Recently, I got a chance to catch up with the Track Announcer’s Notebook (TAN), a weekly vlog hosted by long-time announcer Pat Gonsalves and former Pro racer Stuart Nodell. This duo produces an episode every Monday evening, but unfortunately, I have some Board of Director meetings that frequently take place at the same time. I try to catch up with some of the broadcasts via YouTube later in the cycle.
I was looking forward to watching an episode titled Ciampini Racing UNPLUGGED (the caps are not mine, not sure why they are there…). This would cover an interesting time in the late 1980s, when a Canadian businessman supported a Brit-style private, front-running team with top racers including Art Robbins, Paul MacMillan, Jon Cornwell and Steve Crevier.
Among the personalities participating in this episode of TAN were top tuners Rick Hobbs and Stu Shaw, as well as six-time overall Canadian National Champ Crevier, from his dining room in B.C. via cell phone. Crevier looked fit and was cheerful, and as usual he had plenty to say, delivered in rapid fire.
Back in 1988, Crevier had left the Superbike scene in Canada, after a promising Fall 1987 flirtation with the Rothmans-backed Leitner and Bush Honda squad.
That ride, and the complete team, eventually went to Rueben McMurter, who had close ties with Honda and earned the Canadian title that year.
Instead, a discouraged Crevier purchased a new 250cc Grand Prix class Yamaha TZ, and focused on the U.S. Then he repossessed his 1987 Yamaha Superbike.
By the time the RACE Nationals made the annual western trip to Calgary and his home track of Westwood, outside Vancouver, Steve was racing in all the top classes.
The records show that Steve had a great return to the Feature class, winning in Calgary on his hastily repaired FZR750RR. However, the support races were a mixed bag – Steve lost Pro 750 Production in a photo finish with fast rising rookie Pro hero Miguel Duhamel, and then got penalized out of a win in the Formula Two (250cc G.P.) final.
Steve explains that in the production race, “at the line, I got Miguel. But Alan Labrosse was running the series, and was the manager of the series, manager of Miguel Duhamel. There is video footage of the finish, and the footage shows that Miguel might have won the race. The video is from behind, and is from Miguel’s father, (legendary Canuk racer) Yvon Duhamel.
“I really, literally, lost this race because of complete B.S! If I can say that – that’s kind of crappy. I ran good, I ran hard, it was a fun race, great race. Miguel is a phenomenal rider; I’ve been a bridesmaid to him – God I hate that guy! Miguel is simply the greatest rider Canada has ever had.”
Time for a fact check.
Alan Labrosse was the manager of the National series in 1988, but during the western swing, he was busy running Shannonville Motorsport Park, in Ontario. I was the National Event Director, and as such oversaw everything Steve describes.
Labrosse was good friends with Yvon Duhamel – and was definitely interested in Miguel’s career – but he was not the Manager. That would happen later.
In 1988, Yvon was running the affairs of both frontrunning sons, including the older Mario. It is also worth noting that while Labrosse never managed Crevier’s business affairs, but Labrosse did help out Crevier a few times.
Back in 1988 we did have video of the finish of Pro 750 Production, but it was shot from the grandstands, and was from a front/left side angle. Playback in the camera was too small to tell who had won – that is how close the finish was.
Today, we have cameras on the line to confirm results, but back then access to video was rare and very helpful. On the Monday morning after the race, starter Leon Atkins and I went to a very nice, high-end audio video boutique (remember those?) to watch the video on a bigger screen and determined that Duhamel had scored the narrowest of wins.
Pre-cell phones and emails, I then typed out the decision and delivered the verdict by hand the next time I saw Steve and Miguel, at the Wednesday night test at Westwood.
So, for a couple days, no one knew the winner, not even the racers. Labrosse was not involved in the decision. But I did call him to let him know what was going on.
As far as the rear-view video shot by Yvon Duhamel – this is all news to me. Father Duhamel did like to shoot his family riding, a process I believe he developed when the boys were motocrossing.
In the Formula Two race, Steve explains that Jon Cornwell outgunned him on his unique Central Ontario Cycle-backed, Brutune-built, Spondon Rotax in-line twin, down Race City’s kilometer long front straight/drag strip.
“I’m running that bloody TZ Yamaha, and I’m not a tuner – Jon Cornwell is a tuner. I just want a bike to live under me, they don’t have to be fast. It was a good long battle with him, but I don’t stand a chance, coming out of the corners, down the straightaways.
“In the corners, I can eat him up and spit him out. I pass him on the last lap, in the middle of the final Keyhole section. In the last corner, there is a concrete wall (with straw bales – ED.), I could literally run him into the wall, either ended his life, broken his legs, whatever the hell – but I gave him the room, I didn’t rub him, and I passed him back and I let him live.
“Then he just turned it on. I sacrificed my drive, my exit, to give him room, so I don’t pack him into the wall, end his life. So, I just tucked in, and I kind of reached over and grabbed his kneecap with two fingers, but uh-uh.
“I won that race, but I lost that because I pulled himself up.”
While Steve’s stream-of-consciousness memories are as entertaining as ever, and he is a great storyteller in the style of the Duhamels, none of this makes sense.
I won’t bother with “Corndog’s” reaction – I would guess he is still just as annoyed about these shenanigans as he was in the summer of 1988.
The photo of the run to the finish line, taken just after Crevier let go of his firm grasp on Cornwell’s right leg, clearly shows that Jon was already angry. A flat track star building his resume in the road racing world at the time, Cornwell knew the risks, and didn’t appreciate Steve’s clowning around.
The decision to penalize Crevier was not controversial at the time, except to Steve. And while it is true that the winners always write history – Napolean stated that “what is history, but a fable agreed upon?” – it is worth noting that in Calgary, way back in 1988, Crevier did not win everything.
That was 1989.
- Colin Fraser