BOWMANVILLE, ONT. - North America’s most storied sports car — the Chevrolet Corvette — has all but owned the championship podium at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park since its 2001 debut in the American Le Mans Series at the 3.957-km road course formerly known as Mosport.
Toronto’s Ron Fellows — now a co-owner of the legendary race track — was behind the wheel when the Corvette team won a record three consecutive ALMS GT1 championships at CMPT starting in 2001.
And he finished second in 2004 and 2005, making it five podium finishes in a row.
In all Corvette has notched nine Mosport Grand Prix wins over that 11-year era.
Now there is a new crop of drivers hoping to add their names to the records that Fellows helped set at his home track.
Denmark’s Jan Magnussen, who took over from Fellows in the famed yellow Corvette, is back as defending race champion with a new co-driver, Spain’s Antonio Garcia.
Magnussen said Fellows’ legacy with Corvette has made the Toronto-area track like a second home to the Michigan-based team.
“Having Ron with us made going to Mosport such a great place for the whole Corvette Racing team,” he said. “His fan base in Canada is huge and it’s been great for us as a team even when he retired from driving and went into a role as a Corvette ambassador.”
Magnussen and Garcia, along with England’s Oliver Gavin and American Tommy Milner in the second team car, will be racing a new model Corvette C6.R at the Mosport GP on Sunday.
And, for one, Magnussen can’t wait to get on track for first practice Friday.
“For sheer speed, Mosport is one of my favourite tracks,” Magnussen said. “It’s such a fantastic feeling when you do a fast lap, because you know there is a big, big penalty for making a mistake.
“The track itself is a huge challenge. If you can make the car work well in the fast bits, you have a great chance at a podium. It’s all about making the car work for you.”
Magnussen said when he heard that that Fellows and his partner Carlo Fidani had already made some major structural changes at the 750-acre CTMP, he was worried the actual track might be a target for a redesign.
“I’m sure that Ron and his partners are doing great things with the facility, the buildings and more,” Magnussen said.
“I just don’t want them to touch the track, to add chicanes in places to slow the cars down. I think the layout, including the runoff areas, are such a big part of the track’s character. Just keep the track like it is.”
Garcia will be making his CMPT debut in his first year as a full-season Corvette driver.
“I’ve been watching videos and in-car cameras, and leading up to the race I will talk more precisely with Jan to learn what to do — and especially what not to do,” Garcia said. “They tell me that it is a fast and somewhat dangerous race track. I’m used to those kinds of circuits, so I’m looking forward to it.”
As for Gavin, he looks forward to another trip to Victory Lane.
“Every driver looks forward to going there,” he said. “The characteristics of the Corvette C6.R seem to suit that layout. I’ve had some great races there, including a fantastic win with Jan last year. Mosport always seems to bring out the best in Corvette Racing.”
Homegrown American Le Mans Series veteran Tony Burgess, of Toronto, will be joining Dyson Racing the Mobil 1 Grand Prix of Mosport at CTMP with co-driver Eric Lux in the No. 20 Mazda-powered Dyson IMSA P1 entry, the same car that won the ALMS championships last year. It will be the 12th attempt by Burgess to win at the Mosport GP. “I am very much looking forward to driving with the legendary Dyson Racing team and I think this is the most exciting and competitive opportunity I have had for my home race,” Burgess said ... Among the 29 drivers entered in the Mosport GP are several former IZOD IndyCar Series stars including Townsend Bell, Bruno Junqueira, Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp as well as former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Andy Lally.
OTHER FRANCHITTI SET TO RACE
Scottish sports car racer Marino Franchitti will be back at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park Friday driving the No. 52 Quest Software/Aviation Gin Oreca FLM09 in the Mobile 1 Mosport Grand Prix.
The younger brother of four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is a late addition to the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team in the LMPC class with teammate Ken Dobson, of Sonoma, Calif.
While Franchitti is a veteran of the 3.957-km Grand Prix road course, it will be his first time in an LMPC class race car.
“I’m looking forward to working with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports” the Edinburgh native said in a team release.
“I’ve not had the chance to drive an LMPC car before, but all my friends that have driven them have enjoyed the experience. I’m excited to join the team, work with Ken and feel the car for myself this weekend.
“The small amount of experience I have of spec racing has taught me that when everyone has the same equipment, finding an advantage is very difficult and in order to give yourself and the team the chance to compete for the victory, you have to get every little detail spot on, and hopefully we can achieve that.”
Franchitti is no stranger to the 10-turn CTMP road course, where he previously won the pole and finished second in the LMP1 class driving the No. 20 Lola B09/86 for Dyson Racing in 2009.