When I wrote that headline, I was just not going to put CMHOF. It's bad enough having to type CTMP for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
In a previous lifetime, when I was working in news at the Toronto Star, the editor-in-chief of the day, Martin Goodman, asked me to prepare a list of acceptable acronyms for headlines.
That wasn't too hard. NHL, OHIP, RCMP, TTC. We use them as words when we talk. Everybody knows what they mean, and that's what makes an acronym acceptable.
But watch eyes glaze over when you say CTMP. I guarantee that every race driver for the next 20 years will say that in interviews and it will never catch on in the same way that OHIP does. Or NASCAR.
If these were still the old days, CTMP would not be on my list.
Okay, moving right along, I spent the weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and I was reading the program Saturday afternoon and on Page 22 there was an article about tickets being on sale for the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame's induction ceremony on Sept. 28.
CTMP co-owner Ron Fellows is being inducted, as is Mario Andretti in the International category. In that program, there was all sorts of information about how can you go about buying tickets to the event, which I will MC.
It's a good thing that article was in a program for an event that is over because the news this morning is that the event is now SOLD OUT. Yes, all the tickets have been snapped up and if you were putting off buying them till closer to the event, you are SOOL (is that an acceptable acronym?).
Hall of Fame general manager Sid Priddle sent me the following dispatch Sunday night:
"Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies Sept. 28 sold out. The only way to get a ticket is to be put on a waiting list. Call 289-803-1375 Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The wait list will be compiled on a first-come, first-served basis. Our telephone has a time stamp to determine the order of the calls. Tickets are $80."
So if you want to go, make the call.
Much of the talk this weekend centred around whether (or not) CTMP - see, I'm being forced to use that thing because I don't want to always have to write out Canadian Tire Motorsport Park - will be included on the 2014 United SportsCar Series schedule.
(If you want the background, please scroll down to my report on what went on at Old Mosport on Saturday.)
I must say I was surprised Sunday night, though, to receive a link from my friend John Bassett to a story on the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series Internet site about what a fabulous job Fellows and his partner, developer Carlo Fidani, have done with the facility north of Bowmanville.
It even includes this sentence: "No word yet on whether that . . . will lead to a future relationship, but it’s safe to say Fellows’ track has an excellent chance of making the 2014 cut."
The new SportsCar series will only have 10 or 12 races in 2014 and between the ALMS and the Grand Am in 2013 there are 22 events being held at 17 locations so some tracks will be left off.
Cross fingers for Fellows and Fidani (and track GM Myles Brandt) that the combined sports car series will be making a stop at CTMP next summer.
Okay, here is the race report from Sunday. Gossip and interviews follow below.
You could not have asked for a more perfect ending to the 15-year relationship between Don Panoz, the American Le Mans Series and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, which came at a few minutes before 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 21.
Thousands of people drove out to the legendary facility north of Bowmanville to watch the cars and drivers of the best sports car series in North America do battle and they enjoyed the spectacle under blue skies and in warm temperatures.
The two-hour, 45-minute timed race featured just about everything - from a popular victory, to hard, competitive racing, to heartbreak for the most popular car on the grid.
The popular overall win went to Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr, both of Germany, driving a Prototype 1 HPD ARX-03c entered by the Muscle Milk Picket race team. It was the fourth consecutive victory at Old Mosport for Graf and the third straight for his co-driver Luhr. Romain Dumas of France was Graf’s co-driver for his first win in 2010.
Other class winners: Marino Franchitti (yes, he's Dario's brother) and Scott Tucker in P2 (HPD ARX-03b), Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett in Prototype Challenge (ORECA FLM09), Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in GT (Corvette C6 ZR1), and Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil in GT Challenge (Porsche 911 GT3 Cup).
The GT victory by Gavin was his 40th in the series.
Canadians: All made it to the podium. Tony Burgess of Toronto (driving a Lola B12/60 with Chris McMurray in P1) was second in class and sixth overall; Kyle Marcelli of Barrie and Chris Cumming of Vancouver were third in PC and ninth overall and Kuno Wittmer was third in the GT class and 13th overall, co-driving an SRT Viper GTS-R.
Graf, who drove the first half of the race before handing off to Luhr, celebrated his 44th birthday on Sunday. Luhr, who turns 34 on Monday, finished the race and said in Victory Lane afterward that he hadn’t really broken a sweat.
“For me personally, it was by far the easiest one (victory at Old Mosport),” he said.
The GT class winner, Milner, said it had been a super close finish with second-place finisher Dominik Farnbacher.
“I got through traffic a bit better than he did but right there at the end I got the worst of the traffic and he was right on me. He was quick in (Corner) 8 and I was either going to spin or take the lead. I just threw it in there and it stuck and here we are, P1.”
Franchitti was mildly critical of the safety improvements made at the circuit in the last year, particularly the paving of run-off areas that previously were sand and gravel.
“I don’t think we had the fastest car out there,” he said. “Pit work and a good strategy got us the win. I’ve always said this was my favourite track but it’s a bit watered-down now, with all this (paved) runoff.”
There was one wee bit of controversy. The GT class battle between Milner and Farnbacher was extremely close and Farnbacher appeared to be setting up a pass of Milner while they both screamed up the Mario Andretti Straightaway heading toward the checkers.
But a Prototype Challenge car being driven by Tristan Nunez that was 27 laps behind the P1 car of Luhr and 18 laps behind Milner and Farnbacher decided, for some inexplicable reason, to try to pass them which he could do because of superior power.
But this simply served to stymie Farnbacher, who was unable to pull out to his left to get a run at Milner. Milner, at a post-race media conference, said he used the third car as a pick and tried to manoeuvre Farnbacher in that direction to curtail his momentum.
The big disappointment of the day came on Lap 15 when the revolutionary DeltaWing race car – half the weight,, half the power and half the amount of fuel used as compared to the big-dog internal-combustion gas guzzlers . . . – slowed down suddenly between Corners 3 and 4.
Being driven by Andy Meyrick and running second in the race at the time, the car seemed to speed up but was wisely called into the pits for a safety check and subsequently taken out of the race because of too-low oil pressure.
Looking much like a rocket ship, it was easily the most popular car of the weekend. It attracted large crowds in the paddock and close attention whenever it was on track, including during the morning warmup when co-driver Katherine Legge was in the cockpit.
Two themes cropped up afterward. All of the drivers were very aware that the new United SportsCar Series (the result of a sale/merger between the ALMS and the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series) is very close to announcing the schedule for 2014 and that there is some question whether CTMP will be on the list.
Graf, who talked about how much he liked racing in Canada, suggested it would a shame if there wasn't a race at the iconic Canadian circuit. And Franchitti went on about the large crowds at the Honda Indy races last weekend in Toronto and the equally large turnout at Old Mosport Sunday.
"Canadian fans proved that they deserve a (SportsCar) race," he said.
Several drivers, particularly Luhr, talked about the speed differential between the all-powerful P1 rockets and the much-slower GT Challenge cars.
In fact, the Muscle Milk machine lapped the rest of the 32-car field within 30 minutes of the start of the race. At the conclusion, Graf (No. 18 on his ALMS win list) and Luhr (who won his 45th ALMS race) were four laps ahead of the second-place car, Franchitti, and 18 laps ahead of the winning GT Challenge car, driven by Bleekemolen.
Said Luhr: "The approaching speed, our average speed, is just so much higher than the GT cars, it's unreal, especially with the GTC cars. I thought there were thousands of them on the track because every couple of meters you would be passing one."
But other than that, neither of the winning drivers complained too much - although Luhr did go on and on about the lack of competition for the Muscle Milk car.
"It (the speed differential between cars) is what makes sports car racing exciting," Graf said.
"Traffic is very bad here, it makes it difficult. Everybody is hanging on to their car and it can be tough for some of the classes. You have to be careful with where you overtake and how you do it. Managing the traffic was my biggest task today.
"To win here four times in a row is very special. I really like this place. Every year, Lucas and I pretty much celebrate our birthdays here and every year we get pole position and win the race. It's not bad!"
Mike Conway, the IndyCar Series driver pressed into duty after Ryan Briscoe broke his wrist while racing in the first Honda Indy Toronto last weekend, finished third while co-driving with Scott Tucker. His dice with Burgess in the early laps was particularly interesting.
Patrick Dempsey, a.k.a. Dr. McDreamy, and co-driver Andy Lally finished fourth in the GT Challenge class. I mention this because, other than the DeltaWing, Dempsey commanded most of the attention in the paddock (if you could find him; he seemed to spend most of his time holed up in his hauler or a nearby motor home).
The only full-course yellow of the day came with 54 minutes left when Tommy Drissi lost control of his Prototype Challenge ORECA FLM09 while navigating Corner 1 and ran into a tire wall. He was fine; the car was bashed up.
So ends, officially, a relationship between Panoz, the ALMS and the circuit always called Mosport until recently that began in 1998.
Panoz purchased the facility that year and the first ALMS race was held there in 1999. Panoz then sold CTMP to driver Fellows and developer Fidani in 2011. With the merger, the ALMS presented its last race there on Sunday.
Here's hoping that SportsCar will make its first visit to CTMP in 2014 and a whole new tradition will begin.
- NORRIS McDONALD