, the wonderful international racing champion who’s also the proprietor of the MiniGrid books and hobby shop on Mount Pleasant Rd. in midtown, once told me that the Christmas selling season in Toronto doesn’t really get under way till there’s snow on the ground.
“There has to be snow before people get into the Christmas mood and start shopping,” he said. “Sometimes, we don’t get any (snow) till the middle of the month and then everybody panics and starts buying like crazy.”
At the beginning of this week, when there was a fresh layer of ice and snow on the ground, John Bondar
, founder and president of the Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC), told me that he expects the start of the Ontario road racing season, which officially gets under way at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park north of Bowmanville the weekend of May 18-20, which is only four weeks away, to be “slow.”
After noting that he expects about 30 cars in total to race in his series this year, Bondar added: “The season is slow to start right now because of the weather. No one’s going to wake up (to the fact that racing season is right around the corner) till the sun comes out in a big way.
“When that happens, when people look outside and the birds are singing and the grass is getting green, people will go, ‘Holy cow! Racing! I have to get going!’ Everybody will be in a panic and my phone will start to ring off the hook. It’s the calm before the storm right now.”
The folks who run Brack Driving Concepts at Shannonville Motorsports Park near Belleville also have their fingers crossed that the panic will kick in sooner rather than later. They have their annual Spring Fling scheduled for April 27-29, and the three days are devoted to helping racers get ready for the season by providing everything from scrutineering to ensure all cars are ready to pass inspection to a race academy where aspiring competition drivers can start the process of applying for a national licence.
“There will be lapping and testing sessions, as well,” said Ken Pavri, one of the Brack Driving Concepts organizers, who urged all racers who are interested to check out brackdriving.com/spring-fling-2018
for additional details and the cost of participating.
The CTCC is entering its 12th season, and competitors race in one of four classes — Touring, Super Touring, GT Sport, and GT Cup. A dozen races will be held over six weekends at some of Canada’s finest facilities, including CTMP twice, Calabogie Motorsports Park, Shannonville, Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Circuit ICAR near Montreal.
Although just about every auto manufacturer doing business in Canada is represented in the CTCC, some of the racers are rewarded for driving certain makes and models. And Bondar said during our conversation that another automaker is joining the series — and doing it in a big way.
“We’ve enjoyed support from three key manufacturers over the years, two of them here in Canada and one by extension through the U.S.,” he said.
“Here at home, Mazda Canada has been part of CTCC for seven years, and they provide a wonderful contingency program whereby drivers who race Mazda products can get cash rewards for winning or finishing well in each race.
“And that’s also reflected in Mini Canada. They are a supporter of CTCC and have a similar program whereby Mini competitors are able to cash in when they do well race-by-race but also on the season.
“Thirdly, we’ve received solid support from Honda Performance Development out of California. That’s Honda’s racing arm. They have similar cash contingency programs for our Honda and Acura drivers, and they also have a parts program where competitors can receive vouchers for parts and also discounts on parts.
Racing is in Honda's DNA
“Between those three, there’s over a quarter of a million dollars in cash available to the drivers and that goes directly to them. There’s no fill-out-a-contest entry form or anything; it’s solid cash. A driver who does well can earn up to $40,000 a year.”
Bondar, who’s assisted in the running of the series by his wife, Dominique, said that Hyundai Canada has provided direct support to one of the teams in CTCC for three years and is planning to roll out a new car for the Canadian market in time for the 2019 season, in which their current “works” team would get one but it would also be available to other competitors.
The CTCC founder, who raced himself before getting involved in administration with the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs organization, said the newest manufacturer to support the series is Audi Canada.
“Audi is unique in that they’ve hired a motorsports marketing manager, which is significant for Canada,” he said. “Her name is Amelia Li, and she comes to Canada with a solid background of managing Audi motorsports programs in Asia.
“We expect she will make her first announcement sometime in the next month, and we’ll see some racing programs launched over the summer. They are planning a big push with the Audi RS3 — TCR Spec. We’ll see a few cars this year, but the real focus will be on next year. She’s working very hard and has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. Racing needs that.”
I asked Bondar if he’d given any consideration to making the CTCC a truly national championship, seeing as all of the races are currently held in the central Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. He said he’d like to “go national” but that there are roadblocks.
“The problem is the lack of facilities,” he said. “Many of the circuits out West are for club racing. We have Ferrari 458s and Porsche GT3s racing in our series and they are too big and powerful for small tracks.
“But we are looking at racing in Saskatoon in 2019,” he added. “They are working on a new event there at the Fairgrounds that would be similar to the IndyCar race in Toronto and our race and the Pinty’s Series race at Trois-Rivieres. We are communicating with the group there to put on a show. It would help our series to grow and give us a profile west of Ontario.”
So, it seems the future is bright for the CTCC, and road racing and speedway racing in general. If it ever decides to be spring, that is.