Bourassa drives his passion to the Internet

Saturday, January 24, 2009, The Providence Journal
By Peter C.T. Elsworth, Journal Staff Writer
Peter Bourassa of Motorsports Marketing Resources

Photo: The Providence Journal, Steve Szydlowski (photo gallery)

Peter Bourassa, of Motorsports Marketing Resources, often works out of his office in Wayland, Mass.

WAYLAND, Mass. Think of it as a selective online Yellow Pages for high-performance European car and motorcycle enthusiasts.

Created by former auto-parts executive and racing enthusiast Peter Bourassa, provides some 850 links to almost every aspect of the hobby.

“Two years ago I decided I did not want to be in the auto-parts business anymore,” Bourassa said in a recent interview. “And I had the idea of starting a Web site (dedicated to high-performance cars) and building a community.”

He said it took him some time to focus on what he wanted.

“The difficulty is in knowing what you want,” he said, adding, “That was the tough part, deciding what (I wanted). It’s not difficult to know what you don’t want.”

The welcome page includes a short article as well as links to classified ads, photos, stories and videos. It also highlights the MMR Resource Directory, which lists 11 departments — Automobiles, Motorcycles, Parts & Accessories, Personal Gear, Specialty Services, Clubs & Chatrooms, Schools, Art & Models, Publications, Destinations & Events and For Your Garage.

Each department is further broken down into different categories. Automobiles, for example, lists 12 marques — from Aston Martin to Porsche (“Porsche is the bottom end,” he said dryly) — as well as such general categories as Vintage & Classic.

Each category then opens up to a selection of companies and businesses dedicated to that particular marque or category. In all, Bourassa’s Web site links to some 850 dedicated Web sites across North America and Europe (Britain, France, Germany and Italy), Bourassa said.

For example, the Aston Martin category opens up to reveal five dealers from afar afield as Britain and Florida and as close as Waltham, Mass.

Bourassa also has a one liner to describe each category and Web site, such as “New management and money. Exciting new models. Bravo!” for Aston Martin and “Ferrari! Ferrari! Ferrari!” for you know who.

His Destinations & Events department leads off with a “Must Do Before I Die” events category that includes the 24 hours of Le Mans race and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

“It’s kind of personal at this point,” he said wryly as he showed off the category.

Bourassa, 64 and married with a grown up son and daughter, is a native of Montreal (his late cousin Robert Bourassa was twice Premier of Quebec) who moved to the United States in 1988. At the time he was sales manager for Standard Motor Products, which he left in 1995 to join a lighting company that had him traveling to Toronto and Seattle. Most recently, he worked for OE Plus, a parts company based in North Dighton, Mass.

At the same time, he was long involved in racing high-performance cars, including English sports cars — a Sunbeam Alpine (slow!), an MGB and an Austin Healey Sprite at Circuit Mont Tremblant race track, north of Montreal.

And he keeps his black 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS with the license tag WAS RED — which it was — next to a wall with a photograph showing him driving in his last race in the car at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., in August 2003.

Bourassa’s idea of “building a community” goes along with his gregarious nature.

He said he was always the guy at the office given the job of organizing parties and is responsible for a loosely organized club he calls The Motorheads, which regularly gets together to discuss cars and take trips.

“There are no dues, no officers, no minutes, no treasurer,” he said. “We meet in garages and basements and eat and drink and talk about cars.”

He said the group once organized a Character Concours as opposed to a Concours d’Elegance.
“We had 30 cars, including some real wrecks, and had a ball,” he said.

Bourassa said he expects his Web site to start making money in a year or two, adding that he sees some 2,000 businesses and companies being listed by then.

He currently lists businesses and companies that he deems reputable, and charges $18 a month as a basic rate, dropping it to $11 if the business links back to his site. In addition, business pay $40 a month for a highlighted yellow listing at the top of the page, which is discounted back to $18 if they provide a link back.

“There’s no paucity of good people out there,” he said. “There’s a lot of businesses that care and do good work.”

He said that so far he had neither taken out national advertising nor taken any in. “It’s all word of mouth,” he said of how the word is getting out, adding that he sees national ads adding to his revenue stream down the line.

“Everyone seems happy with the service,” he said, describing it as a mix of information and entertainment. “It’s not revolutionary, a lot of people are doing a piece of this but nobody is doing what we are doing.”

Bourassa surrounds himself with racing memorabilia, including photographs, 1/12 scale models and helmets.

A signed photograph of Formula One champion Phil Hill driving a Ferrari in competition is so big — the car is four feet long — it is possible to clearly see the expression on Hill’s face.

The picture holds court with large posters of Leonardo da Vinci and composer Giuseppe Verdi, whom he said were his heroes along with William Shakespeare and Malcolm Smith, the off-road motorcycle ace who starred with Steve McQueen in what Bourassa said was the greatest motorcycle movie ever made, On Any Sunday (1971).

Signed prints of Nicholas Watts paintings of significant races adorn the walls of his garage, including the famed 1966 Le Mans in which three Ford GT40 Mk IIs beat out the dominant Ferrari teams by coming in one, two, three.

Also, there’s a painting of Stirling Moss driving his Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, No. 722, in the 1955 Mille Miglia.

“The greatest race of all time,” said Bourassa, noting Moss, with legendary British racing journalist Denis Jenkinson beside him, covered the 1,000 miles from Brescia to Rome and back in a record 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds at an average speed of 98 mph — and that included breaking down and changing a tire.

The painting shows Moss driving his car through a village street with cheering spectators just feet away. Indeed, the race was banned after an accident in 1957 that killed the Spanish driver Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, better known as Alfonso de Portago, his co-driver and 10 spectators, including 5 children.

A photograph on the opposite wall shows Bourassa driving his Ferrari at Lime Rock and below it are a couple of red Ducati motorcycles that he regularly drives, one to as far away as Newfoundland on trips with three old friends.

“My cars and bikes,” he said. “That’s where it all began.”