Symbols of change at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the former Mosport International Raceway, greet you at just about every turn these days. Someone who hasn’t visited the track since the summer of 2011 would probably feel a little awestruck by the scope of the transformation currently underway were they to drop by for a visit to the venerable 3.957 kilometre road circuit located north of Bowmanville, Ontario.
Since Canadian racing legend Ron Fellows and partner Carlo Fidani, president of commercial real estate developer Orlando Corporation, purchased the track from Atlanta-based Panoz Motor Sports Group in June 2011, improvements to the 52 year-old circuit have been coming fast and thick.
From improved roads and spectator viewing areas, to a new access tunnel, two new pedestrian bridges and a massive new administration building and event centre – all of which have been built since the fall of 2011 – Fellows and Fidani, in partnership with Canadian Tire, have wasted little time in sprucing things up.
Even the old Castrol Tower, the original administration building that opened in 1962, was torn down last fall in order to make way for an expanded pit lane – which now runs an extra 300 feet at the north end – capable of hosting bigger races with more cars.
Of the many visible improvements that have gone over the past 18 months, the multi-million dollar event centre that opened this past April is a sparkling crown jewel – it sits on a hill on the outside of corner 10 overlooking the front straight providing a spectacular view of the track. Spanning three levels, the facility is capable of hosting not only hospitality clients on race weekends, but is also an ideal location for meetings, receptions and other corporate events.
After spending some time in the gleaming white building during the Victoria Day SpeedFest Weekend in May, this writer was especially struck by both the facility’s immense size and its state-of-the-art nature. Those looking for a scenic spot for their next corporate meeting need only walk through the front door in order to see the benefits of choosing CTMP.
There can be little doubt that the efforts to modernize the facility are having an impact within the wider motorsports community, too. The first major sanctioning body to jump in with both feet is NASCAR HQ in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Last November, in a move that really signalled an exciting new chapter in the track’s history, it was confirmed CTMP will host a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Labour Day Weekend, Aug. 30- Sept. 1 (see sidebar on page XX). The race, now dubbed the Silverado 250 thanks to title sponsorship from GM Canada, is the only non-U.S. date for the any of the top three NASCAR national series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks). The event will mark the first ever Truck Series visit to CTMP and its first road course race since 2000.
Securing the Truck date, which had been in the works for more than a year, came as an understandable relief for Fellows and the entire CTMP team. “It’s a big sigh of relief. As a track we’re thrilled to be able to host the Camping World Series and doing business with NASCAR,” Fellows tells PRN Ignition in a recent interview.
Given Fellows connection to the sport as a racer (he still competes on a one-off basis in NASCAR road course events at places like Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen) and as a businessman (Canadian Tire has a sizeable sponsor deal with NASCAR in Canada), combined with the all of the track’s ongoing improvements, a big-time NASCAR date seemed likely, if not an absolute certainty.
“With my partner Carlo Fidani and his commercial real estate development business, he has a great vision for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and obviously with the relationship that Canadian Tire has with NASCAR in Canada and the relationship they now have with us, it was hugely helpful in securing the date.”
These factors certainly made an impression on NASCAR, something the sanctioning body is acknowledging.
“The work that’s being done is great. Obviously from a standpoint of fan amenities and track amenities for the competitors it’s going to be great. The good news is the track remains the same and fans are going to go and have a great experience and see some great racing. We saw the vision and it was certainly part of the conversation. Whenever we go into a relationship it’s important to understand all elements and the way Carlo laid out his vision it was significant to the conversation,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR’s Managing Director of Racing Operations tells PRN Ignition in an interview.
As for the remainder of CTMP’s major event schedule in 2013, it remains more or less unchanged from the past few years; among its other big events are the annual American Le Mans Series race weekend in July (see sidebar on page XX) and the Canadian Supebike Series visit in mid-August.
Holding to six major spectator events (which has been standard operating procedure at the track since the mid-2000s) is expected to change, however. Fellows tells PRN Ignition that he’s interested in adding at least one new motorsport event, perhaps next year, and that he’s been in ongoing dialogue with just about every major sanctioning body with the exception of Formula One, due to the fact the track doesn’t currently have the FIA certification required to host an F1 race. A second non-motorsport event similar to the wildly successful Boots and Hearts country music festival (which returns for its second visit in early August) is also a possibility.
But true to his roots as a racer, Fellows says that landing another major racing event – perhaps even another NASCAR race – is his top priority.
“We’d love to host the Nationwide Series as well, but that’s NASCAR’s call. We’d certainly be interested and hopefully next Labour Day weekend [the Silverado 250] is a great event, a great show and who knows where it will lead,” he says.
These days it’s all about thinking big at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.