I stand near the last corner turn before cars hit the straightaway, zooming at top speed towards the finish line. My camera shutter set at 1/3200 sec., the
problem is that between roar of an engine and the brief time to focus, these vehicles are so swift that I can barely frame them. After a few minutes, I move far down the straightaway to catch them race directly at me.
I'm at Mosport, the 750-acre, multi-track facility in Clarington, recognized as Canada's "Home of
Motorsports," for 47 years. It has hosted about every class of road racing on its famed 4 km circuit, including F1, Indy cars, sports cars, stock cars,
endurance racing, motorcycles, motocross, showroom stock, historic vintage racers, "Big Rig" trucks and karts.
Gerry Priddle, VP Marketing, fills me in on the history as cars whiz by outside. The name is a contraction of the words Motor and Sport, pronounced "Moe-sport," with no connection with Stirling Moss; that came later
when Moss suggested the layout of corner 5, which was named "Moss Corner." Moss then won the first professional race in his 2.5 litre Coventry Climax-powered Lotus 19, attracting 40,000 spectators.
The layout has remained unchanged since the first race, a testament to Toronto designer, Engineer C. Alan Bunting. The 2.459 mile/3.957 km track has 10-turns, a long back-straight, (not really straight) and pits for 30 cars. Many improvements have kept the track current and safe.
From 1961-66, the Lotus 19, Cooper Monaco, Chaparral-Chevrolet, Lola T70 and various McLarens were dominant cars. Leading drivers from around the world included Stirling Moss, Joakim Bonnier, Olivier Gendebian, Peter Ryan, Roger Penske, Jack Brabham, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, John Surtees, Jim Clark, Bruce McLaren, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and others.
In Centennial 1967, five international events were held: The World Championship Formula One Grand Prix of Canada won by Jack Brabham; the Can-Am by Denis Hulme; the USAC Indycar race by Bobby Unser; the USAC Stock Car race by Parnelli Jones and the World Championship 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix by Mike Hailwood. Mosport also saw the first use of a pace car in the 1973 Grand Prix.
In 1964, The Player's 200 set an attendance record for a Canadian sports event with 52,000 spectators watching Bruce McLaren win by more than a lap, and in 1965, another Canadian attendance record: 58,000. British star John Surtees won the race in a new Lola T70.
Mosport joined the Formula 1 circuit in 1967 as Jack Brabham drove to victory over another long-time favourite, Denny Hulme. In the IndyCar series which visited Mosport for the first time, twin 100-mile races were scheduled, with Bobby Unser winning both. Denis Hulme claimed victory in the Can-Am race. Parnelli Jones won a USAC Stock Car race. Mike Hailwood won the first ever Canadian World Championship 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix. In 1971 and 1972, Jackie Stewart won the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada.
Panoz Motorsports purchased Mosport in 1998. Dr. Panoz made a fortune in the U.S. through the invention of the nicotine patch, and one of the first changes was the 2005 grand opening of the new Mosport International Karting Complex.
The track length is 2.459 miles or 3.957 kilometres. There are 10-turns. A 1/2 mile oval was opened in 1989 and is used for a variety of stock-car races. The back straight was named after Mario Andretti, clocked by radar at 178 MPH on July 17, 1967 in his Brawner-Ford Indycar. Italian, Dindo Capello, in an Audi R10 TDI, turned the fastest lap of 1:04.094 for an average speed of 138.116 MPH (224.438 KM/H), in qualifying for the "Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport, American Le Mans Series" on August 23, 2008.
In 2009, Mosport's schedule features Canada's top national championships and many of North America's best road racing series. The biggest event of the season is the "Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport," featuring the American Le Mans Series sports car race. Last year, this event drew a three-day weekend crowd of more than 70,000 and reached a world-wide television audience of more than 500 million homes.
Today, I observed the "Driver Education" program wherein drivers learn to race their cars around the track. I watched Corvettes, BMW's, Peugeots, a Mini and a Ford GT zip around the course. Later, several of these cars parked outside on King St. amidst my '91 Camry, during a meal at the Chanterelle Bistro in Bowmanville, I listened to three nearby drivers talk about their day. "What was your top speed?" asked one. "About 250," replied the other nonchalantly. I decided at the end of the meal, if we all left together, to allow them to proceed ahead of me.
I stayed overnight at the Our Valley View Bed & Breakfast run by Petra and Martin Schwirtz. Mosport gets into your blood in Clarington. There were lots of pictures adorning a wall, autographed by racers. An entire team stayed here last year as Mosport is only 10 minutes away. Martin volunteers to work in the pit, and tells me that he is adept at the "Dead-Man's Switch," a device employed when gravity re-fuelling a car.
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
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