Address: 2170 Pierre-Dupuy Avenue, Office 100, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3R4
PH: +1 514-350-4731
Circuit type: Temporary closed road course
One of the most relaxed and enjoyable race meetings on the calendar, the Canadian GP has found its long-term home in Montréal, on a circuit now named after the nation's favourite driver, Gilles Villeneuve.
In fact, it was Villeneuve who provided the fans with a fairytale debut victory on the first running of the race in 1978. It was perhaps inevitable the the Circuit Notre-Dame would be renamed in Villeneuve's honour after his untimely death in 1982.
But it was not with motorsport in mind that the man-made island in the St Lawrence Seaway was originally constructed; it was created instead as a venue for Expo '67. The futuristic parkland setting included one of Buckminster Fuller's first domes (remnants of which remain to this day) and a lagoon in the centre.
When Expo vacated in 1968, the site struggled on for years as a standing collection of international pavilions known as "Man and His World." However, as attendance declined, the physical condition of the site deteriorated, and less and less of it was open to the public. However, for the 1976 Olympics, a rowing strip was created alongside and roads were built connecting the various points on the island.
When the Olympics finished, the island had only a short period of inactivity, as Canadian motorsport needed a new venue for its premier race - and driver - as Mosport havd become unsuitable for modern F1 cars.
The Ile Notre-Dame was thus prepared in double-quick time to a design by Roger Peart for the penultimate race of the '78 season. A capacity crowd, which included Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was thus able to spur Gilles onto victory.
Genrally popular with the drivers, the circuit was given a few modifications in time for the 1979 to remove initial complaints. Characterised by twisty sections joined by high-speed straights and tight hairpins, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is certainly a test of endurance and braking for the cars.
Initially, the pits were located directly after the hairpin at the northern end of the course, with temporary structures leaving the teams exposed to the elements. A lull in activities in 1987 caused by a dispute between sponsors Labatt's and Molson allowed time for a circuit upgrade and new pit facilities to be built further around the lap, while the corners before the Island hairpin were 'smoothed' to form a longer pit straight.
Further modifications to the final chicane before the new pits were conducted after Derek Warwick crashed heavily during practice for the 1988 race. In 1994 and 1995, in the heightened safety consciousness post-Senna's death, a temporary chicane was inserted before the Casino curves, making use of what was the exit tarmac for the original pitlane. More major changes came with the removal of the sweepers on the back straight altogether and further reprofiling of the final chicane - which has certainly proved to be a corner that 'bites', as messers Hill, Villeneuve and Schumacher have demonstrated in recent years! In fact, the chicance is now usually referred to as 'Champion's Corner'...
Other significant changes came in 2002, with a modification of the pit lane exit into Turn 1, which had itself had seen greater runoff installed. The Turn 10 hairpin was also taken further back towards the Turn 8/9 chicane, allowing a tarmac runoff to be used instead of gravel. The wall at the infamous Turn 15 'Champion's Corner' has also been moved further back and a rubber-belted tyre wall added.
Circuit Gilles Villenueve has earned a relatively unique distinction, in being one of the few circuits to hosts both Formula One, ChampCar, Grand Am and NASCAR races ion the same layout, providing an interesting comparison between the various formulae. Bewtwen 2002 and 2006 it was the turn of the ChampCars to take up the second race meeting slot, whereas from 2007 the NASCAR Busch/Nationwide Series held a double card event with Grand Am's Rolex Series. From 2013 the circuit has reverted to being a Formula One host only.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is located on Île Notre-Dame in central Montreal. The nearest airport is Pierre Elliott-Trudeau International Airport. From the terminal, you can reach the downtown core in less than 20 minutes. Shuttle buses, taxis and limousines, service all major downtown hotels from the airport. On Grand Prix weekends, there is no parking on the island itself and spaces are in short supply in the downtown areas near to the circuit. Racegoers are strongly advised to make use of Montreal's public transport network. Plan a 40-minute subway ride if you are departing from the North End of Montreal, a 25-minute ride from any downtown station and 15 minutes from the South Shore (Longueuil Station). By buying your transport tickets in advance for your return trip at the end of the event, you will avoid queues at fare vending machines and metro fare collectors.