Gilles Villeneuve applying opposite lock in his March 77B through Turn 2 at Mosport Park in 1977.  Copyright Norm MacLeod 2018.  Used with permission.

Canadian Formula Atlantic 1977

At the start of the 1976 season, Players had told CASC that season would be their last year of sponsorship of the Canadian series, giving the Canadian governing body the whole year to arrange a replacement. CASC bungled this and by December they had little choice but to accept an ingenious arrangement offered by Kris Harrison of Ecurie Canada. Harrison suggested that Ecurie Canada Engines were made sole supplier of the only eligible engine, the Ford Cosworth BDN, with its price increased to $10,000 to allow enough profit to fund prize money for the series. Harrison then secured sponsorship from Labatts who, as sponsors of the Canadian GP, had been right under CASC's nose all along.

To keep an eye on Harrison, a Formula Atlantic Entrants Association was formed consisting of Harrison's own Ecurie Canada, Doug Shierson Racing, Fred Opert, Ralt importer Brian Robertson, Pierre Philips Racing and Bill Brack. As the circuits could bring no money to the table, they had little say in the matter. TV had an interest, but they expected to be paid to provide coverage.

The season hardly needed Harrison's promotional ability. After defending champion Gilles Villeneuve was punted off by F2 ace Keke Rosberg at Mosport, the young Canadian charged back to finish second and thereafter was unbeatable: three wins and two retirements from the five races he entered. He missed one race while making his GP debut at Silverstone and also found time to race in Can-Am. Bill Brack, Bobby Rahal and Rosberg won when Villeneuve wasn't at the finish and 22-year-old Price Cobb won the Mosport race and the high profile non-championship race at Trois-Rivières.

The races

22 May 1977 > Mosport Park

26 Jun 1977 > Gimli

03 Jul 1977 > Edmonton

17 Jul 1977 > Westwood

07 Aug 1977 > Halifax

14 Aug 1977 > St-Félicien

04 Sep 1977 > Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières

25 Sep 1977 > Québec City

Formula Atlantic Labatts Championship events shown in bold

1977 Formula Atlantic Labatts Championship table

1Gilles VilleneuveMarch 77B - Ford BDN Morris114 pts3 wins
2Bobby RahalMarch 76B - Ford BDN Morris
Ralt RT1 - Ford BDN Willis
92 pts1 win
3Bill BrackMarch 77B - Ford BDN Nicholson87 pts1 win
4Keke RosbergChevron B39 - Ford BDN Titan82 pts1 win
5Price CobbMarch 77B - Ford BDN Nicholson82 pts1 win
6Tom GloyMarch 76B - Ford BDN Morris68 pts 
7Chip MeadRalt RT1 - Ford BDN Willis60 pts 
8Kevin CoganRalt RT1 - Ford BDN Willis59 pts 
9Richard SpenardMarch 77B - Ford BDN Morris48 pts 
10Howdy HolmesMarch 77B - Ford BDN Race Shop46 pts 

Previous: 1976

Next: 1978

Points table from a CASC bulletin dated 13 Oct 1977 (provided by Dominic St-Jean of Quebecois motor racing website autocourse.ca).

There was also a race in Mexico in early November, the Novedades Cup, but the Mexican authorities failed to get approval for the race from the FIA, so James Hunt, who arrived to drive a Chevron, was unable to take part. Tom Bagley won from Kevin Cogan and Chip Mead, but complete results have proved elusive.

In 1977, Ecurie Canada disintegrated and engine man Dave Morris took over the job of running cars for Gilles Villeneuve and Richard Spenard, with Andy Roe as chief mechanic. Morris's family company Weldangrind in Edmonton spawned Engine Rebuilders Ltd to maintain Cosworth BDNs for Morris's customers.