Contribution by Oliver McKinnon
It was forecast to be a glorious sunny June weekend with Father’s Day on the Sunday. So, it is a very special time of the year – a time to honour Dad. But, what to do? Father’s Day is all about giving Dad his special time to do whatever ‘he’ wants. It is a celebration of being a Dad. Sure, you could buy him a tie, but who wears ties anymore? He might like a tool for the shop, or some of his favourite golf balls, but none of that feels ‘special’ enough. Maybe you can do something different this year, something extra special? Dad does so much for you, it is important that he knows how much you truly appreciate his efforts.
Dads love cars and particularly vintage cars. Cars that go fast in races are dreams for Dads everywhere. So, the plan was to give Dad an exceptional treat by taking him to the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP) to attend the 2018 Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC) event held between June 14th to 17th. Weekend camping was the perfect way to soak up all the excitement and attend every racing feature offered.
Now, getting the recreational vehicle ready, and to the CTMP site, did require Dad to make it all happen. A small price to pay since the weekend would be all about him and his love of vintage cars.
This was the 39th running of the VARAC Vintage Grand Prix. The event was the largest gathering in the club’s history with expectations of over 250 vintage, historic, and classic race cars competing in seven different groups. In fact, it was reported over the PA system that about 400 cars showed up for the event.
The weekend highlight was the 50th Anniversary of the legendary Formula 5000 revival series. The name, F5000 is derived from the 5000cc limit. This series of cars ran from 1968 into the late 1970s. They make the sweetest sound imaginable when charging up the straight-away and challenging around the corners. Pure music to a Dad’s ears.
Some of the most famous names in car racing piloted the Formula 5000 cars, including legends like Mario Andretti, Al and Bobby Unser, Sam Posey, James Hunt, David Hobbs, Graham McRae, Jody Scheckter, and Brian Redman. Canadian legends included Eppie Weitzes, John Cannon, and Horst Kroll.
Now 81 years old, Formula 5000 three-time series championship winner Briton Brian Redman was on hand to serve as the Grand Marshall of the event.
There were many other groups racing too. Cars included the legendary MGs, fabled Triumphs like TR3s and TR4s, and fabulous Formula Fords now called F1600. There were Mini Cooper S, Mustangs, Corvettes, Lotus Elan, Shelby GT350, Porsche 356, BMWs, Alfa Romeos, and a long list of famous marques to be seen on the track. Literally, every car from the vintage (pre-1962), historic (pre-1973), and classic (pre-1998) as well as the Monoposto (single seat) groups had numerous entries.
Vintage Formula 1 cars were on the track too. Formula 1 is the global zenith of automobile racing and is a worldwide phenomenon followed by many millions. The 2018 Canadian Grand Prix was held the weekend before in Montreal with the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull teams challenging for success. But, here at CTMP, where the vintage F1 cars are competing, we have a Lotus once raced by Elio de Angeles, a Tyrrell once raced by Jackie Stewart, and a Ferrari once raced by the legendary Canadian Gilles Villeneuve. To get up close to a real Formula 1 car is an unreal experience.
This is a Dad’s definition of heaven on earth.
Besides the cars and the racing, there were many other diversions for the whole family. The CTMP Market Place located in the ever-exciting paddock offered delicious Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream, wonderful barbeque, the Ron Fellows Driving Experience, and shirts, hats, and racing paraphernalia to support your favourite brand or team’s colours.
The noontime fan ‘meet and greet’ events permitted selfies and autographs from famed past legends of motorsports including Brian Redman, Eppie Weitzes, and more. A panel discussion for all to enjoy and ask questions of the legendary drivers was led by the Toronto Star Wheels writer, Norris MacDonald.
On the Saturday night, the band Mudmen provided pleasurable and definitely unique entertainment for the crowd. They are known as Canada’s Celtic Rock Warriors, to be honest their sound is hard to describe. But, their music is powerful and originates from Canada’s Celtic maritime roots which stirs the soul and inspires you to move with the beat.
During my visit to CTMP, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Winter family. They were attending the VARAC event to celebrate Father’s Day. Parents Mike and Mandy had their three children attending the event. Cousins were also camping across the track in their travel trailer. Grandparents Chris and Wendy arrived for the Saturday and the three generations of the family put out an extraordinary spread of food and treats for all to enjoy.
Eldest son, Oliver, who is a mature 16-year-old looking forward to grade 11 in September said that he loves it at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and this was his third year attending races. It was their first-year camping at CTMP, but their fourth time camping as a family.
Oliver’s summer is split between family camping, fun by the lake, and his first summer job. How exciting to have so many rich experiences at such a young age. It was easy to feel Oliver’s enthusiasm.
Oliver and his Father loved the Mini Cooper S races. These cars go so fast that one wheel comes off the track in the high-speed turns. Mike said they are hilarious to watch. Oliver confessed that the Big Bore Group car races were his personal favourite. This Group includes Mustangs, Camaros, Porsches, Ford Shelby, Ford Copra, Ford Mustang Boss 302, Corvettes, and an assortment of many other cars, including a Volkswagen Beetle. It is easy to understand why Oliver enjoys this category the best, these are all dream cars for most boys – young and old.
Along with Oliver’s two siblings, he had his dog, Doc with them. Doc is a rescue and loved being with the family. He showed no sign of discomfort from the cars and continued to chew on his oversized bone oblivious to it all. It was Doc’s first camping trip.
Oliver offered that the CTMP was even quieter at night for sleeping compared to some of the Provincial Parks. He recommends it for everyone wanting a family getaway. He and his Father were clearly bonding over their shared love of cars and racing. He said it brings the whole family closer together.
Camping at CTMP is not typical of a well groomed Provincial Park. It is ‘dry camping’. Dry camping is essentially camping without hookups. This is very achievable for one or two nights during these exciting events. All modern RVs have excellent capabilities for dry camping and it is a delightful change of pace. So, lacking hookups is not really a problem at CTMP. There are lots of alternate services available such as convenient washrooms, delicious food, and a pump-out. So, it is not exactly ‘boondocking’ whereby you are camping in the wilderness without services. At CTMP, there are plenty of value added features for the average camper.
Folks in Class A, B, and C, as well as fifth wheels and travel trailers had solar panels, generators, and invertors running. Noise rules demand no generators at night. The sites were easily accessible, albeit condensed in space, which is typical for events like this one. Most cooking was done outdoors on the BBQ or stovetop under the awning. Tents were popular too.
The focus of the whole weekend is not really camping, but the races. So, you spend your time walking, looking, talking, laughing, and participating. The RV is there for sleeping and eating. Campfires are plentiful too. The greatest joy is that everyone there is sharing a common experience. Some campers are veterans with years of race experience, others are first-timers giving it all a try. But, everyone is there for the races. This makes the crowd exceptionally friendly and family oriented.
Dogs are common, as are bicycles, and lots and lots of walking. Bring good shoes. A highlight of the CTMP is the ability to safely stride the race course in the evening after the track is closed to the race cars. It is a wonderful activity to venture around the turns, down the straights, and up the slight embankments. Walking the track at your own pace is a delightful family experience after a hearty BBQ dinner. It is an easy 4-kilometre walk. The kids loved it.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (ex-Mosport) is a multi-track motorsport venue located north of Bowmanville, Ontario. The facility features the main 3.957 km, 10-turn road course; a second 2.9 km advance driver and race driver training facility with a quarter-mile skid pad (Driver Development Centre), and a third 1.5 km kart track.
From Toronto, it is about 80-kilometre drive via the Highway 401 and up highways 35/115. You can take a shorter route using the 407 Toll Highway too. Without traffic, it is less than one hour from the city. However, I met campers from all over, originating from Oshawa, Lindsay, Peterborough, Trenton, Kingston, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, and the USA too. So, getting to CTMP is an easy drive regardless of your home location.
Other events for CTMP for the summer of 2018 included July 5-8 Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix, the August 10-12 Superbike Doubleheader, and the August 24-26 Chevrolet Silverado 250, a part of the NASCAR Truck Series and Pinty Car Series. If you have never seen a Superbike careening around a corner or covered your ears watching the NASCAR races roar past, then you must join the adventure and spend a weekend being a part of racing. They are memories for the whole family.
All photographs were taken at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP), located in Bowmanville, Ontario
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.
He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 13 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.