Nestled in the forests of Ontario, Canada lies the iconic Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, better known as Mosport. While for most of the year the scenery in this area is accompanied by the peaceful sounds of birds chirping and wind in the trees, this was recently replaced by the screams of V8s, a V12, and a certain well-known flat-twelve. For the first time in too long, Formula 1 was back at my home track, and I could barely contain my excitement.
When we arrived early in the morning it felt like we had travelled back in time. There was a thick layer of fog rolling through that covered the track in a layer of moisture. In the pits, the teams were already working hard to get the cars dry and ready for a weekend of racing. We wasted no time getting over to the track so we could catch some of the first laps of the day. In this early session I could have sworn someone dropped me in a scene from Rush, as there was just no way this could be real I thought as I watched the number 10 car blast out of corner one with a trail of mist following behind it.
Some of my fondest memories from childhood involve waking up on Sunday morning to watch the F1 race with my dad. I could never manage to sit through an entire game of any sport, but for some reason motorsports clicked with me and I would sit mesmerized watching the likes of Schumacher and Villeneuve duke it out for seventy laps. Similar to me, my dad found a love for cars and the sport at a young age. However, he was rarely able to watch the races on TV, so he would often only be able to drool over these machines in photos. As you can imagine, he was beside himself being able to get up close and personal with them all these years later. Father and son had left the living room and were standing trackside to witness these machines once again, in person.
I was particularly excited to to see this car. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful F1 machines ever built, and it’s also the car that Jackie Stewart won the 1971 championship in (including a win at Mosport). Although the track has been widened and made little safer since then, it was surreal to see this car screaming down the same straights and corners that Jackie expertly piloted it around all those years ago.
Gilles Villeneuve’s #21 Ferrari is always a crowd pleaser, especially here in Canada. I think it’s safe to say any vintage Ferrari is going to attract a lot of attention, but this car stands out just a little more with its flat-twelve in a sea of Ford-Cosworth V8s. It was an absolute pleasure watching this car putting in some laps on home soil.
The buzz in the pits was like nothing I’ve experienced before either. The teams were all working hard to ensure that cars were set up properly and the fans were all eagerly waiting to get a good look at the them. One of my favorite aspects of this event was how much access fans had to the cars. I imagine the atmosphere was very close to what it would have been in period when fans could chat with teams and drivers right in the pits and not have to worry about safety regulations and VIP passes and “handlers.” Just good old-fashioned racing. Seeing the older crowd that, like my dad, idolized these cars and their drivers back in the day getting all giddy and excited is what put in perspective just how special this weekend was. If that wasn’t proof enough, all you had to do was watch the crowd when these machines fired to life to head out onto the track. The second the first car turned over everyone in the pits would stop what they were doing and watch as they made their way to the start line in a silent mass of awe.
Sometimes things don’t always go to plan though, but that’s just part of racing. Unfortunately this driver’s weekend ended early do to a mechanical issue, but when you consider how dangerous this sport is and was when these cars were in their prime, I’d say this is still a win all things considered.
As the weekend came to an end and the teams started packing up, the rain decided to roll back in. In a time where most classics are purchased and parked, it was really refreshing to see cars of this calibre not being fussed over when they got a little wet. This easy going/old school attitude mixed with some good, hard racing is what made the weekend really special for me. I also feel truly blessed that all this was happening practically in my backyard (especially considering some people drove two days across the country to be there!).
Everyone that attended was truly passionate about the cars and sport, whether they were part of one of the hard working teams or just a spectator. I couldn’t help but smile seeing parents sharing stories with their sons and daughters of what racing was like back in the day, inciting a new generation of fans. These teams travel the world showcasing some of motorsports finest heritage at some very iconic tracks, but if they ever stop at Mosport again I highly recommend you make the trip. I know I will.