Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Home of Canadian Motorsport
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, formerly known as Mosport Park and Mosport International Raceway, is the second oldest purpose-built permanent race track and motorsport facility in Canada. It was opened in 1961, two years after the oldest race track Westwood Motorsport Park in British Columbia.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is located in Bowmanville, Ontario, and features a 2.459-mile (3.957-km) 10-turn road course with an open seating capacity, driver training facility and a kart track. Westwood was closed in 1990, so Canadian Tire Motorsport Park remains the only original home of the Canadian motorsports.
Current major events: IMSA and NASCAR Trucks
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is currently the venue of the IMSA-sanctioned races and NASCAR Truck Series. In the past, some of the main world’s racing series took part there, including eight Formula One Grand Prix races between 1967 and 1977, or six races of the World Sportscar Championship between 1976 and 1985. When it comes to American and Canadian racing series, almost all of them have visited Bowmanville.
The new track was a replacement for airfields
Prior to the construction of the permanent race track in Bowmanville, the only racing venues in Ontario were airfields. In 1958, the British Empire Motor Club (BEMC) formed a development committee to find and buy a land piece for a road racing course. They picked a 450-acre farm north of Bowmanville. The new organization, the Mosport Limited, was founded in the fall of 1958. The name was a contraction of Motor Sport and it remained that until today.
Stirling Moss suggested changes and got his corner
Alan Bunting was in charge of the track design. In the summer of 1960, Stirling Moss visited Canada and he suggested some changes in the track layout that would be more demanding for the drivers and more interesting for the spectators. Since then, the two turns became known as the Moss Corner.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was opened in May 1961
After spending $500,000 (double than planned), the track was ready for racing by the end of May 1961. The first race was a local event organized by the Oakville Trafalgar Light Car Club on June 10, 1961. The first major event was the Player’s 200 race for the sports cars on June 24. The race attracted over 40,000 spectators and was won by Stirling Moss in his Lotus 19, ahead of two-star drivers Joakim Bonnier and Olivier Gendebien. On September 30, 1961, the first Canadian Grand Prix was held. The winner was Peter Ryan with his Lotus 19. In 1962, Masten Gregory was the winner both in the Player’s 200 and the Canadian Grand Prix.
USAC stock cars came to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 1962
In 1962, the USAC stock cars visited the circuit for the first time. The first winner was Paul Goldsmith. In the next couple of years, world’s famous drivers scored victories in two main races at the Park. The Player’s 200 was won by Chuck Daigh (1963), Bruce McLaren (1964 and 1966), and John Surtees (1965). The winners of the Canadian Grand Prix were Pedro Rodriguez (1963 and 1964) and Jim Hall (1965).
Can-Am visited the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 1966
In 1966, the Can-Am Series visited the track for the first time. The winner was Mark Donohue. The Canadian-American Challenge Cup stayed at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park until 1986.
1966 was also the year of the ownership change. The track suffered financial problems and it was purchased by a company called Cantrack Motor Racing Ltd. The main operative force of the track in the next couple of years was Harvey M. Hudes, until his death in March 1996.
The milestone year in the Park’s history was 1967, when the Canadian Grand Prix became a part of the Formula One Championship. Despite the rain on August 27, the crowd of 58,000 visited the race, and Jack Brabham had won.
In 1967, three major championships came to the circuit
Formula 1 wasn’t the only one that visited Bowmanville for the first time in 1967. Indy Car Series and World Motorcycle Championship were also new events. The first winner of the 100-mile Indy Car race was Bobby Unserin the 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix, the winner was Mike Hailwood. Indy Car returned to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 1968, with Dan Gurney winning the race, and then didn’t visit Bowmanville until 1977. Indy Car winners in 1977 and 1978 were AJ Foyt and Danny Ongais.
Eight Formula One World Championship races were held
Formula One calendar skipped in 1968 and 1970. Eight Grand Prix races were held between 1967 and 1976. After the inaugural F1 winner Jack Brabham, the other winners were Jacky Ickx, Jackie Stewart, Peter Revson, Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, and Jody Scheckter. Jackie Stewart was the only one who won twice, in 1971 and 1972.
Trans-Am Series regularly at Mosport Park between 1976 and 2014
In 1976, new competition came to the former Mosport, and it was the Trans-Am Series. The first winner was Ludwig Heimrath with Porsche Carrera. The Trans-Am Series stayed at Mosport until 2014.
Sports car and GT races were regular events at Mosport, only the sanctioning body was changing. From 1975, the races counted for the IMSA GT Championship or World Sportscar Championship (or both). In 1999, the Mosport Grand Prix became a part of the American Le Mans Series. Since 2014, the race was included in the IMSA United Sportscar Championship calendar.
Half-mile oval and kart circuit became new facilities
In 1989, the half-mile oval was opened, adding the kart circuit in 1996. Facility President and General Manager Harvey M. Hudes passed away in 1996, at the age of 63. His long-time business partner Bernard J. Kamin became the President and CEO.
The new owners started the renovation project
In 1997, International Motorsports Group (IMSG) took over the facility lease. The name of the race track was changed to Mosport International Raceway. In March 1998, Panoz Motorsports took over the lease from IMSG. A few months later, in October, Panoz Motorsports purchased the entire facility.
The new owner started the $2.5 million renovation project. The pit lane was extended and a new pit exit was created. The run-off areas in turns 2 and 4/5 were enlarged. The next project was a $1.5 million investment to build a Driver Development Centre (DDC) that hosted the Bridgestone racing Academy since 2000. New investments continued in 2000 and 2001, including the repaved and widened Grand Prix race track.
American Le Mans Series came and stayed at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
In 1999, the newly formed American Le Mans Series visited the track for the first time and the series remained the main North American racing competition at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park until today. In August 2002, during the qualifying for the ALMS race, Frank Biela set the new outright track record of 1.07.169, driving an Audi R8.
Rinaldo Capello set the fastest lap time
In 2008, the record was broken when Rinaldo Capello set the lap time of 1.04.094, driving a Audi R10 TDI. The lap record during the race was set later that same year by Capello’s teammate Marco Werner, who lapped around 2.459-mile circuit in a time of 1.05.823.
To compare, the fastest ever lap time of a Formula 1 car was set by Mario Andretti in 1977, who took the pole position with a lap time of 1.11.385. If we talk about the previous generations of prototypes, Porsche 962C, driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck, made a lap time of 1.09.775 in 1985. Among new prototypes, the fastest was Morgan LMP2 Nissan, driven by Gustavo Yacaman in 2014, with a lap time of 1.09.167.
Manfred Winkelhock was the most known victim
The Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is a fast and flowing track, but can also be dangerous. Unfortunately, a few fatal accidents happened during Mosport’s 55-year long history. The best-known victim was the German Formula One driver Manfred Winkelhock who was killed in August 1985, during the World Endurance Championship race, when his Porsche 962C crashed into a concrete wall. The most recent fatality at the track was in 2008, during the 29th annual Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada Racing Festival. Driver Dino Crescentini was killed after he lost control of his 1977 Wolf Dallara Can-Am car.
The track got a new name in 2012
The race track got new owners in 2011. The Canadian Motorsport Ventures (CMV), a group comprised of Carlo Fidani, Al Boughton and Ron Fellows, purchased the facility from the Panoz Motorsports Group. Mosport International Raceway was re-branded to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in February 2012, after the facility signed a long-term partnership with the country’s top automotive retailer, the Canadian Tire.
NASCAR Truck Series replaced the Canadian Tire Series
The improvements on the facility continued, including the closing of the half-mile oval in 2013 to make room for Driver Development Center expansion. It was the last year of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series at an oval, but the first year of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on the road course. It was the first road course race in the Truck Series after 13 years. The first winner was Chase Elliott.
After all improvements, the current facility is an ultra-modern race track and it can be used for car racing, motorcycle racing, driving schools, motorcycle schools, car clubs, manufacturer events, lapping days, and many other activities.
Video : A lap around the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Address: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, 3233 Concession Road #10, Clarington, Ontario
Official website: www.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com
Photos: wikipedia.org, canadiantiremotorsportpark.com, espn.co.uk.