The new United SportsCar Championship finally got around to issuing its much-awaited 2014 schedule Friday afternoon and the first bit of very good news is that Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is on it.
The cars and stars of the merged American Le Mans Series and the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series will appear at Old Mosport on July 13 and if the turnout for the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Labour Day weekend is any indication, a huge crowd is likely to be there.
To say the folks at CTMP are excited would be an understatement.
"We are thrilled to have landed a coveted date on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship 2014 schedule," said Myles Brandt, President and General Manager of CTMP.
"Sports car racing has played a major role in Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s rich history and in 2014 we will be fortunate enough to continue that legacy. Our fans and corporate partners can mark the date on their calendar now and start making plans to be a part of what will no doubt be a memorable weekend."
Now, I haven’t written all that much about this new series because I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. An awful lot was at stake here, not only for the business of racing at CTMP but also for a number of Canadian race drivers and racing companies.
Frankly, it would have been close to a disaster if Old Mosport had been left off the calendar. And fingernails were bitten all summer waiting for the official word because one particular reporter working for an influential U.S. racing magazine and website had written as recently as July that CTMP was on the bubble and might very well not make it onto the final list.
But it is very much on the list – and just about smack, dab in the middle, in fact: it will be the seventh of 12 races in a series that will start at Daytona in January and end at Road Atlanta in October.
And this is very good news for Canadian drivers like Scott Maxwell, Mark Wilkins, David Lacey, John Farano, David Empringham and Paul Dalla Lana and racing businesses/teams like AIM Autosport of Woodbridge, Multimatic of Markham and Karl Thomson’s Compass 360 Racing because they’ll all either be racing in SportsCar or the Continental Tire support series and be able to race at the only Canadian stop in the championship.
Many of those drivers and all of those racing companies have been racing primarily in the Grand Am Rolex championship, which hasn't seen action in Canada for several years. I guarantee they are all as thrilled as Myles Brandt.
Okay, here is the official schedule:
2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Schedule
Jan 25-26 Daytona International Speedway (24 Hours of Daytona)
Mar 15 Sebring International Raceway (12 Hours of Sebring)
Apr 12 Long Beach Street Circuit (Long Beach Grand Prix)
May 4 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
May 31 Detroit Belle Isle
Jun 29 Watkins Glen International (Six Hours of the Glen)
Jul 13 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Jul 25 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug 10 Road America
Aug 24 Virginia International Raceway
Sep 20 Circuit of The Americas
Oct 4 Road Atlanta (Petit Le Mans)
As regular readers of these columns know, I got tired of waiting for SportsCar to issue this schedule and did it for them back in August. I was pretty close, too. I only got two of the 12 locations wrong.
On my list, I selected Lime Rock Park over Virginia International Raceway. My thinking: Lime Rock is an old, established, and legendary sports car racing circuit and Virginia International might be a nice place but it hasn’t quite found its niche yet. When the ALMS was at Mosport in July, I interviewed CEO Scott Atherton and he said among the criteria the new company would look for when selecting a track was a tradition of sports car racing and experience at promoting. Lime Rock has that in spades; I wasn’t so sure about Virginia.
But then a little birdie told me a few weeks ago that I probably had that one wrong. "Lime Rock is a sweet place," he said, "but it’s too small for all the cars that are expected to race in the unified series. Plus, the ALMS is locked into a long-term contract with Virginia and it would cost serious money to get out of it."
So that explains that.
The other one I got wrong was that the temporary street circuit at Belle Isle in the Detroit River is on the schedule and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is not. I perhaps should keep my mouth shut on this one because the choice might very well have been between Old Mosport and Mid-Ohio, rather than Mid-Ohio and Detroit.
It’s a strange choice, though. You can run an IndyCar race through city streets because you’re probably only going to have 24 or 25 cars at most on track. SportsCar, on the other hand, could have as many as 40 or more cars on the circuit at the same time in 2014 and you need big, wide and sweeping road-course circuits to handle them all.
That many cars on the track at the same time at Long Beach and Detroit could prove disastrous. But, we’ll see.
The date of the Detroit race is interesting. It's obviously will be on the same card as the IndyCar race. Detroit had a double-header race weekend this year for the Indy cars, Saturday and Sunday. The SportsCar race will be held on the Saturday, May 31st. Does that mean there won't be a double-header - two Indy car races - at Detroit in 2014?
The date for the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park race is interesting as well. Watkins Glen will run the Six Hours of the Glen on June 29 and two weeks later, the Mobil 1 Grand Prix will be held at CTMP. Two weeks after that, they’ll be on the road course at Indianapolis.
There’s another race in the Toronto area every July. The Honda Indy Toronto. Last July, a double-header seemed to inject new life into that event and large crowds attended the races both Saturday and Sunday.
Now, race dates move around. But not by much. The Honda Indy Toronto this year was on the same weekend (July 12-14) that the SportsCar race will be held at Old Mosport in 2014 (July 11-13).
The IndyCar schedule won’t be out for awhile yet. The two events have been able to coexist the last few years but there could be trouble for one – or both – if they should happen to be scheduled on the same weekend.
Let’s hope the brass at IndyCar are taking note of the SportsCar date at CTMP and planning accordingly.