In the past when visiting Canada we have treated our drivers to white water rafting, some ice hockey and even a bit of mountain biking, but while ice hockey is emblematic of the country, this year we still felt that the boys hadn’t properly embraced their inner Canuck. We needed to go deeper, get more immersive. Yes, we needed to go full plaid shirt, raccoon skin-hatted lumberjack.
And so, with the entire office indulging in a rousing chorus of Monty Python’s ‘Lumberjack Song’, we invited our drivers to suit up in proper wood-chopping style (all steel-toe boots and shirts hairier than a bear’s bottom) and head out into the deep, dark woods. We even managed to persuade our Toro Rosso neighbours Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon to join us. Unfortunately, no one wanted to wear the hats though… except Dany, but he looked too much at home in a massive piece of furry headgear so we let him off.
To get to the heart of the lumberjack experience we enlisted the help of one of the best in the business – Shea Emery.
A former Canadian Football League linebacker who spent six seasons with the Montreal Alouettes before signing with the Toronto Argonauts in 2014, Shea is now a leading logger sports competitor and owns his own company dedicated to the pastime. He’s also a major advocate for men’s health.
With Shea as our guide we headed out of Montreal and 45 minutes later found ourselves in a surprisingly remote forest setting, with nothing around but vast tracts of trees and two sugar shacks, or cabanes a sucré, little wooden huts used for making that staple of a lumberjack’s breakfast, maple syrup.
And to ease the drivers into what was shaping up to be a full day of potential lethal activity, Shea treated them to a variety of syrupy confections, which given the normal lettuce and water diet of racing drivers went down extremely well.
Shea then explained the history of logger sports in Canada and demonstrated the single buck, in which a competitor uses a crosscut saw to cut through a 20-inch diameter log, and showed them the technique for a double buck (involving two competitors working as a team).
The drivers them battled each other as teams, with Max and Pierre completing a double buck cut in just 16 seconds, not far off a pro time, while Dany and Alex managed the feat in 21 seconds.
The action then got even more potentially injurious as Shea taught the boys the finer points of axe throwing and wood chopping. And with their choppers firmly in hand the boys managed to get through a furious round of throwing and cutting with all of their limbs intact.
Afterwards, both Max and Pierre said they had enjoyed the logger sports, despite having no previous experience.
“We’ve been up to a lot of things with the axe today” said Max. “It was my first time trying this out, so it was good to have a few lessons, and a lot of fun as well. I’ve never chopped wood before, so it was a lot of fun for me today.
“I really enjoyed having a go at being a lumberjack. I don’t think I’m very good at it but at least we gave it a good shot,” he added. “It’s hard and heavy work – now I can really appreciate what they do!”
Pierre, meanwhile, admitted to some concern about the drivers’ ability to get through the day without losing any digits.
“It was my first time to do any of this stuff and it was good to discover. I was pretty excited to see how it would go. I’ll also admit that I was also a bit worried! But in the end it was all fine.”
But despite nailing the sawing activity and handling an axe with frankly scary glee, Pierre was left unconvinced by his outdoor skills.
“Minus Two! I think it was OK. These guys are super-strong, super-physical. You’ve got to be really muscular, I guess to do this sport. For drivers, it’s not our type of thing really – but it was good fun. We won, which is the most important thing at the end of the day! It was good.”