Recently I have been exchanging email messages with Evan Gamblin of the Ottawa area about Wayne Kelly. Wayne Kelly was a very successful racer and race car builder who died in an accident at Mosport in 1971 during a Formula Ford race. I did not know Wayne, but Evan did. Evan had down some work assisting Wayne Kelly work on cars at Wayne’s workshop and Wayne had loaned tires to Evan to use in a hillclimb. The significance of Wayne Kelly to me was that his death was the first death that really registered with me about how dangerous racing was. I think that I had dismissed other deaths that concerned me, Jim Clark and Bruce McLaren for example, as something that happens only to big time professional racers. Wayne Kelly’s death was much more local and somehow broadened the field of people would could get killed racing. I had been to Mosport before and when I read that he had been killed at Turn 1, I knew exactly the configuration of that turn. That also made it a little more personal.
Wayne Kelly was a very successful racer in a variety of race cars first in Europe, when he lived over there, and then back in Canada. However Wayne was especially an important figure in Canada as a builder of race cars. Horst Kroll won the Canadian Driving Championship in 1968 competing in a Kelly-Porsche, which seems to have been based on putting a Porsche engine in a Lotus 23.
Wayne Kelly Driving A Kelly-Porsche
It is perhaps his role in the development and establishment of the Volkswagen-powered Formula Vee as an affordable and competitive series that was his most important role. In addition to being a significant builder of Formula Vee cars, he won the Canadian Formula Vee championship in 1965 and 1968.
Apparently Wayne was quite resourceful when it came to building his Formula Vee cars. His engine builder for his Formula Vees was in upstate New York. When a new race car was ready, someone would drive the shop Volkswagen Beetle (fitted with an expendable engine) across the US/Canadian border, and come back to Canada running-in the new race engine.
Wayne was in the Canadian Air Force which provided some other opportunities to be resourceful. Evan said that the first time that he sat in one of Wayne Kelly’s cars, he remarked on how little play there was in the shift linkage, and asked where he got the beautiful U-joints, shafting and supports. It turned out they came from a parts bin at work where these were parts from the canopy drive for the air force’s CF-100 fighter, which by then was obsolete.
A Kelly Formula Vee Out Front
Another story they tell about Wayne Kelly took place during a club event in Harewood Acres, a now defunct race track based at a former air field near Jarvis, Ontario. Evidently his race car broke a part for which Wayne did not have a replacement part with him. Wayne made an urgent call to Trenton, Ontario, his home at the time and the location of a major Canadian Air Force base, and apparently the required part was handed over to a pilot friend of Wayne’s who needed some extra flight training time. The pilot placed the unit, well packaged, in the air brakes of an air force T-33 and made his way to Harewood. Making a pass over the field it was thought by the Chief Steward at the track that the aircraft had to make an emergency landing. A second pass saw all practice stopped so that the main straight would be clear for a landing. This was not the case however, and while making a very low speed pass, the pilot activated the air brake flaps, and dropped the ‘emergency’ package, and then took off to continue his ‘training’.
With two races remaining in the 1971 Shoppers World Formula Ford Championship, and while in second place in points, Wayne Kelly tragically lost his life while competing during a race at Mosport. The death of Wayne Kelly is one of those events that just have stuck in my mind. Wayne Kelly was inducted into Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009.
For more information about Wayne Kelly and this post, please see my follow-up post on November 14, 2013.