It started Wednesday evening with a pit stop contest at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto and is continuing this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park north of Bowmanville: the annual Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix is underway once again.
Casual fans, as well as hardcore campers, started arriving early Friday as practice sessions began for the cars and stars of the headlining IMSA WeatherTech Championship and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
Interest is particularly piqued this weekend as celebrity drivers of the calibre of Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya will be racing. They are two of the four drivers employed by Acura Team Penske in the WeatherTech race and they will split driving chores with sports car veterans Ricky Taylor (Castroneves) and Dane Cameron (Montoya) as the legendary Roger Penske returns to Old Mosport for the first time since 2008.
The Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix will go to the post Sunday at 2 p.m. As well as the Penske entry, the Daytona Prototype class will also feature the Tequila Patron team of Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, Johannes van Overbeek and Pipo Derani and the Mustang Sampling entry of Felipe Albuquerque and Joa Barbosa.
In the GT Le Mans class, the Corvette Racing team of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, plus the ageless Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, are expected to be strong. In GT Daytona, defending class champion Christina Nelson and Patrick Long will be racing a Porsche.
Saturday, the headline race will be the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Canadian Scott Maxwell and Chase Briscoe are entered in a Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4. Other Canadians include Kyle Marcelli of Toronto in another Mustang and Jesse Lazare of Montreal in a McLaren GT4.
All eyes were on Castroneves, in particular, as the Daytona Prototypes took to the track Friday morning. The Brazilian is a three-time Indianapolis winner and a veteran of the Verizon IndyCar Series (which will be racing at Exhibition Place next weekend in the Honda Indy Toronto) but he has never raced at CTMP and, in fact, had never seen the track before.
But like a true champion, he had his foot in it early and was among the fastest of the DP runners.
TV star Patrick Dempsey, a.k.a. Dr. McDreamy of Grey’s Anatomy fame is also at the circuit this weekend but is not racing. He is filming a movie, The Art of Racing in the Rain, based on the novel by Garth Stein. Dempsey is one of three producers.
Besides watching the racing, and keeping an eye out for Dempsey, there are all sorts of other things to see and do at Old Mosport this weekend. The CTMP Marketplace will be open for business all weekend and there are a number of commercial enterprises in there along with the Carlsberg Beer Garden.
A Kids Zone with all sorts of jumping castles and inflatable slides is available to keep the children from getting bored and there will be live music Saturday night.
One thing: don’t forget the ear plugs.
Dr. Jennifer Anderson, chief of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto, is a racing fan and participates herself but has some concern about the potential for hearing loss at noisy events like auto races.
During a conversation we had on the subject this week, she made reference to a study conducted in 2013 at the Grand Prix of Canada by a researcher from the University of Texas who recorded short bursts of engine noise at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve that registered as high as 140 decibels.
“For some people, a brief exposure of 100 decibels would be enough to cause damage in the inner ear,” Dr. Anderson told me. “Some people are really prone. You can have people at a (rock) concert who are all being exposed to pretty much the same noise volume and some will leave and have humming or ringing in their ears for the next three days and other people won’t have any.=
“So, there’s some individual susceptibility to noise.”
She suggests that people going to CTMP this weekend or the Honda Indy next week take ear plugs with them, particularly if they have children. Although the cars are together for the start, they get strung out quickly and then fly past in a blink. The doctor says, though, that they could be bunched up in corners.
“Most people probably won’t be spending enough time exposed to the really high-volume sound to suffer hearing damage at a race,” Dr. Anderson said. “But you should wear ear plugs because you probably won’t know when it’s going to happen.”