The Circuit Of Mosport, And Memories Of Canadian Road Racing
Photography by Cole Janeteas
Why is it that so often the things we’re looking for tend to be right under our noses all along? We always seem to think that the grass is greener on the other side, and there’s an urgency attached to the feeling that compels us to leave our surroundings, in search of something vague but “better.” Growing up in southern Ontario, I have definitely fallen victim to this compulsion to think everything good is somewhere else, however, in the past year or so, I have come to discover a richly layered and all-around just thriving car community here. One that extends well beyond (though of course still includes) the typical local muscle car or “stance” meets that one might pass by in a parking lot. I’ve learned that you just need to know where to look to find more.
Mosport, now known by the much less allusive name Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, is one of North Americas most storied road courses, and I think I’d taken it for granted for far too long. Now, I feel truly lucky to be so close to such a place, and it’s practically in my backyard.
The circuit was built in the late 1950s and began hosting racing events in 1961, making it just the second purpose-built road racing course in Canada. Though it was the site of a string of local and other small-time races upon its completion, it was also the location of international competition, with names like Stirling Moss gracing entry lists soon after the circuit was initially opened. In fact, Mosport now has its tricky three-part Turn 5 named after him, “Moss Corner,” following his suggestion to change it from a hairpin into a triplet of turns instead. Being wise people, the track’s management took the advice and gave due credit!
Over the years, Mosport has hosted many different disciplines of speed on its asphalt, including Formula 1 (before they moved the Canadian GP to Montreal in 1978), the heady heyday of Can Am, and other various open-, closed-, and, two-wheeled racing series. Along with the big name racing programs that’ve descended on Mosport though, the track has also been driven by a veritable who’s who of GP drivers, like Moss, Villeneuve, Hunt, Ickx, Fittipaldi, and Mario Andretti, who holds the fastest recorded lap in an F1 car.
Beyond the aforementioned Moss Corner, the track has undergone many alterations over the years, which have mostly involved widening the course and extending run-off areas to increase safety—the original track, like so many of its era, proved to be rather dangerous. In fact, concerns over safety were among the main reasons Formula 1 moved to Montreal. However despite some very welcome upgrades to the facilities due to new ownership, the overall layout of Mosport has remained mostly static, as it was originally conceived, which I think should please those of us who bemoan today’s track designs full of flatness and extended sight lines taking precedence over challenging layouts.
This past weekend, I found myself back at my favorite place for another round of great vintage racing. I always enjoy these events because you get to see a wide variety of cars and some entertaining action on the track, in addition to the atmosphere that exists at a course like this one. Although I wasn’t watching any of the past legends drive, I could still sit on that same hill by Corner Two, or behind the wall at Moss’s, watching drivers skillfully pilot their cars in front of the spectators. Some things don’t change. Just like the Nordschleife or Spa, fans and drivers alike can come to Mosport and enjoy the same challenging bends or beautiful campsites in the forest as those from the early ’60s had when the legends of our time were being tested in theirs.
Often when looking through my viewfinder, I felt like I had been sent backwards in time, watching early Formula Fords duke it out with their little straight-fours screaming the appropriate war cries for the battles taking place between them.
I know a lot of this nostalgia can feel very cliched, but I truly feel that the history a racetrack can hold is something quite special, and unique from the kinds of memories and regards we assign to our favorite cars and drivers of the past. There is something impersonal and permanent and at times foreboding about a racetrack. It isn’t the gladiator or the lion, it is the Coliseum.