In August of 1997, I was 19 years old and preparing to enter university. I was also completely obsessed with Formula 1. And my ship had come in. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of international motorsports such as Formula 1, had just issued me a personnel pass. I had been hired to work on the pit crew of a Canadian FF1600 team. I was a professional motor racing person.
That summer, my friend had completed his mechanic’s training and had been hired to work full-time for a local motor racing team. It was a serious outfit owned by two wealthy brothers. The FF1600 championship was a feeder series into the bigger series such as Formula Atlantic. I began hanging around the garage every chance I got. I would run errands for the guys, help out around the garage, and hit the nightclubs with the guys on Friday nights. I just wanted to be around the excitement of a professional racing team.
My chance came in August when one of the pit crew got sick. There was a race that weekend in Shannonville, Ontario, and the team needed an extra pair of hands. With few options, my friend recommended me to his boss and they hired me. I had no mechanical or technical skills whatsoever, but I worked hard, had endless enthusiasm, and was fluent in both English and French. I was hired with an hourly wage, all expenses paid, transport, uniform and everything. And best of all, I got an FIA team pass for the weekend. I had entered the world of professional motor racing.
That weekend in Shannonville, I worked all through the night twice, changing engines. I got to push “my” car onto the starting grid after strapping in the driver. And I saw a level of commitment and dedication like I had never seen before. It was a lesson that helped me prepare for challenges later in life. I really had no business working on a pit crew and I certainly had no qualifications. But my passion for racing rubbed off on people and endeared me to the team.
I made such an impression on my debut in motor racing that I was invited back for the legendary Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. By then, however, I had to start university. Despite my dream racing experience, I knew that I had to get a university degree and plan for my future.
This story illustrates my passion and love for motor racing. I was crazy about cars ever since I was a toddler. I discovered Ferrari at the age of 8. I could recite every statistic of every Ferrari car by the age of 10. I attended my first Grand Prix at the age of 3. And I had completely infected all of my friends family with the F1 bug by the age of 18. I may not be a racing driver myself, but somehow, racing has always been in my blood.
In fact, racing is what led me to watches. I always liked watches, but the TAG Heuer sponsorship in the 1990’s made me aware of TAG watches, which became my first material obsessions. It became my fantasy to own a TAG Heuer. After owning a few TAG, I branched out into other brands and it was all downhill after that. I began to read and research like crazy and my watch hobby turned into an addiction.
At the heart of my fascination with watches has always been the racing chronograph. I certainly strayed away from this genre but I always come back to it. The motor racing chronograph represents my entire journey- from talking my way onto a professional racing team to earning enough bonus money to actually buy a grail such as a Panerai. The motor racing chronograph tells me an entire story – from loving cars as a young boy, to aspiring to own great timepieces, to going into the Formula 1 Paddock as a VIP guest of Oris. Real racing chrono’s are at the heart of TimeCaptain.
The archetypical racing chronograph looks sporty and has a tachymetre scale. It may have racy colors and reminds you of the cockpit of a racing car. The watch may have some branding or theme that pays tribute to a particular racing car or circuit. A proper racing chronograph feels like an instrument used by a racing crew. This type of watch has motor racing DNA and expresses the highly technical and competitive world of motor racing.
Check out my review of my 40BDP – my 40th birthday piece. It is a racing Oris. And look at the Heuer 01 that I reviewed. These watches are great examples of pieces that really speak to me. With watches like these, it’s not just about specs or brand names. It’s not about practicality or value. It’s all about the racing in my blood.