June 1st is a very influential date in my life. That day in 1969 (I was 10) was my initial visit to Mosport. The day is also my wedding anniversary (1985).
My uncle took me to Mosport in his 1968 Mustang. We attended the CanAm. It was also known as the “Bruce ‘n Denny Show.” This was due to Team McLaren’s dominance in CanAm. The team’s drivers were founder Bruce McLaren, & fellow Kiwi/New Zealander and 1967 Formula 1 World Champion, Denny Hulme. Their papaya-orange McLaren M8B had an all aluminum 7.0 L big block Chevrolet engine. It produced 635 BHP. The world shook! No wonder these CanAm cars were called “Thunder Cars!” I was hooked by sportscar racing. Upon returning home, I told my parents, “someday I’ll race.” They probably thought, sure, sure. Ironically, 10 years later I attended the CASC racing school and earned a novice license. Eventually I held a National license, with roughly 100 races on my Log Card.
We watched from Corner 1. Bruce McLaren won the 80 lap race, by less than 1 second over his teammate. Their M8B turned 1:19’s/laps. Caledon area resident, George Eaton finished 9th in his McLaren M12 Chevrolet. Sadly, a year later McLaren was killed while testing the new 1970 M8D at Goodwood, England. This was just before the Mosport season opener. I was at Corner 5 that day when McLaren’s replacement, Dan Gurney won. Denny Hulme came home 3rd. Gurney and Hulme have since passed away.
Since that 1st trip there, I’ve been going for 50 years now! Last month I attended the annual VARAC vintage races. I’ve seen great race classes in addition to CanAm: Formula 1, IMSA, WEC, TransAm, USAC Indy, American Lemans, CASCAR, and numerous Ontario club races. I’ve even cross country skied up Corner 2! I once crewed for LA’s Mike Allen’s Lola T332 LAW-sponsored CanAm car.
Great drivers I saw (in addition to McLaren and Hulme) included Mario Andretti, Keke Rosberg, Derek Bell, Dan Gurney, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, James Hunt, Niki Lauda (see below) to name a few. And of course, our own Scott Goodyear, and Gilles Villeneuve.
Special cars I saw there included: JPS Lotus 78, McLaren M23, Project 34-6 wheel Tyrrell, AVS and UOP Shadow, Porsche 956/962, and the Canadian F1 Wolf. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the famous Penske Porsche 917-30.
The best race I saw was the 1983 CanAm where “Uncle” Jacques Villeneuve’s Canadian Tire sponsored Frissbee-Galles GR3 Chev narrowly beat the late Scotsman, Jim Crawford’s Wardair sponsored, converted F1 Ensign N180B Ford. The 2 traded the lead several times, & never touched each other.
In the 80’s I raced there in Formula Ford, Honda/Michelin, GT-2, and GT-3. I got a class win in a BEMC 3 hour endurance race, and got 1 Pole Position in Formula Libre. Toss in a couple of Podiums, too. Yes, I did crash there…twice at the very scary Corner 2; once at Corner 5A; and once at Corner 10. Luckily they were all minor shunts! I have numerous laps there.
It was an honour and a privilege to drive there, knowing some of the world’s greatest drivers
competed on the same asphalt. No wonder it’s known as “Canada’s Home of Motorsports.”
Hopefully, I’ll go there for many more years! What memories I have, both on and off the track!?
Written & photos by Larry Barnett