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Getting his start racing go-carts and on the frozen ice tracks of his hometown of Thunder Bay, this athlete rose quickly up through the ranks of the auto racing world during the 1980s and 90s, being described at one point as the finest Canadian driver since Gilles Villeneuve. Making a name for himself as a champion early on by claiming the Mid-Canada Series title, he carried on the legacy of success established by his Hall of Fame father Tom.

In 1983, at just 17 years of age, he made the move to the Formula 2000 class going on to dominate the circuit, winning the 12-race Walter Wolf Canadian Formula 2000 Series title in his rookie season, with seven wins, two second and three third place finishes. Winning the run-off title at the Canadian Nationals he won the President's Cup as the driver with the most wins in Canada that year. He continued his winning ways in 1984 by claiming his second Canadian Formula 2000 Racing Series title.

In 1985 he moved into the International Motor Sport Association (IMSA) series. His 6 wins, including victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, along with 4 second place finishes, saw him clinch the overall GTO title, becoming the first Canadian, and the youngest driver in the history of the IMSA, to win the series title.

Moving to Europe in 1986 to race in the highly competitive F3000 series, he was the youngest on the circuit and the only North American. Placing 21st in his first season, he improved to 11th overall in 1987, finishing in the top-10 in all but three of his races, including a 2nd place finish in France.

Making his debut in the CART/PPG Indy Car World Series in 1988, he had seven top-ten finishes, including a 7th place showing at the Toronto Indy. Finishing 11th overall out of 48 drivers, he won the CART Indy Series Rookie of the Year title, becoming the first Canadian and youngest to win the title. In 1989 he earned entry into the Indianapolis 500, qualifying with an average speed of just over 214 mph, the fastest by a rookie in Indy history up to that point. Starting in the 25th position amongst 33 cars, he crossed the finish line in 11th place.

The 1990s saw him return to the F3000 circuit and round out his career back in the CART series, before turning his attention to the instructional side of the sport, passing along his knowledge to others after having left his mark in the pages of Canadian auto racing history.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 30th, 2017

John Jones

Auto Racing
Thunder Bay
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