A history of presenting the best that motor racing has to offer
Sixty years ago, the place we know today as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was a farm. At that time, who could have foreseen that the best drivers and the fastest cars in the world would come to this pastoral place and race on one of the world's most challenging tracks, providing the best excitement and entertainment that motor racing has to offer.
But the best drivers and cars did come: racing legends like Stirling Moss, Gilles Villeneuve, Bruce McLaren, and even stock car king Richard Petty. No fewer than 16 Formula One World Champions have raced here, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti and Niki Lauda. Some 10 Indianapolis 500 winners also have raced at CTMP, including Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock.
For anyone standing on that hill in the late 1950s, what the future held in store would have been hard to believe. Fortunately, some people did believe; they had a dream, and the resources and expertise to make it a reality.
In 1958, the British Empire Motor Club (BEMC) selected a 450-acre tract north of Bowmanville for a road racing course, and formed a separate entity, called “Mosport Limited.” The name Mosport (a contraction of Motor Sport) was coined and applied to the new business enterprise.
By 1960 the track, designed by Alan Bunting, was taking shape. It featured fast, sweeping bends that rose and fell over the contours of the site.
In the summer of 1960 Stirling Moss saw the plans for the track and the work that had been done so far. He was generally enthusiastic about the layout, but did recommend that the single-radius carousel hairpin at the south end be changed to a 90-degree right followed by another right leading onto the back straight. Moss was convinced that this combination would be a much greater test of driving skill and provide a more interesting show for the spectators. The two turns, 5a and 5b, have since become known as “Moss Corner.”
The facilities were completed, the asphalt laid down, and the track was ready for racing by the end of May, 1961: 2.459 miles of twisting, undulating pavement that would challenge the best drivers in the world.
CTMP Historic Highlights
• The first race was a club event organized by the Oakville Trafalgar Light Car Club.
• The first international race was the Player’s 200 for sports cars, held in late June. More than 40,000 spectators saw Stirling Moss win in a Lotus 19 powered by a 2.5-litre Coventry Climax engine.
• USAC stock cars ran at CTMP for the first time. Paul Goldsmith edged out Indy winner Rodger Ward for the win, and the field included A.J. Foyt.
• The Player’s 200 set an attendance record for a Canadian sports event. More than 52,000 watched Bruce McLaren dominate a field of top international drivers and win by more than a lap.
• The track went into receivership and was purchased by Cantrack Motor Racing Ltd. Cantrack's legal counsel was Bernard J. Kamin and its accountant was Harvey M. Hudes, who became the driving force behind the track until his death in March 1996.
• In Canada’s centennial year, CTMP hosted five full-international events. It is possible that no other track can claim so many “Internationals” in the same season.
• Canada and CTMP joined the Formula 1 circuit with the first Canadian Grand Prix. Despite rain, the crowd was huge (58,000) as Jack Brabham drove to victory over another long-time track favourite, Denny Hulme.
• The IndyCar series visited CTMP for the first time. Twin 100-mile races were scheduled, and Bobby Unser won both. The second race was cut short because of rain.
• Denny Hulme claimed victory in the Can-Am race.
• Parnelli Jones won the USAC Stock Car race.
• Mike Hailwood won the first-ever Canadian World Championship 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix.
• A major music concert came to CTMP for the first time. Strawberry Fields featured many of the best-known entertainers of the time.
• In the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada, changing weather conditions and Grand Prix racing’s first-ever use of a safety car during a full-course caution. The safety car driven by Canadian Eppie Wietzes caused confusion by pulling out in the wrong spot, and the official lap charts had to be consulted before Peter Revson was confirmed as the winner.
• CTMP staged its first SCCA Trans-Am race. Canadian Ludwig Heimrath drove a Porsche RSR to a popular victory.
• After an absence of nine years, Indy cars returned to CTMP. Despite a one- lap penalty, A.J. Foyt won in his Coyote.
• Gilles Villeneuve made what would be his last appearance at the track. He drove a Ferrari in the Formula 1 Labatt Grand Prix of Canada, won by Villeneuve's future teammate Jody Scheckter. This was CTMP's last Formula 1 Grand Prix, as the next year it was moved to the new Ile Notre-Dame circuit in Montreal (and won by Gilles Villeneuve).
• The IMSA sports cars came to CTMP for the first time, with a six-hour Camel GT series event. John Paul and his son John Paul, Jr. won in a Porsche 936 Turbo.
• Mosport International Speedway, a new half-mile oval, opened at CTMP. It was later renamed Mosport Speedway, and more recently the Speedway at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
• Facility President and General Manager Harvey M. Hudes passed away at 63 after a lengthy illness. His long-time business partner, Bernard J. Kamin became President and CEO.
• Eden Fest, another large music festival, featured big name artists including The Goo Goo Dolls, The Tragically Hip and Bush.
• A kart-racing circuit was built in the fall.
• International Motorsports Group (IMSG) assumed the facility lease, and the name was changed to Mosport International Raceway
• Panoz Motorsports took over the lease from IMSG, and later in the year purchased the entire facility.
• In a $2.5 million renovation project, pit lane was extended, a new pit exit created, and turn 2, 4, and 5 run-off areas were enlarged.
• In the American Le Mans Series' inaugural season, CTMP hosted its first event in what would become North America’s top sports car series.
• A $1.5 million investment was made to build a Driver Development Centre.
• The Grand Prix track was repaved and widened to 12 metres (40 feet).
• The Bridgestone Racing Academy was relocated to the new Driver Development Centre.
• Frank Biela of Germany set a new outright track record of 1:07.169 (212.100 km/h) driving an Audi R8 during qualifying for the American Le Mans Series race.
• A new karting facility, Mosport International Karting Complex, opened in early summer.
• 50,000 square feet of lower paddock was paved to accommodate the increasing number of support races on major event weekends.
• The new NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (formerly CASCAR), a national stock car championship sanctioned by NASCAR, made its Toronto-area debut at CTMP.
• The Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport marked the 10th running of the American Le Mans Series. The only other track to host the series every year since its inception in 1999 is Road Atlanta.
• Italy’s Dindo Capello set the outright track-record lap time of 1:04.094 (222.254 km/h) in his Audi R10 TDI Prototype during qualifying.
• The track celebrated its 50th anniversary.
• Canadian Motorsport Ventures Ltd (CMVL), a group comprising Carlo Fidani, Al Boughton and Ron Fellows, purchased the facility from the Panoz Motorsports Group on June 1.
• Construction began on a new two-way tunnel and main entrance, and improvements to paddock and spectator areas.
• Mosport International Raceway was re-branded Canadian Tire Motorsport Park after the facility signed a long-term partnership with Canadian Tire, the country’s top automotive retailer.
• A new country music festival, Boots & Hearts, came to CTMP, headlined by Tim McGraw, Kid Rock and Carrie Underwood.
• The new Event Centre opened – an ultra-modern building that houses administration offices, media centre, race control, timing and scoring, banquet facilities and multiple hospitality suites.
• Grand Prix track improvements included extensive track repaving, the paving of run-off areas in turns 1 and 2, and a 300-foot extension of pit lane.
• The final NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race on the half-mile speedway was won by Pete Shepherd. The oval closed to make room for Driver Development Centre expansion.
• Boots & Hearts returned, headlined by Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts and Miranda Lambert. It had quickly become the largest festival of its kind in Canada.
• Young gun Chase Elliott won the inaugural Chevrolet Silverado 250, the first Canadian appearance for NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series, and its first road-course race in 13 years. More than 70,000 spectators came through the gates over the three-day event.
• The new Driver Development Center opened, including an Event Center, skid pad, and 2.88-km road course built to FIA standards. Uses include car and motorcycle racing, driving schools, manufacturer events, lapping days and many more. It continues to be home to the Bridgestone Racing Academy.
• At the SCCA Trans-Am race on the Castrol presents the Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend, CTMP owner Ron Fellows, driving for Derhaag Motorsports, made his 100th career Trans-Am start. Fellows started on the pole and scored his 20th career Trans-Am victory.
• Canada’s biggest sports car race, the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, featured the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for exotic prototype and GT race cars. Olivier Pla and Gustavo Yacaman captured the overall victory in a Nissan Morgan Prototype.
• The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returned on Labour Day Weekend in front of another 70,000-plus spectators. Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag after a last-lap, last-corner pass of German Quiroga.
• At the Castrol Presents the Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend, Gary Klutt won the Clarington 200, season-opener for the NASCAR Pinty's Series. It was his seventh start in the series, and his first victory.
• Jordan Szoke completed a perfect season at the Mopar Canadian Superbike Doubleheader Weekend, winning both Superbike races and continuing his unprecedented run of championships.
• Mosport Kartways at CTMP hosted the ASN Canadian Karting Championships in 2015. The exciting races determined the national champions in 10 FIA karting classes, which constitute the leading development arena globally for young race drivers who aspire to future professional levels.
• Erik Jones, who went on to take the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, won the Chevrolet Silverado 250. Calgary’s Cameron Hayley was the top finishing Canadian, in seventh.
• At the Castrol Presents the Victoria Day SpeedFest, Quebec native Andrew Ranger won the NASCAR Pinty’s Series Clarington 200. Sixteen-year-old rookie Cayden Lapcevich of Grimsby, Ont., finished fourth, and at season's end became the youngest-ever champion of a NASCAR touring series.
• At the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix – sole Canadian round in IMSA's WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – Joann Villeneuve, wife of the late Gilles and mother of 1997 Formula 1 champion Jacques, was Grand Marshal.
• After another sweep of both Mopar Canadian Superbike Doubleheader races, Brantford's Jordan Szoke completed his third perfect season (the only rider ever do so) and his record 11th career Canadian Superbike Championship.
• In a controversial finish at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250, John Hunter Nemechek crossed the finish line in the grass and against the wall a mere 0.034 seconds ahead of Cole Custer. Long-time motorsports columnist Dean McNulty of the Toronto Sun, who had retired earlier in the year, was the event's Grand Marshal.
• The 2017 VARAC Historic Grand Prix was especially memorable as it featured the FIA Masters Historic F1 Championship - featuring F1 cars from the 70's and 80's. It marked 50 years since the inaugural F1 Canadian Grand Prix at then Mosport Park in 1967. Notable was Californian Danny Baker, who entered the event in Gilles Villeneuve's 1979 Ferrari 312 T4. Joann Villeneuve and Eppie Wietzes served as Grand Marshals for the event.