• Shannonville Motorsport Park

Racing Roundup: Now it’s Hamilton who’s whining; Shannonville has new owners; Canadian race drivers rule and all the news

John Bondar (he owns and operates the Canadian Touring Car Championship series) and partner Steve Gidman have finally taken ownership of Shannonville Motorsport Park 

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald October 15, 2019
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Ryan Blaney won the rain-delayed Talladega 500 (or whatever it’s called these days) Monday afternoon and Steve Torrence in Top Fuel and Robert Hight in Funny Car were winners, also Monday because of rain, of the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals.

Sunday, Valtteri Bottas won the Japanese Grand Prix. Saturday night, Juana Pablo and Dane Cameron won the IMSA SportsCar Championship while Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran and Pipo Derani won the Petit Le Mans DPi race at Road Atlanta. In GT Le Mans, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet won the class championship in a Porsche while James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra wonm the class race in a Ferrari. In GT Daytona, Bill Auberlen – who recorded his 60th victory in IMSA competition, tying the now-retired Scott Pruett – won the championship and the race in a BMW, co-driving with Robbie Foley and Dillon Machavern.

But you knew all that. Links, if you’re interested, will be provided further down.

Meantime, I want to take one more kick at the can of my current favourite motorsport subject: whining Formula One drivers.

Lewis Hamilton, if you can believe it, let loose at his own team, Mercedes, after finishing third in the Japanese GP. He thinks they should have tried harder to let him win, so that he could celebrate yet another world championship on the same day the team wrapped up yet another constructors championship. And he even levelled a veiled threat at his teammate, Bottas, who, Lewis said, in so many words, was getting too uppity.  And Max Verstappen was unhappy with Charles Leclerc and the stewards and said so to anybody who would listen.

The chief culprit in all this, of course, is social media – Twitter, in particular. There are usually around 300 reporters accredited for every Grand Prix and all of them have their little hand-held recorders out and on all the time and a driver – after dropping out during the race or immediately after it – is only too willing to bitch and complain about whatever or whoever was responsible for them losing the race.

And it always comes out sounding like this: Wahhhwah wahhhwah wahhh. Not my fault. Wahhh. Stupid car, stupid team, stupid other guy. Wahhh.

Note: it’s never (or rarely) their fault.

Remember: every one of these crybabies is coddled. They have more money than they can ever spend. They have private planes. They have servants, butlers, toadies. They all live in magnificent townhouses or condos in Monaco, where they hide all their money. They are Gods, to many. (I was in Monaco two weeks ago and the people at the hotel were all excited. “You’ve come at the right time,” they said. “The drivers are all back from Russia. You might see some. Hulkenberg brought his family in for tea earlier.)

Good grief.

What got me going – again – was a book I started earlier this week. Entitled, “An American Racer: Bobby Marshman and the Indianapolis 500,” it was written by Michael Argetsinger, son of the legendary Cameron Argetsinger, the man who brought sports car road racing to the village of Watkins Glen in New York. It’s a great read and Michael must be congratulated for what had to be months if not years of research required to tell the reader literally everything there was to know about Marshman, and others of his era. If a guy like me wants to write a book, I can use Google to track down many of the facts; to research the life and times of Marshman, Argetsinger had to read microfilm of National Speed Sport News and microfiche or film of the sports pages of papers in the little towns where guys like Marshman had to go to race while working their way up the ladder to Big Indy. It was an arduous task that Argetsinger did so well.

But the point is that guys like Marshman – and Johnny White and A.J. Foyt and Bobby Unser and the list can go on and on – had to do all (or most) of their own mechanical work to get their cars ready to race. And while they often teamed up with other racers or teams to save on expenses while traveling from speedway to speedway, they often were on the road by themselves and the U.S. Interstate Highway System was still being constructed and the highways were two-lanes and went through the downtowns of every village, town and city along the way. Bobby Unser told me once that it would take him between 18 to 20 hours (12 hours now) to drive from his home in Albuquerque, N.M., to Los Angeles for one race – which saw him use much of his Pikes Peak-winning purse one year to purchase a small Cessna airplane, the first of the short-track racers to fly in order to save time.

And the cars they raced back then were not safe. There were no roll bars and safety belts were – maybe – one shoulder strap. The drivers were very aware of the dangers of racing and “gave each other room” (unlike today, with the roll cages or the halos, where drivers who – at one time – might not have had the courage to even go out there are braver ‘n Dick Tracy because if they do get upside down, it’s likely they won’t be hurt).

But even with the drivers being ultra-careful, accidents happened. An open-wheel car that got too high and brushed the wall could wind up flipping over and if the driver survived, his teeth didn’t. Or his nose and jaw were broken. And a lot of them – a lot – were killed.

This was the world of Bobby Marshman and nowhere in Michael Argetsinger’s meticulously researched book is there one word about Bobby Marshman complaining. About anything. Nor does anybody else complain. I know times change and people change and the Internet has changed just about everything but I have a feeling that if guys like Marshman or Don Branson or Jimmy Bryan were racing today, you still wouldn’t hear them moaning and groaning like all those precious guys living in Monte Carlo are ever so prone to do.

Wahhhh!

Okay, on to other things.

After a number of years of negotiations, John Bondar (he owns and operates the Canadian Touring Car Championship series) and partner Steve Gidman have finally taken ownership of Shannonville Motorsport Park and have big plans for the facility located just east of Belleville. Shannonville is one of the few multi-purpose motorsport facilities in Canada. Sitting on 146 acres, it features a 4.03 km multi-configurable race track, a go-kart track, a drag strip and a skid pad with three grandstands overlooking the main track. The new management team hopes to revitalize the place with an emphasis on corporate events while continuing to focus on driving, racing and training programs. “There is a lot to be done and we will chip away at it,” said Bondar. Added Gidman: “John and I share a great enthusiasm for motorsports and I look forward to working together to create a revitalized Shannonville Motorsport Park. There’s plenty of work ahead and it will take time, but the result will be worth the wait.”

Shannonville has a long and rich history in the Canadian racing industry. Here are a few historic milestones:

1974 – John Nelson builds the racetrack to organize motorcycle race events. At the time, it was called Nelson International Raceway.

1979 – Jack Boxstrom buys the facility. Mr. Boxstrom operated car racing schools and motorcycle racing schools until he eventually sold the racing property.

1986 – Val David Motorsport Group (Montreal insurance magnate Raymond David) acquires the facility now known as Shannonville Motorsport Park. Mr. David made substantial improvements and invested significantly. From that moment, Shannonville Motorsport Park became very successful and an important player in the motorsport industry. It was the go-to place for many years, where future racing champions were trained to be the best.

1992 – While at its peak, Jean Gauthier saw a very profitable opportunity and purchased the racing facility.

2019 – The Motorsport Group Inc. (John Bondar and Steve Gidman) acquires Shannonville Motorsport Park.

The media release said the new management team would take on their new role immediately. No kidding. Bondar took possession of the keys to the place Friday afternoon and went right to work to supervise drag racing that was on tap that evening.

Vinfast, Vietnam’s largest car manufacturer, will sponsor the first Formula One race to be held in that country, which will take place next April 5. There is nothing wrong with this but I, personally, find this unsettling. I was news editor of the Toronto Star on April 30, 1975, when the U.S. was forced to abandon Saigon and the city was overrun by the Viet Cong. South Vietnam then surrendered to North Vietnam, bringing an end to that ungodly war. Forty five years later, they are going to race F1 cars in that country. I know Germany was allowed to host a round of the world championship a mere six years after the end of WWII, but Germany had been holding GPs since the mid-1920s and had an automotive culture. Not so with Vietnam. But money talks, eh?

Congrats to: Mark Wilkins of Toronto for winning, with Michael Lewis, the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship by winning the Fox Factory 120 race at Road Atlanta Friday. To Toronto team Motorsports in Action (Eric Kerub, owner; Jesse Lazare, driver) for finishing second in the Pilot Challenge standings. Daniel Morad of Toronto for finishing second in that Petit Le Mans GT Daytona class race at Road Atlanta behind Bill Auberlen on Saturday. And Scott Hargrove of Vancouver and Zach Robichon of Ottawa, driving for Pfaff Motorsports, were third in the same race.

For a second-day story on what happened Saturday, please click here.

And Dalton Kellett of Toronto co-drove an LMP2-class Oreca to victory in that same Petit Le Mans with Gabriel Aubry and Matthew McMurry. Dalton has been knocking his head against a brick wall for years now in Indy Lights – yes, he won the pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Freedom 100 two years ago, and good for him – but this shows he is a good sports car racer and would be wise to concentrate on this style of racing.

Ryan Blaney, by the way, won that race in Talladega by a foot. It also featured a Big One. For details, please click here.

Lewis Hamilton will now likely win his 10,000th world championship at the Mexican GP in two weeks. For more on the Japanese Grand Prix, please click here.

Shannonville Motorsport Park

The National Hot Rod Association doesn’t – or didn’t this week – publish a story taking all the classes into consideration. So if you want to know more about what happened in Charlotte at the weekend, go to www.nhra.com and it’ll all be there.

Short Track Roundup: There’s no stopping Canadians when it comes to Super DIRT Week, it seems. Niagara driver Matt Williamson won $50,000 – that’s U.S., folks, which means about a million in our money – when he finished first in the Billy Whittaker 200 at the Oswego Speedway on Sunday. Tim Fuller was second and Brett Hearn third. The guy who always used to win this race, particularly when it was held on the mile track at the New York State Fairgrounds. Stuart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, was sixth this time out. . . . . At the World Series of Speedway Racing meet at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Park, Mike Lichty of Cambridge, Ont., won the International SuperModified Association (ISMA) championship. Congratulations, you Canucks!

By the way: you will have to get along without me next Monday. I will be flying to Japan on assignment on Sunday and will be in the air at the time I usually write this. I will return in two weeks.

Now, I would not be able to do the following information justice if I wrote it myself, so I am just going to print the information as supplied this weekend by Multimatic Motorsports:

MULTIMATIC MUSTANG WINS AT ROAD ATLANTA

• It’s Victory Lane for the #15 Multimatic Mustang of Seb Priaulx and Austin Cindric
• Chequered flag falls on the factory Ford GT race programme after 70 races
• Breakthrough season for the Mazda RT24-P comes to a close

Another busy race season for Multimatic Motorsports of Markham has come to a close at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Shannonville Motorsport Park

Multimatic entered two Ford Mustang GT4s into the final race of the 2019 Michelin Pilot Challenge for three of Ford’s NASCAR drivers and British GT star Seb Priaulx. The youngster got proceedings off to a great start by qualifying on the front row of the grid; an incredible feat considering it was his first visit to Road Atlanta.

Priaulx started the two-hour race and stayed in touch with the leader throughout his run, successfully negotiating U.S.-style caution periods, which are new to him. He handed the #15 Multimatic Mustang over to Austin Cindric in second place and with just 30 minutes left to run, Cindric grabbed the lead and kept it all the way to the chequered flag.

“That was so much fun!” said Priaulx after the race. “To race in America for the first time and win the race is an incredible feeling. As always, the Mustang was great, Austin did an awesome job and everything was perfect in the pits so this result is a great bit of teamwork. I have loved racing at Road Atlanta; it’s a very cool track as it’s tight, twisty and fast!”

The sister #22 Multimatic Mustang of Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer came home just inside the top ten in ninth position.
The headline race at Road Atlanta was then Petit Le Mans. It was the final race for the factory Ford GTs and the last race of a breakthrough season for the Mazda RT24-P, built, developed and performance/race engineered by Multimatic.

The Mazda DPi cars had a tough Petit Le Mans and despite leading a large part of the 10-hour race, both cars had mechanical issues that put them out of contention for the podium. This has however been a fantastic season for the Mazdas with three wins, eight total podium finishes and three pole positions so the team will now go into its winter testing program in readiness for January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The #67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon managed to grab one last podium finish for the factory Ford program, finishing in second place.

Farewell to the factory Ford GT race programme

The Ford GT race programme was announced to the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015. Ford would celebrate the 50th anniversary of its historic 1-2-3 finish at the 1966 race by creating a new Ford GT that would take on the world’s best GTE cars from the likes of Ferrari, BMW, Porsche and Aston Martin.

With the commitment from Ford, engineering expertise of Multimatic, the expertise of test and development driver Scott Maxwell and race management by Chip Ganassi Racing and Multimatic Motorsports, the Ford GT race car hit the track for the first time at Calabogie Motorsport Park (Multimatic’s test track near Ottawa). The car was good straight out of the box, so good that Maxwell, was soon asking for setup changes so he could go faster.

The Chip Ganassi Racing-run IMSA Ford GTs took their first victory at Laguna Seca in early May 2016. Just a few days later the Multimatic-run WEC cars took their first podium finish at Spa-Francorchamps but also suffered a huge crash. The fact that Stefan Mücke walked away unscathed was testament to the fact that the Ford GT had been built tough as well as fast.
Le Mans 2016 will never be forgotten as Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sebastien Bourdais took victory, 50 years on from Ford’s famous victory in 1966.  This also started a fantastic run of wins for the IMSA squad throughout that summer.
The rest, as they say, is history.

And to that, I would say: Amen.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca

 

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