before i ever went to a kart race, i had been to going to the grand prix formula 1 races at mosport with my dad. the driver that impressed me was the swede, ronnie peterson. later i attended the formula atlantic races when the rising star was gilles villeneuve. in 1977, villenuve had also moved up to f1.
when i started racing karts i needed a number. you usually get to choose your own. ronnie peterson was racing a tyrrell with the number 3 so i began with that. in 1978 he moved to lotus and changed to the number 6. another kart racer was using 6. i didn't really like 3 that much anyway. it was time for a change. villenuve was starting his first full f1 season drivng a ferrari with 12 on the car so this was my next choice. i used it until the end of my second season.
tragically, peterson was killed in an accident at monza, italy near the end of the 1978 season, just one race before i witnessed villeneuve's first grand prix victory at the canadian grand prix in montreal. 6 was the last number peterson used. i would never have the opportunity to see him drive the dominant lotus 78 which provided team-mate mario andretti with his world championship, with ronnie finishing as the runner-up.
during 1979, villenuve finished second in the world championship to jody scheckter, who was also driving for ferrari. for 1980 they both stayed with the team, scheckter had number 1 and villeneuve 2. for the 1980 season i decided i needed a unique number of my own.
i put together the 2 from villenuve's ferrari and the 6 from the lotus of peterson to make 26. there is also an interesting connection between peterson, villeneuve and myself that i did not know of until later.
26 was my number until i stopped racing full time at the end of 1990. i briefly used number 1 in 1988 after winning the OKRA championhip, but i did not feel right without 26 on the kart so it returned at mid-season.
for the 1991 karting season, my pit crew marilou whaling became the driver and i became her mechanic. i raced once that year at the canadian nationals in her kart using her number 56. we actually achieved twin finishes at the event (second overall, first in the final race, each in our own class on successive days with the same chassis and motor). in 1992 i raced once, again in kart 56.
in 1995, when i came back and competed in the okra grand nationals, i debated using 56, but went back to 26 one last time. george gilbert helped me in the pits that day (as he had once before when we went to the world championship race in jacksonville, florida), and marilou came down to watch. it was a great way to finish off the driving portion of my racing career.