Weedsport, NY — March 9, 2010 – From Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director
The entire DIRTcar Racing community extends its deepest sympathy to family and friends of Northeast Modified Hall of Fame driver Bob Gatien, who lost a lengthy battle with cancer and passed away on Monday, March 8 at age 74.
Calling hours at Les Jardins Funéraires Bessette, 997 Des colombes in Granby, are Saturday, March 13 7-10pm, Sunday 2-5pm & 7-10pm and Monday 12noon-2:15pm. The funeral service will take place at St-Luc Church in Granby on Monday at 2:30.
Gatien was one of two legendary racers that gained entrance into the NE Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies in May of 2002 on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds. When most people hear his name, they immediately associate him with the promotion of Autodrome Granby, a crown jewel track on the DIRTcar Northeast circuit. Not many Americans, however, associate the legendary Frenchman as one of the winningest drivers in North America.
Bob began his racing career in 1953 at age 17, racing his street car at Autodrome St. Guillaume near the present day Autodrome Drummond in Quebec. Just two years later he entered the world of oval track dirt racing and when he unbuckled for the last time he had taken more than 200 checkered flags racing against some of the best drivers from his era; Leo Bergeron, Robert Beaudoin, Florian Potvin, Real Ladoux, Jacques Lalancette, Luc Plante and Don VanGuilder.
At Drummond, then an ultra-fast 5/8ths mile oval, Bob won nine championships and some 68 feature races. His first title came in 1962 aboard his famed #397 modified owned by Marcel Lamer, who would remain with Gatien for 25 years as head mechanic and fabricator. His first recorded feature win was on June 3, 1961; the final victory came at Drummond on July 16, 1983. He returned as champion in 1969, 1974-76, 1979-80 and 1982-83, today still holding the record for most track championships at the Drummondville oval.
Speedway experience was extensive in and around the Quebec area for Gatien. Over the years he raced at Granby (once called Rebel Speedway), Fury Speedway, Kempton Park Raceway, Sherbrooke Speedway, Autodrome St-Guillaume, Autodrome Sorel, Mustang Speedway, St-Elle d’orfrod and Ste-Martine Speedway. He also ventured to Brookville Speedway for a year and a half, making special trips to Cornwall Motor Speedway, Fonda, Lebanon Valley, Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Devil’s Bowl Speedway, Plattsburg Speedway, Weedsport, Syracuse and Orange County Fair Speedway. His biggest honor came in 1975 when he was chosen the best stock car driver on both asphalt and dirt in the Province of Quebec, accepting this prestigious award at the Gold Medal Gala in Montreal. In 1983, his final year behind the wheel, he received the “Rejean Bergeron Best Racing Personality” Award in Quebec.
Gatien’s 30-year driving career stretched from 1953 to 1983, and when he became part owner of Autodrome Granby he made sure it was the first track in Quebec to become a full member of DIRTcar in 1987. Under his guidance Granby emerged as one of the first DIRTcar speedways to have a tunnel under the track, a “Modified” for a pace car and a state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard valued at a quarter-million dollars.
Log into http://www.autodrome-granby.com for the track’s memorial tribute.