Ron Fellows is known as the “Mayor of Mosport” for all the races he’s won at Ontario’s premier speed circuit east of Toronto and not because he happens to be one of its owners.
One of North America’s most versatile and successful road racing drivers with numerous wins in competitions ranging from NASCAR to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Fellows was voted by fans American Le Mans Series’ Most Popular Driver from 2004 to 2007.
He is the only ALMS champ to win the prestigious award four times in a row and is the first ever to have a signed special edition Corvette — the limited edition Ron Fellows ALMS GT1 Champion Corvette Z06 — named in his honour.
Last fall he was inducted into the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame in Kentucky just three months after the veteran racer and two partners purchased Mosport Raceway.
Dividing his time with duties at Mosport, the racing circuit and his performance driving school near Las Vegas, Nev., it’s a wonder he hasn’t had much time to enjoy his family’s Muskoka cottage during the busiest auto racing time of the year.
“We go on occasional weekends that I’m free but we have the option of heading up on weekdays since a lot of my work involves weekends in the summer, so we’ve been able to avoid the heavy traffic,” said Fellows.
Retired from the gruelling round-the-clock Le Mans races after remarkable career-capping victories, in which Fellows won the American Le Mans Series, GT Drivers Championship in 2002, 2003 and 2004, Fellows is still a key player on the NASCAR circuit.
He ran three races in August before heading up to Muskoka for the much needed family cottage retreat.
“My grandfather built the place in 1963 when I was a toddler, about four or five and the nice thing is that it can only be accessed by boat. We’re at the end of the lake on a bay with only four cottages and three are family-owned,” said Fellows.
“It takes about two and a half hours to get there from our home in Mississauga and our biggest ritual is stopping in MacTier, not far from the marina.”
The stop at MacTier, Ont., along Old Highway 69, is a tradition that has endured since his youth when the Fellows family — Mum, Dad, Ron, his two brothers and two sisters, would stop for groceries and ice cream before hitting the dock.
He said the store they stopped at then is still there today. A general store and adjacent hardware shop provide cottagers with just about everything they may need.
“When I was a kid we used to stop a place called The Woodsman Inn on Highway 69, not too far from MacTier. It’s closed now. My parents reasoning was: ‘Feed ’em before we get to the cottage so they settle down and aren’t hungry when we get there,’” Fellows said.
“As a kid I used to always get the same thing — a BLT sandwich. Of course, now that our own kids (two sons and a daughter) are older, it’s less of a ritual.”
Before Ron, his wife Lynda and their kids hit the road they pack a cooler with food for barbecues, wine and beer. Fellows reminds us; “You can’t go to the cottage without beer.”
To get there they travel the Queen Elizabeth Way to Highway 427, east along the 401 and then Highway 400, past Barrie, Ont. and right up to the Highway 69 cut off just before MacTier.
They waste no time getting there, but that’s not to say it’s a race.
“There’s a big difference between the road and the track — especially when you’ve got your wife, kids and animals in the car. I save the speeding for the race track and go with the flow of traffic on the highway,” said Fellows.
A couple of minutes past MacTier, the road trek ends at the marina, where the family usually picks up some bait for fishing before cruising by water to the end of the lake.
Then comes the final ritual.
“Bring in the cooler and bags, open the windows and go out on the deck and relax. Oh, and have a beer,” is how Fellows describes the last detail at the end of the road to the family cottage.
“The first thing that strikes me when we get there — even to this day — is the smell of the air. It’s just so fresh. The wilderness is incredibly quiet and peaceful. There’s nothing like Cottage Country Canada.”
The NASCAR races, speed school, Mosport track promotion and management duties are miles away for now as Ron Fellows and family savour the last of their summer holiday up at the lake.