Wayne Kelly: A Fine Canadian Racer and Race Car Builder

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.

Kelly-Porsche MHOF

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.

Kelly Formula Vee Race Car 1967

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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Wayne Kelly: A Fine Canadian Racer and Race Car Builder

  1. Karen Routly (nee Kelly) says:

    I can not express how I feel to read a post about my father after so any years. Thank you for this.

    • Mike Kearns says:

      Hi Karen,
      My name is Mike Kearns and I worked on the Vee’s with Paul, AL( Air Force welder).
      I still have pictures of your Dad and also of Brian Robertson. There is a lot of memories
      of the past that I remember being involved in the racing.

      • Karen Kelly says:

        Mike, Please contact me if you are interested, or leave me your email and I’ll mail you.

      • Mike Kearns says:

        Hi Karen,
        I would not remember what you look like. I do remember your Mom and brother. I had such a good time with Wayne and the rest of the crew in the shop and at the races.
        It was a very sad time for all that new him when he died that day. This experience in my life never was forgotten.
        Take care and remember he will always be thought of in years to come.
        Mike Kearns

    • kimmcamp says:

      Wow Karen how great to see you on here. I was just looking up something else and came across this article about your Dad. I remember when it happened and how devastated my Dad was. They had some good times back in the day. My Dad passed away 6 years ago.

    • Christine Cayer Fortier says:

      I hope you are the Karen that lived two houses over from me. Please let me know I’m Christine.

    • kimmcamp says:

      Karen drop me a line sometime. Would be great to touch bases, and catch up on families. Kim Campbell kimmcamp@gmail.com

    • Larry Richardson says:

      My name is Larry Richardson. I worked with your Dad at Upland’s GCA from 68-70 and left the Forces to work for him on Vees and the FF. I lived in your basement for a few months when my wife Lucie had to go to St Catharines for work. In April 71 while your Dad was in Alert, I rejoined the Forces and went to Val d’or. It was one of the saddest day’s of my life to hear on TV of the accident. Lucie and I came down to the funeral. It’s many, many years later and yet I often think of him. The experience shaped my entire life. How is your Mum and Kirk?


    • Denny Quirk says:

      Hi Karen. My name is Denny Quirk; I’m 81 years old. I knew your dad quite well; I was with him at the Nassau Speed Week in December 1964. My wife and I live just south of Trenton in Prince Edward County. If you are anywhere within a 3 hour drive, we would love to buy you lunch and give you some of my memories of Wayne.

      • Larry Richardson says:

        OK. I checked with Lavina and everything is OK.

        Ummm. I mean Heather and Lucie and everyone else in the universe. Dates are OK as given.

      • Karen Routly (nee Kelly) says:

        I read your recent long story and answered some questions. I hope you are doing well, god bless you.

  2. Pete Harvey says:

    Wayne was like a shot of hot sauce where ever he was. In the Bahamas there was a shortage of VW rims because drivers were banging them up on the curbs. The answer was to rent a Beetle and swap rims. There was also quite a fuss when Joachin Rindt found his new racing tires had temporarily “disappeared”. Never a dull moment.
    Pete Harvey

  3. Christine Cayer Fortier says:

    Karen I was just in Ottawa last weekend at my old house ( my brother now owns it) 2115 Saunderson Drive. Walked up to your old house which brought back a lot of memories. Would really like to get in touch with you and catch up on old times!

  4. Peter Newman says:

    Just a note, my name is Peter Newman. Used to be the welding instructor at Ottawa Tech. Wayne came to my evening classes and co-erst me into working with him building his Formula V cars. I have fond memories of working with Wayne in his workshop near Manotik. The day of his crash was one of the worst of my life waiting to find out if it was something that I had made that let him down. He was one hell of a guy and I will never forget him.

    • Karen Kelly says:

      Thank you Peter for your comment, I can not express reading so much about a great man that so many remember.

  5. fred olney box 123 ardmore ab 780 826 7189 says:

    Karen the name is fred olney came back from Germany in 1960 with wayne spent a lot of time at the house on Louis st Trenton I am now in Alberta always wondered about Marlene KIm you and your brother I have tons of stories that may be of interest

  6. Hi Karen
    My name is Chris Woollam and I was base medical officer at Uplands in the early 70’s. I have practiced medicine and still do , since that time.
    I befriended your Dad then and he took me out to many of his races at St Jovite. I had a wonderful time with him and how kind he was to me.
    I was never a car jockey but his work and determination fascinated me.
    I was in the pits at Mosport on that tragic day standing with your Mum as we watched him pass us around that fatal last turn.
    Needless to say we were in shock and I drove your Mum ( and I think, you guys) back to Ottawa.
    I have never been so numb – even though I have seen my fair share of death in my line of work.
    I received the autopsy report from Bowmanville later and was sick at the thought .
    It still haunts me.
    I hope you are all in a happy space- as am I.
    Just to let you know how something like this can impact people for all their lives.
    If you (or your Mum) should ever wish to contact me – I am at chris@woollams.ca.
    Best wishes.

  7. Lorne Progosh says:

    HI –
    My name is Lorne Progosh and I was in that race the day Wayne was killed. In fact I was close behind him and saw the whole thing happen. I was 20 years old then and all I thought of was racing. In my novice year I won a few FF races but crashed heavily at Mosport, I thought that was the end because who would fix my Titan racer. Wayne sauntered over to me in the pits and actually complimented me on my pace and said no problem – bring the thing to my shop. I lived on Merivale road and got to spend some time at the shop in Manotick. He repaired the car close to new and I was so grateful for his work. I did get to race in the Atlantic series for a short while before personal circumstances caused me to stop and start a new business, I will always remember Wayne for his spirit and for the way he treated me.

    • Karen Kelly says:

      Thank you so much for your comments. My father was very special.

      • Randolph Bradbury says:

        Hi Karen this is Randy I grew up with you in ottawa. Still have the best memories growing up with you and Kirk. I just told my boys the story of your dad back in the late 60s. Lotus everything I hear or see one I think about Saunders on drive

  8. Robin Chinkiwsky says:

    Hi Karen my name is Robin Chinkiwsky, myself and my team mate Lorne Progosh new Wayne and visited him in his Manotick location from time to time, He was always willing to help us with our Titan Formula Fords, I really think he took us under his wing as did Brian Robertson. I wish I still had pictures of us racing with him, as both Progosh and myself were in that final sad race! Great Guy, wish he was still here.

    • Karen Kelly says:

      Robin, I’d love to talk to all these great people who knew my father. Send me your conntact information.

  9. Karen Kelly says:

    To the Editor Steve !!!
    Connect me with the people that would like to catch up, if you can.
    If there is a discreet way of passing information???

  10. Hi Karen; my name is Mike Charbonneau. I used to work for your Father when he had the Golden Eagle on St Laurent pumping gas and helping with the race cars. I spent a lot of time at the Manotick shop after school and I’d tag along to Mosport and St Jovite. Also spent a lot of time with JP Cayer working on his car and others. Now living on PEI selling Real Estate. Just wanted to let you know that I spent some of the most enjoyable times that I can recall with your Dad.

    Best regards;

    Mike Charbonneau. My contact is mcharbonneau@royallepage.ca.

  11. Marcel Chayer says:

    My name is Marcel Chayer. I worked with Wayne at Uplands GCA, Many a weekend I worked and extra shift when Wayne had to go racing, he always gave us a few dollars, I remember we had an answering service for him and none of us minded. I was in Val d’Or with Larry Richardson when your dad died. Larry Had just replaced me for the night shift. I was just getting home when the news came on TV. I did not think Larry would be able to finish the shift so I went back so he could go home to be with Lucie I can remember clearly when President Kennedy was assasinated but I remember Wayne more vividly. One small story will show what Wayne was all about. He was working on St Laurent Eagle station and had rebuilt a Volks beetle from spare parts. We had just received a bonus to reenlist,. Mine was $562.Wayne offererd me the ca, I said I could not afford it he asked about my bonus, I told him and he said give 550 and its yours I said great. The next day someone came and offered him $1100 for the car. Wayne said ” sorry it was sold yesterday” That was your father s STRAIGHT arrow in all his dealings. I live in Ottawa and drive by the airport every day. I salute Wayne and ask him to look after me from heaven.

  12. Sean O'Neil says:

    Hello Karen, my name is Sean O’Neil. My father, Charles purchased Brian Robertson Beech formula vee, in the mid 1960 and raced with your dad along with others such as Brian Stewart, Gunther Dekker, Gordon Munn etc.
    Your dad was a tremendous inspiration and played a key role in the development of amateur racing in canada. My father and I always remarked on how very similar the first few “Kelly” vees were so very similar in frame design to my dad’s Beech. Some of that “mystery” was solved when we discovered that Brian (robertson) and your dad were good friends!
    At the track, I always looked forward during race weekends to hang around with your brother Kirk. If you would be kind enough to pass along my hello to Kirk, snd invite him to contact me, I would love to catch up.
    Thank you Karen. Cheers, Sean

    • Karen Kelly says:

      KIrk died of cancer in Vancouver in 2013 .

      • Brian Murphy says:

        Hi Karen,
        I’m sorry to hear of Kirk’s passing. I didn’t know Kirk that well but I do have great memories of a camping weekend we had at John Granger’s cottage. I met Kirk through mutual friends Monte Reinberger and Frank Organ while at Canterbury HS if I remember correctly. I remember the day your dad died vividly. I was at the Ottawa Rough Riders game and they announced the tragic news over the stadium pa system.
        Regards ….Brian Murphy

  13. Pat McDermott says:

    did Wayne have a son named Kirk? If he did , he was my sister’s boyfriend.

  14. Bill Huffman says:

    My name is Bill Huffman and I worked in the Sports Department at the Trenton Trentonian and the very first feature article I wrote and took pictures for was an article about Wayne. When I did the article, he was working on the car within two blocks of where I lived. Needless to say, I have very fond memories about Wayne and that article. I am hoping that in July of 2016 that we can induct Wayne into our Quinte West Sports Wall of Fame. If Karen reads this, could she please contact me as I might need a picture (other than what I took) for the plaque. My e-mail is

    • Karen says:

      I want to thank you for inducting my Dad into the Trenton Hall of Fame. I was born in Trenton so this means alot to me. I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it, but my job did not allow my absence.
      Thank you again.

  15. Bruce Ricketts says:

    I worked for Wayne at Golden Eagle pumping gas . He was a great man.

  16. Gilles Bernier says:

    I was also at Mosport that day wrenching for Reg Scullion and J.-P. St-Jacques. Very sad day for the entire FF community.

  17. Randolph Bradbury says:

    I was a young boy living 2 houses from the Kelly’s. My memories of all the fancy cars on my street was amazing. I just told my boys the story of growing up beside the buzz bees always working hard to climb to the top. Will always remember Kirk.

    • Karen Routly (nee Kelly) says:

      Randy Bradbury !! I remenber you guys like yesterday. Which brother was the one I hung out with… Greg?? I’m the youngest of the Kelly kids. Thank you for leaving your childhood memories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s