You can now add race track owner to the long and distinguished resume of Ron Fellows.
The winner of a 24 Hours of Le Mans class championship, a five-time NASCAR Nationwide Series winner and a three-time American Le Mans Series champion, Fellows announced on Wednesday that he and a group of partners have purchased Mosport International Raceway from American Don Panoz .
It returns the legendary racing complex to Canadian hands for the first time in almost two decades.
Fellows teamed up with Toronto businessmen Alan Boughton and Carlo Fidani to make the deal late Tuesday.
Mosport incorporates a Grand Prix 3.96-km road course, a half-mile oval speedway, a 1.8 km driving school track and a karting track on more than 700 acres of land near Bowmanville, about 80 kms east of Toronto.
Fellows said he and his two partners began talking about putting together a deal last October during a visit to Fellows Corvette driving school in Las Vegas.
"I called (Panoz CEO) Scott Atherton," Fellows said. "He told me that Mosport was not for sale. But after few more conversations with him and Don Panoz they began to warm to the thought of returning Mosport to local ownership."
Mosport is already host to a number of top ranked motorsports events including the ALMS Grand Prix of Mosport, the May 24 Speedfest, a pair of NASCAR Canadian Tires Series races and any number of sports car club events.
But Fellows sees the potential to build on what is already there.
"In he short term we would like to improve the race experience for both fans and corporate supporters," he said. "We would like to enhance the events already established at the track and add more."
Fellows said that Panoz had planned to make improvements at the facility but when the economy went south in 2007-08 those plans were put of the back burner.
"We think the economic climate is right to move ahead with the kinds of improvements Panoz had in mind plus add many of out own ideas," he said.
Key to establishing a plan will be the retaining of Mosport's management team led by track president Myles Brandt.
"Myles has been part of Mosport for 40 years," Fellows said. "It would be near impossible to move ahead without his leadership."
Fellows admits that buying Mosport is something that he sort of "blue skied" about as he approached the sunset of his spectacular driving career.
"It is a race track that is very near and dear to my heart," he said.
And it is not like the driving part of his life is over. Fellows is currently in negotiations to race in several NASCAR events this season including the NAPA 200 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, the Bucyrus 200 at Road America and the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen.
As for Panoz, who took over a debt-laden Mosport back in 1998 and nursed it back to world prominence, he said he was proud to have helped return the track to its roots as on of the great motorsports complexes in the world.
"There is no deeper racing tradition or racing history in Canada than what exists (at Mosport)," Panoz said. "I am personally very gratified that we have been able to help this crown jewel grow and improve for both racers and fans and I am very happy to now turn it over to a group that loves this place as much as I do.
"And I want to say a special thank you to Ron Fellows, who has always been a true gentleman, champion and the greatest representative of Canadian racing that I have known. The fact that he is now one of the owners of Mosport is a dream come true for both of us."
Fellows said plans for the future of Mosport also include staging non-motorsports events.
Back in 1970 Mosport hosted the Strawberry Fields Festival that drew 100,000 people and featured such acts as Procul Harum, Jose Feliciano, Ten Years After and Grand Funk Railroad.
CAN'T WAIT FOR INDY
Two of Canada's best young racing stars both think that Turn 3 on the Honda Indy Toronto temporary street course is one of the most challenging and thrilling in all of motorsports.
James Hinchcliffe, a rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series and J.R. Fitzpatrick, last season's runner-up in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series were talking about the enticing passing zone as the first string of fencing was being constructed inside Exhibition Place on Wednesday.
Hinchcliffe, 24, fresh off of his inaugural start at the Indianapolis 500 said he can't wait to experience what it will be like to approach Turn 3 at 185 m.p.h. in an IndyCar. He has raced on the Lake Shore Blvd., track previously but in the junior Indy Lights series.
"I know it is one of the great passing lanes in all of IndyCar," he said. "It is going to be exciting to try it with a high-powered IndyCar."
Fitzpatrick, 23, said he remembers his first experience with Turn 3.
"We had just raced at Mosport's road course," he said. "And of course with Mosport's big sweeping turns at the end of the Andretti straight you can maintain a lot of speed.
"So when I first came up on Turn 3 at the Honda Indy I realized, too late, that it was much different and I went right through, missing it completely."
Both Fitzpatrick and Hinchcliffe will be part of the July 8-10 Honda Indy 25th anniversary race.
Hinchcliffe said for him it's a chance to make up for crashing at Indy last Sunday.
"I am lucky that I get two Indys this season," he said. "I will never forget my first Indianapolis 500, but the Honda Indy Toronto is like my hometown Indy 500 and this time I want to not only finish but win."