Thursday morning, Pierre Houde appeared on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit for his umpteenth Grand Prix of Canada. Once his vehicle was parked, he walked along the basin. Looking at the paddock in the distance, he thought, “My God, I’m so happy!” »
Voice of Formula 1 in Quebec for more than 30 years, Pierre Houde would have every right to hang up his microphone if he wanted to – even if such a decision would upset many viewers.
Each year, before the Grand Prix of Canada, the experienced descriptor of the Sports Network (RDS) does a little introspection. “Do I still have the taste?” “, he wonders.
“It doesn’t get any more scientific than that. As long as that, it’s there, you say to yourself: why stop? “, he launches with a smile, seated with La Presse, Friday morning.
To tell the truth, Mr. Houde would not even have needed to tell us that he is passionate. We had understood this the day before, during a long conversation between colleagues in the corridors of the media center. “When I walk in here, passion comes out! he told us before everyone returned to their task.
Pierre Houde can tell you the exact day when this passion for Formula 1 was awakened. It was 1982, “the Friday” of the Canadian Grand Prix. Checked, it was June 11.
At the time, the 23-year-old Pierre was newly appointed program director for radio station CKVL, which had just secured exclusive broadcast and promotion rights for Formula 1.
Arriving on the Montreal circuit that day, Mr. Houde had never seen a single-seater in real life.
Over the years, Mr. Houde has held various positions within the organization of the Montreal event. He was even its director in 1985 and 1986, when he was only 27 years old.
Then he worked for a year in advertising for the Cossette agency, before freelancing for Radio-Canada, then F1 broadcaster. It was in 1993 that his adventure as an F1 reporter for RDS began, when the network acquired the broadcasting rights.
“The reds go out and we roll!” »
Any self-respecting Quebec Formula 1 fan knows this phrase. Many have undoubtedly smiled while reading it. But where does this statement come from that has become, over the years, the signature of Pierre Houde?
“It’s in two parts, explains the main interested party. The reds go out, it hasn’t always been that, because before it was a green. In the beginning, I said: we go green and we roll! »
As for the second part, this “we roll” which sounds like music to the ears of television viewers, it does not come from F1. Mr. Houde used it for the first time in 1990, during a prototype sports event organized in Montreal by the Player’s tobacco company.
“I was with Christian Tortora on the side of the track – not in a closed structure like here – and with the technical delegate of the FIA, Yvon Léon. After four or five laps, I was amazed at what I saw. […] It came out of my mouth, I said: “My God, my word, Christian, we are driving on the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit!” Christian was waving at me, they got goosebumps. »
Thirty-three years later, Pierre Houde is often called out on the street or at the grocery store by viewers who tell him about this signature – or his famous “et le but!” “. The 65-year-old has carved out a cozy place for himself not only in the living room of sports fans, but also in their hearts.
” It’s very touching. I say it with a lot of humility and I’m sure Bertrand [Houle, his sidekick in the description] would say the same thing. We can’t afford Sky Sports. We are well aware that TSN, our parent station, broadcasts Sky Sports reports which are made with more than colossal means. »
“We try to find our ingredients that we believe to be the best, that is to say our passion, our knowledge. We both work extremely hard. »
Over the years, Pierre Houde has had to put words to many events, some tragic, others happy. To know what is his worst memory, he does not hesitate: the death of Greg Moore, in IndyCar, in 1999.
At the time, Mr. Houde was teaching elocution and interview skills to Player’s pilots, including Moore.
“We did a session a few weeks before. He was nice as hell. He was an exceptional talent. I think he was coming to F1. Describing his fatal race live was terrible. »
“Rarely do we announce the death of a driver on the site, but there, IndyCar announced his death. I wasn’t able to go on,” he says before pausing, his gaze still and clouded with emotion. “And you know it,” he continues. In his case, there was no doubt. »
And his fondest memory? The answer is just as instinctive. “There’s nothing that’s going to beat Jacques [Villeneuve]’s championship in 1997.”
Before letting Mr. Houde go on his preparation for free practice, we can’t help but ask him the killer question: how much longer does he think he’ll be a descriptor?
“It’s funny because I met a kid earlier in the pit lane. He was so happy to meet me, he said, “That’s what I want to do in life!” I pranked him and said, “Be patient, in 50 years I’ll have to retire!” “, he exclaims in a burst of laughter.