Mosport For The First Time

June 5, 2009
The start to the first ever F2000 race at Mosport in 2008.

When the F2000 Championship Series visited Mosport in 2008 it was the first time I had visited the famed track. I remember reading about it in Road and Track back during the golden years of Can Am racing. The magazine would arrive with articles containing pencil sketches and black and white photos about races that had occurred three months previous. (A far cry from following this year’s F2000 races in real time through Monty’s twittering, with color pictures on the website minutes after the action.)

In the 70s, Mosport was already famous for its large crowds of road racing fans. Even though Canada seemed so far away for a Florida boy in the 70s, I felt like I could relate because by that time I had almost a decade of experience in the infield at the Sebring 12 Hour.

Now, after visiting Mosport I must confess the fans there seem to come because they like road racing, and not just extreme partying. Don’t get me wrong, with so many great Canadian beers to choose from, these Northern fans do party, but from my experience many more of them understand the racing than the average fan in the US of A. Being a camper at Mosport is not always easy. The infield is not flat; in fact many of the primo viewing areas are situated on rather steep hillsides. Interestingly, over the years the fans in many of the best locations have “dug in” sort to speak, literally carving small terraces out of the hillsides large enough for a tent, or an old VW Kombi. One must believe they must arrive very early in the week to claim these unique vantage points. Large rations of beer must be needed to survive the long wait until later in the week when cars actually are on track. The roads to these infield locations are primitive at best, rather resembling those you would see in old silent movies from cross country races a hundred years ago, deeply rutted, incredibly dusty when dry, boot sucking mud when wet.

Last year during one of our breaks, having a rental car at our disposal, and with the ALMS cars going out to qualify, Tim Minor, Eric, Janice and I set off to “cruise” the infield. Soon we realized that we were not in Sebring. It is somewhat amazing what one can accomplish with a Malibu if it is rented. A humvee would have been more appropriate. Surprisingly quickly though we arrived atop a ridge overlooking Quebec Corner (Janice must have been driving). Did I mention parking is rather limited? The ability to push over small saplings with the bumper helps in creating needed space. We bail out of the car, not wanting to think of how we’ll ever get it back down the hill, and commence to watch P1 and P2 cars flash by below.

Up front I must admit that I had heard about how serious open-wheel fans are in Canada, but could I really believe Craighead and Howden? Within minutes of standing on that steep hill, a voice with a very distinct Scottish brogue calls out to me to come over to his encampment. In short order these campers, recognizing my F2000 Series shirt, proceed to tell me a fairly unabridged history of two liter road racing in North America. These fellows knew the history of all the different series, champions year by year, and where they were now. I have to admit they knew far more history than I. It was like I had stumbled into a colony of Craigheads. Sitting up here on lawn chairs, burrowed into the side of the hill, drinking single malt scotch, were some serious fans. I was impressed. Tim and Eric were impressed. (Janice was trying to remember if the Malibu was rented in her name or mine.) And, there are a lot of these fans, nestled into every little cranny all around the track.

When spectating at Mosport, if at all possible, you must get to Moss Corner. Understand this is not an easy feat. No roads go there. At best it involves a trek down and back up a ravine on a single track with footing suited for a mountain goat. You wonder about half way there if it’s worth it. Then, you arrive to find the place packed with fans that have already made the hike before you. And it’s well worth the effort. As great a corner from which to spectate as it is to drive. It reminds me a lot of watching the bridge turn at Road Atlanta before the change. Moss Corner is one of the great spectator viewing areas in North America.

Ok, so now you have been warned. If you are going to spectate at Mosport, it’s best to do your prerace shopping at REI instead of Saks. Think good hiking shoes. Forget that ice chest on little 3” wheels you think you can pull behind. Figure out a plan to carry your liquid refreshments on your back. You’ll need both hands free to grasp branches, fences, whatever available to steady your climbs and descents. Hats are a good thing. Seems the Sun is up for like 22 hours a day. But trust me on this, if you’re prepared, the viewing is spectacular, and you’ll be sharing it with some of the neatest fans in the world.

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