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
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Each of Canada’s new nondenominated “P” domestic letter-rate stamps features the name, likeness, and silhouette of the car of one of five drivers, each characterized by Canada Post as representing a decade of the 50-year history of this race in Canada. The five are Jackie Stewart of Scotland, Gilles Villeneuve of Canada, Ayrton Senna from Brazil, Michael Schumacher of Germany, and England’s Lewis Hamilton.
Collectively, this quintet has won 220 Grand Prix victories (including 17 in Canada), 216 pole positions (which go to drivers who post the fastest qualifying times), 399 appearances as one of the top three finishers on the podium, and 16 World Championships.
Between 1994 and 2004, Schumacher won an unrivaled seven Canadian Grand Prix races.
Hamilton, who is still racing, has won five and hopes to make it six at the 38th Grand Prix on June 11.
Stewart and Senna both won twice in Canada — Stewart at Mosport in 1971 and 1972, and Senna in Montreal in 1988 and 1990.
Villeneuve recorded his first Grand Prix victory at the Montreal track that now bears his name and remains the only Canadian to win a Formula One race in Canada.
At the May 15 ceremony, about 150 guests watched Joann Villeneuve unveil a stamp of her late husband before Stewart unveiled his stamp in the new set.
In its press release announcing the stamps, Canada Post described Stewart as “the man to beat in the first decade of the Canadian Grand Prix.” In his career from 1965 to 1973, he won 27 races and three World Championships.
Stewart raced in Canada’s first Formula One race at Mosport in 1967, where he also had the last race of his career in 1973. He was knighted in 2001.
May 15 coverage of the unveiling by the Montreal Gazette offered an entertaining insight from Stewart. Sports reporter Pat Hickey wrote: “Stewart, who has had a love affair with Canada since he visited with his mother as a 14-year-old, said he was honoured to have his face on a Canadian stamp.
“ ‘Great Britain did one for me but it’s not nearly as nice as this one,’ ” said Stewart.
Representing the second decade of the Canadian Grand Prix, Villeneuve raced for McLaren and Ferrari from 1977 to 1982, winning six races in a career lasting little more than four seasons.
In 1978, he won the inaugural Grand Prix race on Ile Notre-Dame, about an hour from where he grew up in Berthierville, Quebec.
Killed in a crash at age 32 on May 8, 1982, Villeneuve was among the first inducted to the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.
Senna, who represents the third decade of Canadian Grand Prix, dominated the field from the mid-1980s until his fatal accident in Italy in 1994, aged 34.
The determined and talented Brazilian driver logged 41 wins and three World Championships in his 161 starts.
Representing the fourth decade is Schumacher, the most successful driver in the sport’s history. He competed in 309 races during nine years (1991-2006 and 2010-2012), tallying 91 wins and a record seven World Championships, winning in 1994 and 1995, breaking his leg in 1999, and following his recovery with five consecutive World Championships from 2000 to 2004.
Few drivers compare to Hamilton, who represents the fifth decade. He won four races in his rookie season in 2007 and finished on the podium in the first nine races of his continuing career.
In 193 starts, this three-time Formula One World Champion has recorded 55 wins and has finished in the top five in points in each of his 10 years. Hamilton won the World Championship in 2008 and back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015.
Designed by Paprika in Montreal and printed by Colour Innovations in Toronto, the stamps measure 24 millimeters by 30mm. They are available as self-adhesives in booklets of 10 (Canada Post product number 414042111), with moisture-activated gum
in a pane of five stamps (404042107), and as an uncut press sheet of 25 (404042149).
The booklet cover depicts a car rocketing past a grandstand, with the Montreal Biosphere looming in the background, a Canadian museum in the geodesic dome that housed the former United States pavilion for Montreal’s 1967 World Fair, Expo 67.
The printing quantities are 300,000 booklets, 80,000 panes of five, and 2,000 uncut press sheets.
Canada Post’s official first-day covers are each canceled in Montreal with a pictorial datestamp patterned after the wheel of a different Formula One car, and are available as a set of five with a commemorative folder (414042131) and individually.
The stamps and related items are available at the Canada Post website. and by mail order from Canada Post Customer Service, Box 90022, 2701 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON K1V 1J8 Canada; or by telephone from the United States or Canada at 800-565-4362, and from other countries at 902-863-6550.
Canada’s stamps and stamp products also are available from many new-issue stamp dealers, and from Canada Posts agent in the United States: Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557.