Neena Channan is a journalist, photographer and correspondent for Jornal de Toronto
2023 so far has been a busy and exciting year for motorsport. So far this year I have had the privilege of attending 3 events at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP) located in Bowmanville, Ontario, plus the Honda Indy Toronto.
In this review, I will cover two of the events from CTMP: Victoria Day Speedfest (Speedfest) and VARAC Vintage Grand Prix (VARAC), and will follow up with separate reviews on the Chevrolet Grand Prix and the Honda Indy Toronto.
Victoria Day Speedfest
The Victoria Day weekend featured 2 headliner series, plus 2 supporting series racing on the 3.957 km (2.459 mile) track located in Bowmanville, about an hour drive from Toronto.
The headliners were the NASCAR Pinty’s Series (Pinty’s), FEL SportsCar Championship Canada (SCCC), supported by FEL Emzone Radical Cup Canada (RCC) and the Super Production Challenge Series (SPC). Each of the series, except Pinty’s, were scheduled to compete in 3 races each over the course of the weekend, with Pinty’s headlining Sunday race day.
In addition to all the racing and cars, CTMP being a campground provides for a nice getaway. With activities for kids in the form of bounce castles, games, giveaway and then for everyone in the family fireworks on Saturday night plus a live band. Basically, something for everyone in the family.
All the entrants for the various series hail from various parts of Canada with one exception – Ben O’Hare in the Production series who is from the UK.
Saturday was not an auspicious start to the unofficial beginning of the racing season. Heavy fog and rain moved in over the course of the day and blanketed the track. Extremely poor visibility resulted in Pinty’s deciding to scrap all activities for the day and scheduling an optional “shakedown” session on Sunday. The race grid was set based on the rule book. This meant that on Sunday for the race, cars would line up based on final points from last season.
Luckily the remaining series were able to race on Saturday with 2 races a piece.
For RCC, Canadian Superbike star Kenny Riedmann had managed to put his car on pole on the Friday. However, on Saturday in the rain, Jake Cowden made up for not getting pole by passing Riedmann at the start and staying in the lead. Gavin Sanders, who had qualified third also managed to get by Riedmann early and from that point on the lead didn’t change and the race ended with Cowden winning, Sanders runner-up and Riedmann in third.
In race two, Jake Cowden led Kenny Riedmann and Gavin Sanders to the green. The race that followed was like race 1 with the eventual podium being Cowden, Sanders and Riedmann, in that order.
On Sunday for race 3, the day was much nicer weather wise. Jake Cowden made a clean sweep of the weekend by winning the third race with Kenny Riedmann finishing 2nd. Gavin Sanders had a “Did Not Finish” giving us a change on the podium with Yang Chen placing 3rd.
For SCCC, Dean Baker qualified on pole on Friday in the TCR class and Jack Polito was on pole in the GT4 class. In wet conditions, race 1 went ahead with eventual winners: Jack Polito followed by Demi Chalkias and Marc Lafleur in GT4 and Justin Di Benedetto winning in the TCR class followed by Louis-Philippe Montour then Dean Baker. Overall winners in order were Jack Polito, Demi Chalkias and Justin Di Benedetto.
Race 2 was run Saturday afternoon with slightly lighter sky but still wet. Slick conditions saw the race 1 TCR winner Justin Di Benedetto ending up in the tire wall and later Megan Tomlinson ran off the track and stuck in the gravel. The race ended under yellow when Gary Kwok running off and hitting the wall hard. All drivers were fine. Winners in order were: Jack Polito (Overall and GT4), Dean Baker (2nd overall, 1st in TCR), Demi Chalkias (3rd Overall, 2nd in GT4).
Sunday’s race saw some change in the order with overall winners: Dean Baker, Jack Polito and Richard Boake (in that order).
For SPC, the entry list was large – 48 cars in the field made up of 3 classes – Super Production, Production and Compact. The SPC offers Canadian drivers of “every caliber and budget” to win a championship. The series is made up of both amateur and semi-professional drivers. Along with other requirements, the basic difference between classes is: Super Production (SPC-SP) = maximum power of 300 WHP, Production (SPC-P) = maximum power of 220 WHP and Compact (SPC-C) = Maximum power of 100 WHP. SPC also had 3 races for the weekend.
The races were very similar and following were the results:
|1||Kurt Wittmer||Connor Bell||Frédéric Bernie|
|2||Gabrile Lacombe||Sylvain Laporte||Mario Berthiaume|
|3||Guillaume Labbé||Vincent Desautels||Cameron Nabert|
|1||Kurt Wittmer||Sylvain Laporte||Cameron Nabert|
|2||Gabrile Lacombe||Connor Bell||Frédéric Bernie|
|3||Todd Chiappino||Blake Kelley||Mario Berthiaume|
|1||Kurt Wittmer||Blake Kelley||Cameron Nabert|
|2||Charles-André Bilodeau||Vincent Desautels||Frédéric Bernier|
|3||Gabrile Lacombe||Connor Bell||Étienne Samson Laflamme|
For Pinty’s, though practice and qualification on Saturday had been cancelled due to weather conditions, everything was a go on Sunday. Competitors were allowed a voluntary 15-minute shakedown. The grid was set based on final owner points from last season. This resulted in Marc-Antoine Camirand starting from pole position.
Camirand led for the first eight laps until he was overtaken by Kevin Lacroix. However, needing a trip to pit lane resulted in L.P. Dumoulin taking over the lead. Gary Klutt took over the lead when Dumoulin went into the pits and retained it for the next 25 laps until the newer, fresher tires of Camirand and Treyten Lapcevich gave them the advantage and they were able to pass Klutt. Camirand maintained the lead until the final lap and final corner. At turn 10, Lapcevich made his move and bumped Camirand wide and drove to victory. The podium in order was Treyten Lapcevich, Marc-Antoine Camirand and Gary Klutt.
VARAC – Vintage Grand Prix
The 43rd annual VARAC Vintage Grand Prix took place over Father’s Day weekend. “Presented by the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC), the Vintage Grand Prix is three days of racing for Vintage (pre-1962), Historic (pre 1973), Classic (pre 1999), Formula Classic (open wheel up to 1999) and the NA Vintage Sports 2000 Series for special sports racers”. The Vintage Grand Prix also included the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship.
This was a great weekend for families and being Father’s Day weekend made it extra special. There were social events each day in the form of BBQ, live bands on each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and a paddock crawl with food and drinks (beer and non-alcoholic) available.
A parade of 100 vintage cars and a show field of over 190 cars of all years, makes and models made the weekend a special one to remember.
When it came to racing, there were many father/son combinations going up against each other for lots of fun and rivalry. Racers from across Canada and the US participated for a fun weekend of camaraderie and sportsmanship. Between the various racing groups (determined based on types and sizes of engines etc.), over 200 entries were registered for racing for this weekend. Plus, special races featuring MG Triumph on Friday, Mazda on Saturday and the Ludwig Heimrath Open Wheel Challenge and the Rudy Bartling Nation’s Cup on Sunday.
The racing was intense with a lot of good clean driving, after all, replacement parts are not always easy to find for classic cars.
For the car lover, this weekend was a sight to see with the various vehicles, makes and models. You could feast your eyes on Lotus, Austin Cooper, Triumph, Volvo, Porsche, Austin Healey, Audi, BMW, Toyota, Jaguar, Mustang, Mercedes, Datsun, F1200, F1600, Lola to name just some of the makes and models present.
Each year, walking through the paddocks is a car lovers paradise.
Please see the link for results from the VARAC Vintage Grand Prix. https://www.varac.ca/documents/Vintage%20GP/2023/2023VVGP_Results.pdf
Further information on events at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park available at: www.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com