James Hunt poster contest winner was once a racer himself
The connections we make often reflect how small a world it truly is. When
Motoring ran a contest for one lucky person to win a James Hunt poster, the winner turned out to be a former racer himself.
Larry Barnett, a local Orangeville man, was an amateur racer who raced Formula 2000, Formula Ford 1600, the Honda/Michelin and the GT2 and GT3 series.
The drive to become a racer started when he was just ten years old. His uncle took him to the Mosport track in Bowmanville to see a race and from that moment, he was sold.
“That was my first professional sports car race,” said Mr. Barnett. “It was kind of funny, because I came home that day and told my parents that one day I was going to race, and they were like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’. Ten years later almost to the date I got my racing license.”
During the early 80’s, Mr. Barnett was one of the few Canadian drivers that was fully sponsored. He ranked third in Ontario for the Region Championship in the Honda/Michelin series in 1983 and had an impressive 95 percent finishing rate. Throughout his racing career, he had the opportunity to race three times in Montreal on the Grand Prix Weekend and worked the first five Molson Indy’s in Toronto.
“I managed to pull off a couple of wins, but you need lots of sponsorship to advance to pro levels,” he said. “I was able to get good money, though not good enough – but there’s a million stories like that out there. I’m very fortunate because I’ve got lots of races on my log card. It was always something that I wanted to do and I was very fortunate because I got to do it.”
After moving forward with family and children, Mr. Barnett had hoped to return to racing, but after a battle with a brain tumour nine years ago the goal had to be put on the shelf.
“It’s kind of painful,” he shared. “But at least I had the chance while I was healthy. We had such good times, we had a lot of fun.”
Despite his inability to race, he has kept himself busy visiting the tracks and assisted in launching the electric car races at ODSS. He volunteered 6 times with the late Dennis Weishar, recent Head of the Technology Dept at ODSS and creator of the event.
“It was great to give the kids a chance to race,” he said. “It was nothing like being on a real track, but it was nice to be able to give them a taste. It was a really well-organized event and schools from all over Southern Ontario came to Orangeville to compete. It was pretty cool.”
He was able to help raise 15,000 dollars in sponsorship for the program over the time he helped out.
Mr. Barnett has been going to the tracks for 45 years, and has attended every major form of auto racing, including Can Am (which is his favourite) NASCAR, NHRA drags, Formula 1, Trans Am, IMSA, Grand Am-Rolex, American Lemans at many of the major North American tracks. His favourite drivers include Gilles Villeneuve, James Hunt, Mario Andretti, & Scott Pruett.
“I’m just, you know, I’m a car guy,” he said. “I know quite a bit about [racing], because I’ve been going to the track for so long. You don’t come out of the womb knowing this stuff – when I was ten years old I didn’t know anything about it, but I learned it all as I went.”
In 1976, he was able to get close enough to James Hunt to snap a picture of him, which he has blown up on a plaque in his home today. He felt that winning the poster through Motoring was pretty cool because of his admiration for Hunt, as well as his photo.
Written by Tabitha Venasse