Sevierville man was part of racing history in Canada
To many in town, they were just Al and Elaine.
But Al Pease lived a life many in Sevier County could hardly imagine. A World War II pilot in the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and later a commercial artist in Toronto, Pease is perhaps best known outside the United States for a storied career in motorsports that included two Formula 1 appearances in the 1960s.
“I didn’t know he was that popular,” Pease’s wife Elaine said recently. “When you’re married, you do not know what other people think of your spouse. I had no idea how popular, how loved and how kind he was. ... I didn’t know how intense it was. He said, ‘I race cars,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ ”
Al Pease, who retired to Sevierville in the 1990s, passed away at his home on Shaconage Trail on May 4 at the age of 92. Soon after, the phone in the Pease home began ringing off the hook with condolences from Europe and Canada pouring in. Elaine, who was married to Pease for 40 years, said she hardly knows many of the people who call and is surprised to learn how large Pease’s legacy in motorsports was.
The Mountain Press reported on Pease’s racing career in 2007. He has been a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame since 1998, the result of a legendary career in that country. Pease held the Canadian National Championship in three different classes in the early 1960s, later winning the Sports Car title for five straight years. He participated in two Formula 1 events, including the inaugural race in Canada in 1967.
That 2007 article highlighted Pease’s trip to Ontario’s Mosport International Raceway where he participated in the 40th anniversary of that first Canadian Formula 1 race.
The Hall of Fame says of Pease’s career on its website, “It is doubtful that any other driver in the history of Canadian motorsport has collected more trophies than Al Pease, winning a steady stream of regional and national championships in a variety of cars for almost 30 years.”
Pease later worked to restore race cars, becoming involved with the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada in his retirement, Elaine said. Now, VARAC hands out the Al Pease Trophy to the winner of the All-MG race at its annual festival. Pease became famous driving MGs, a British-manufactured sports car. At that 2007 event, Pease got to drive a restored MG. He later told The Mountain Press’ Adam Greene “it felt wonderful.”
“To see something that you had, that was very successful, that was totally disintegrated, come back, felt wonderful,” Pease said. “It was exactly the way that I had it.”
Elaine Pease said she hopes those in Sevier County who knew her husband understand the legacy that he left, quietly, 800 miles north.
“Everyone is aware that Al Pease passed away but they didn’t know he was so famous,” Elaine said. “He was so modest.”