More than 50 years ago the piece of land that we know today as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was a farm. At that time, standing on a hill, looking over the fields and groves of trees, who could have imagined that the best drivers and the fastest cars in the world would come to this pastoral place and race on what would be named as one the most challenging tracks in the world and provide the best excitement and entertainment that motor racing has to offer.
But they 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 Driving Champions - men like Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti and Nick Lauda have raced here. Some 10 Indianapolis 500 winners including Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock have also raced at Mosport.
There have been Formula One cars, Indy cars, Can-Am, stock cars, World Endurance, Formula 5000, Formula Atlantic and Super Vee. Add Formula Fords, GT cars of every description, Superbikes, karts, snowmobiles and off road machines. Throw in a couple of rock concerts, some air shows, and sky divers and one begins to wonder if there is anything that hasn't been seen at Mosport. Anyone standing on the hill in 1959 would not believe what has transpired over the last 40 years. Fortunately, there were some people who did believe in what could happen. They had a dream, a plan, and the combination of resources and expertise to make it happen.
As early as 1958 the British Empire Motor Club (BEMC) formed a development committee to investigate the possibility of selecting and buying a piece of property for a road racing course. By mid summer of that year the founding committee, whose members consisted of Dick Byatt, George Hill, Chuck Stockey, Fred Hayes and Ray Liddle, had found a 450-acre tract north of Bowmanville. Recognizing the enormity of the project, the committee members realized that one club (BEMC) could not undertake the entire task and so a separate entity, called "Mosport Limited" was born in the fall of 1958. The name Mosport (a contraction of Motor Sport) was coined and applied to the new business enterprise.
At the start there were seven directors, each on in charge of a particular phase of the project. They were Alan Bunting (track design, site layout and general coordination); George Hill (public relations); Dick Byatt (trade relations and advertising); Harold Hunter (financial planning and fund raising); George Grant (structural architect); and Chuck Stockey (utilities and access roads).
By 1960 development was moving forward, Alan Bunting's design featured fast, sweeping bends that rose and fell over the contours of the site. In order to accommodate the design, great chunks of earth would be gouged out of parts of the hills; in the one place the whole side of a hill was scraped away and leveled. In the summer of 1960 Stirling Moss paid a visit to Toronto, at which time he saw the plans for the track and the work that had been done so far. While he was generally enthusiastic about the layout of the course, he 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 development of Mosport did not come easily though. The construction suffered through fiscal restraints zoning logistics, heavy rainfalls causing washouts and a price tag that was double of what was to be expected ($500,000 instead of $250,000). In spite of everything, the necessary facilities were completed, the asphalt was laid down and the track was ready for racing by the end of May, 1961. Responsibility for the operation of the facility was given to Jim Clayton who, as General Manager, was Mosport's first and only full-time employee. This is what it was all about: 2.459 miles, measured at the centreline of it's 28-foot width, of twisting, undulating pavement that would challenge the best drivers in the world.
DATES IN MOSPORT HISTORY
||Mosport opens with a clubman's race organized by the Oakville Trafalgar Light Car Club. The first of many international races that would take place at this world-class road racing circuit was the Player's 200 for sports cars, which was held in late June. The race attracted over 40,000 spectators and was won by Britisher Stirling Moss in his 2.5 litre Coventry Climax-powered Lotus 19.
||The USAC stock cars ran at Mosport for the first time. The big cars adapted well to the tricky road course, with Paul Goldsmith edging Indy winner Rodger Ward for the win. The field also included A.J. Foyt.
||The Player's 200 set an attendance record for a Canadian sports event as over 52,000 spectators watched as Bruce McLaren outdistanced a top field of international drivers to win by more than a lap.
||The Player's 200 established another Canadian attendance record: 58,000. British star John Surtees - who later that year was badly injured in another Mosport race- won the race in a new Lola T70.
||The track, which had suffered financial problems for several years, was purchased from the receiver by a company called Cantrack Motor Racing Ltd. The legal counsel for that company was Bernard J. Kamin; the accountant was Harvey M. Hudes, who became the driving force behind the track until his death in March of 1996.
Mark Donohue won the Can-Am race.
||Canada joined the Formula 1 circuit, as Mosport hosted the first Player's sponsored Canadian Grand Prix. Despite rain, the crowd was huge (58,000) as Jack Brabham drove to victory over another longtime Mosport Park favourite, Denny Hulme.
The IndyCar series visited Mosport for the first time. Twin 100-mile races were scheduled, with Bobby Unser winning both. The second race was cut short after 15 miles because of rain.
Denis Hulme claimed victory in the Can-Am race.
A USAC Stock Car race was won by Parnelli Jones.
Mike Hailwood won the first ever Canadian World Championship 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix.
The year was Canada's Centennial Year, and with Mosport hosting 5-full International Events it's doubtful that another track can lay claim to hosting so many "Internationals" in the same season.
||Dan Gurney won both 100-mile IndyCar races.
||The June Can-Am race, sponsored by Labatt's, was a one-two finish for McLaren team-mates Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme.
Jackie Ickx won the Grand Prix of Canada.
||A major music concert came to Mosport Park for the first time, Strawberry Fields featuring many of the best-known entertainers of that day.
||Jackie Stewart won the Grand Prix of Canada.
||Jackie Stewart won the Grand Prix of Canada for the second year in a row.
||Peter Revson won the Grand Prix of Canada. Due to changing weather conditions and Grand Prix racing's first-ever full course caution the official lap charts had to be consulted to confirm him as winner.
||Mosport Park became a public company, trading on the Vancouver Stock Exchange.
Emerson Fittipaldi won the Grand Prix of Canada.
||Mosport staged it's first Trans-Am race. Canadian Ludwig Heimrath drove a Porsche RSR to a popular victory.
James Hunt won the Grand Prix of Canada.
||After an absence of nine years the Indy Cars returned to Mosport Park and A.J. Foyt - despite a one lap penalty - won in his Coyote.
Later in the year, Gilles Villeneuve made what would turn out to be his last appearance at the track, as he drove a Ferrari in the Labatt Grand Prix. Jody Scheckter won the race. This was also the last Grand Prix held at Mosport as the following season the event was moved to the new Ile Notre-Dame circuit in Montreal.
||Danny Ongais won the IndyCar race.
||Jacques Villeneuve, Gilles' younger brother, won the Can-Am race at Mosport. It was his first win at the track.
||The IMSA cars came to Mosport for the first time, with a six-hour IMSA Camel GT series event. John Paul and his son John Paul, Jr won in a Porsche 936 Turbo.
||A new half-mile oval opened, Mosport International Speedway.
||Mosport Park President and General Manager Harvey M. Hudes passed away after a lengthly illness. He was 63. His longtime business partner, Bernard J. Kamin became President and CEO.
||International Motorsports Group (IMSG) takes over the Mosport lease.
||March 20: Panoz Motorsports takes over the Mosport lease from IMSG.
October 30: Panoz Motorsports purchases Mosport
||The pit lane was extended and a new pit exit was created. In the fall the run-off area in turn 2 and 4/5 were enlarged.
||The track was repaved and widened to a width of 12 metres (40 ft).
||August: Frank Biela of Germany sets a new outright track record of 1:07.169 (131.793 mph) driving an Audi R8 during qualifying for the American Le Mans Series race.
||Fall ground breaking for an all new karting facility.
||Early summer grand opening of the new Mosport International Karting Complex
||As the number of support races increases on the Grand Prix of Mosport and other event weekends, 50,000 sq ft of lower paddock is paved
Mosport begins a two-year program to install new debris fencing around the circuit
||The new NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, a national stock car championship sanctioned by NASCAR, made its Toronto-area debut at Mosport International Raceway.
||August 21-24, the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport marked the tenth running of the American Le Mans Series at Canada's largest and oldest motorsports facility. The only other track to host the series every year since its inception in 1999 is Road Atlanta.
Italy's Dindo Capello sets the outright track record with a time of 1:04.094 (222.254 km/h) in his Audi R10 TDI Prototype during qualifying for the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport.
||David Brabham and Scott Sharp won the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport securing the Acura Prototype team the LMP championship.
Eventual 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, QC won both the Dickies 200 and the Vortex Brake Pads 200.
||Mosport celebrates its 50th anniversary. There were many memorable moments during the season including the return of Ron Fellows, who captured a World Challenge win and Ken Wilden breaking the SCCA Pro Racing Trans Am qualifying and race record to take the spectacular victory.
Cambridge, ON native J.R. Fitzpatrick won the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series road course race, the Vortex Brake Pads 200 in June. Don Thomson took the checkered flag in the Dickies 200 at Mosport Speedway.
In July, Brantford, ON native Jordan Szoke dominated at Mosport winning all four races he competed in during the Parts Canada Superbike Doubleheader Weekend. Szoke took that momentum and never lost a race all season on his way to his record seventh Canadian Superbike crown.
The final event of the season was the return of the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport. The race was won by Klaus Graf and Romain Dumas in the Muscle Milk CytoSport Porsche RS Sypder. It was also the 100th career American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón race for two-time champion David Brabham.