Looking into the Mosport Mirror

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald August 28, 2021

It’s been hard for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a.k.a. Mosport, to celebrate its 60th year of existence when there hasn’t been any racing. Yes, the motorcycles were there two weeks ago, but the place is known for car racing and there hasn’t seen any this year – until this weekend.

In almost a repeat of the lineup for the recent Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, the NASCAR Pinty’s Series is headlining racing on both Saturday and Sunday of what’s being called the CTMP Labour Day Weekend Sprints. Support will come from the Nissan Sentra Cup series, the Toyo Tires F1600 Series and the Emzone Radical Cup Canada presented by Michelin. The FEL Sports Car Championship Canada presented by Michelin will replace the Canadian Touring Car Championship presented by Pirelli.

A limited number of tickets were sold in advance; none will be sold at the gate so don’t go out to the Bowmanville-area track expecting to get in if you haven’t already bought some.

Now, if you haven’t been out there recently — say in the last 10 years after Carlo Fidani and Ron Fellows bought the place from the late Dr. Don Panoz — you won’t recognize the place.

Gone is the “culvert” tunnel into the infield near Corner 10, replaced by a double underpass that allows transport trucks carrying race cars to enter and leave with ease. Gone is the two-story “tower” inside Corner 10, the one that started life as the Esso Tower but was sponsored by Castrol at the time it was razed. In its place is an ultra-modern event centre on the outside of Corner 10 that features banquet facilities supported by proper restrooms.

Which brings me to another of my behind-the-scenes Mosport stories.

As told in my last column, when Mosport opened in 1961, the place was pretty primitive. The only proper facilities for the first 15 years, or so, were in that Castrol Towner. There was a unisex washroom on the main floor and a men’s and women’s upstairs. All the racing drivers (Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Tim Schenken) and their wives (Betty Hill, Helen Stewart, Nina Rindt) were frequently at the tower.

Now, the upstairs men’s room was your standard facility. There was a urinal, a toilet and a basin, over which hung a mirror. I used to wash my hands and look at myself in that mirror and think of all the famous race drivers who had done the same thing. In that mirror, I could see Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti, Gilles Villeneuve, Emerson Fittipaldi, A.J. Foyt, Eddie Sachs, Richard Petty and hundreds more. My heroes.

One weekend years ago, when the American Le Mans Series was headlining a racing weekend, I went to the second floor of the tower to relieve myself. I concluded my business and turned on the tap to wash my hands. I looked up, as I had hundreds of times before, to look at myself in the mirror and I just about had a heart attack.

The mirror wasn’t there. It was gone. I was looking at a bare wall.

My first thought was that some bounder had stolen it. I produced a daily blog for Wheels.ca in those days and I wrote about that mirror being stolen and what it meant to me. I urged Mosport management to call the police and let loose the hounds. Arrest the perpetrator, I wrote, throw him in jail to rot forever, and recover that mirror.

A day later, track president and general manager Myles Brandt sent me a note. “It’s not as bad as it seems,” he said. Later that morning, I got a note from a fellow who managed a Shania Twain tribute act called Shania Twin, which had appeared in concert on the Saturday night.

“Somehow, we forgot to pack a mirror when we took the act to Mosport,” he said. “Shania Twin needs a mirror to check her hair and makeup and where can you find one in Clarington at 9:30 on a Saturday night? I suddenly remembered the one in the men’s room in the tower, so we borrowed it. I will be sure to return it so it’s hanging in its rightful place the next time you’re at the track.”

Which is what happened.

When the tower was taken down, Glenn Butt, who’s worked there forever, asked some of us if we’d like a memento. I asked for the mirror. I’ve since had it framed and it hangs in a washroom of my house.

Every time I wash my hands now, I look into that mirror and say hello to James Hunt, Ronnie Peterson, Jody Schechter, Clay Regazzoni, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and on and on. And do you know what? Hard as it might be to believe, I see ‘em all waving back.

Norris McDonald is a retired Star editor who continues to write for Wheels under contract. He reviews the weekend’s auto racing every Monday at wheels.ca