Editor's note: This is the first “RACER fan diary,” where race fans will submit a selection of photos and words to capture the atmosphere and ambiance of a race weekend beyond the classic “who won, who lost and who stood out.”
Our first fan to offer one is Tom Welfle, on Twitter at @DysonFan, who attended the American Le Mans Series weekend at the newly renamed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park at Mosport. In 2012, the track was renamed and went through several major investments and upgrades thanks to the new ownership group of Ron Fellows, Al Boughton and Carlo Fidani.
I'd like to welcome you to a fan's perspective of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport International Raceway). For the rest of the blog, I'm going to be referring to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as CTMP. Let's face it – the new name is a long one, and replaces a classic. I will discuss whether the name change was “worth it” from my perspective in terms of cash flow for upgrades to the facility, and overall fan experience. Additionally, I'll share some tips on sight lines, and how to make the most out of your CTMP experience.
1. New main entrance tunnel provides great access to infield and paddock
CTMP has seen a slew of changes in the hands of new ownership over this past year. Most noticeable is the new two-lane entrance tunnel. If you've been to CTMP before, this change of scenery makes the Main Entrance almost unrecognizable. For years, this was just a single lane, tiny corrugated tunnel. The size made it difficult for even some large pick-up trucks to make it through. That made it to where team haulers had to wait for on-track activity to stop in order to cross to the infield and enter the paddock.
The change gives CTMP a much more professional and polished feel than what was there before. Quite frankly, arriving at CTMP is a complete change from old Mosport. The shabby registration hut, cement wall, and crowded street front entrance are all gone. In their place is a lengthy, somewhat landscaped driveway, as well as staff greeting you under an umbrella mounted to the road. Gone are the days where staff greeted you camped under a tarp out the back of their minivan. Previously, buying tickets always felt like a drug deal, or like buying speakers that “fell off a truck”.
Inside, the changes are just as drastic. The paddock is now a three-level paved area, with a road running up the middle. This makes getting from one side of the track to the other so much easier for when it's needed most. You know, for when you wake up suffering from the night before. And then you've realized, the only way you will be able to survive today is by getting two McMosports…errr… McCTMPs?
Bathrooms outside of the paddock area have always been known to be a little scary. However, I'm glad to say that they have undergone a facelift and fresh coat of paint.
2. Paddock from the back, looking up the three tiers, and slightly towards Turn 1.
CAMPING AND SIGHT LINES
Camping at CTMP really is a must. I say that not only because there aren't many accommodations options, but because the track has a lot to offer after the engines have gone quiet. There's usually a healthy number of campers, and they're all very friendly and more than happy to share a few stories over a beverage. If you wander, there are definitely some sites to be seen. For the past two years in Turn 3, some local campers and race fans have had a DJ play from 8 to quiet time. They're always welcoming everyone, including kids who really seemed to like the lights and lasers.
3. Directly inside Turn 3. It's an awesome campsite, and a completely new view.
The camping areas saw improvements as well, which also helped create some new site lines. Inside Turn 3 used to be pretty well unusable for any great number of people. Often the few level spots were taken before most campers arrive. In the off-season, track workers moved an unbelievable amount of ground, and created a tri-level stadium style camping area inside Turn 3, and outside the exit of Turn 2 – that creates a view through Turns 2, 3 and 4. I have to say, that is pretty awesome. Man, can those prototypes move through and between corners!
There aren't any bathrooms aside from Johnny on the Spots up here. However, I hear that a bathroom is in the works.
4. A Very cool feature. Ever get to the track and realize you don't have all your toys? They've got you covered!
Canadian Tire has also introduced a feature called Canadian Tire Sport Concierge. For a donation, you can go and “rent” a full volleyball setup, football, Frisbee, you name it. It seemed like a lot of people were getting into the idea and really taking advantage of it.
If you are making the trip to CTMP, you will not have experienced the true “Mosport” (yes, I said it), until you have taken the trek to Turn 5. The path there is a little dicey to say the least. You go down one steep hill, and up another, with a narrow path and amazing view to the right side. The track bends to the left and dives roughly four stories before rising to the sky. The view really does make up for the walk back up the hill on the other side – or at least serves as a good distraction. In Turn 5, you are treated to one of the best sight lines in motorsport. Once you've parked yourself in your chair – and recovered from carrying your 20lb cooler for what seemed like a lap of Le Mans – you realize, this is what heaven is like.
5. Turn 5. It's got high speed, late braking, great passing area, and no run-off. How isn't it amazing?
So, you're probably asking, are the changes to this classic natural landscape road course from Mosport to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park worth it? Well, from what I've seen, I'd have to lean toward saying yes. They haven't messed with what makes the place great. The track itself is the same, and maintains its character. The sight lines are the same, if not improved.
But the overall experience at the facility is much improved. You don't feel like you are in Bowmanville, Ontario's backyard. No, you feel like you are at a racetrack that is regaining the relevance it had in its heyday. With the construction of a new conference center and control tower under way, the transformation will continue for the rest of 2012 and beyond. I'm hopeful that the new ownership at CTMP can keep the momentum going. I'm expecting big things from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – but it's good to know that the spirit of Mosport is still there and will be maintained, if not a little spruced up.