Allen Berg: The Motorsport Magazine Article –  November 2023 Issue

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Allen berg: the motorsport magazine article - nov 2023 issue

His time as a 1980s Formula 1 backmarker was all too brief, yet there was so much more to the colourful racing life of this Canadian, who is still carving his own niche today.

Damien Smith

Forty years ago, a 21-year-old unknown from Alberta, Canada, pitched up in England with dreams of racing in Formula 1. Allen Berg made it – just – starting nine grands prix for Italian minnow Osella in 1986, before the dream crumbled. Still, Berg found his own path to racing success as he headed down Mexico way to forge an unlikely life and career away from the mainstream – and on his own terms. Formula 2 champion in 1993, he was a frontrunner in Mexico’s well-funded Formula 3 series in the mid-1990s and capped his time south of the border with a Panamerican Indy Lights title at the age of 40. He then briefly ran a Formula Atlantic team in the US.

Today, at 62, Berg has settled happily in Buford, a quaint corner of Georgia, and runs a successful racing school business at American grandee tracks Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta. He has also set his 16-year-old son Alex Berg on his own path to a possible racing future. Alex is racing in US F4 this year and has ambitions to follow his old man’s example by heading to the UK for 2024. So a chip off the old block? Perhaps – but with greater confidence than his modest father ever showed. We caught up with Allen on a call to his race shop, based near Road Atlanta.

Motor Sport: Our readers might remember you for your two seasons in British F3 in 1983/84. How did motor sport start for you?

AB: I was always a fan. Growing up I always used to watch ABC Wide World of Sports in Canada. We only had two channels back then in the mid-1960s. There would be a black and white report from the Nürburgring or something. It was always a curiosity, this sort of racing, because it seemed unachievable. There was IndyCar and NASCAR, but I found that unappealing. But road racing, driving these sleek state-of-the-art race cars, really appealed. There was no internet back then, so all you had was Road & Track with reports written by Rob Walker, and I always dreamed about this world. When I had a chance to get a go-kart with my dad, paid partly by my paper round, we raced around western Canada when I was about 15. We both loved racing and went to the Long Beach GP in 1977. That was inspiring. I did well in karts and my parents helped me into Formula Ford.

Motor Sport: Before British F3, you raced in New Zealand and Australia, didn’t you?

AB: I got picked up by a couple of teams, did some instructing at racing schools. I did quite well and was able to move into Formula Atlantic in North America. Then I had an invitation to race in New Zealand because they had Canadian-Pacific sponsorship and wanted a Canadian driver. That was for the Tasman
Series [aka Formula Pacific] and I won it – the same series that Graham Hill, Jimmy Clark and Jackie Stewart raced in. At one point I was handled by Gilles Villeneuve’s manager, and he made an introduction to Michel Koenig, the publisher of Grand Prix International magazine. Every year they would support a driver in British F3. At the Canadian GP I was introduced to him, he saw me drive and gave me an opportunity. That got me to England

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Allen Berg

Allen Berg ranks among Canada's top racing personalities. He won the Formula Pacific Tasman Championship, won at Silverstone against Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle in perhaps the greatest year ever in British Formula 3, and qualified for nine starts in F1, a record bettered among his countrymen only by Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve.