Like father, like son is an adage proved true time and again. Sam Fellows, eldest son of champion Canadian racing star Ron Fellows, is determined to keep the string going.
Next week at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Sam will make his 2019 racing debut in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama series, part of the annual Castrol presents the Victoria Day Speedfest Weekend that will start Thursday and feature competition in six series, culminating Sunday with the headline NASCAR Pinty’s Series stock car race.
Sam’s story, in itself, is interesting. What makes it intriguing is that he will be racing a Porsche 911 entered by Pfaff Motorsports, which sponsored father Ron in the Rothmans-Porsche Turbo Cup Series back in 1990.
It doesn’t end there. Sam’s Porsche will be wrapped in a throwback livery, reminiscent of Ron’s Turbo Cup car. And the No. 35 will be the same car that Chris Green of Ottawa raced to the series championship in 2015.
“For me, this is all very cool,” Sam told me recently, in a telephone interview. “I’m driving for Pfaff and my dad drove for Pfaff, and to have that connection is really cool for me.”
Sam is 25 and an honours graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism. While 25 might seem a little late to be embarking on what he hopes will be a successful career in auto racing, Sam has been plugging away at his dream for years.
“I’ve spent my whole life at the racetrack with my dad,” he said. “It (racing) is something I’ve always wanted to do. My brother seemed more interested in hockey (Patrick Fellows, a former OHL winger with the Erie Otters who’s now studying, and playing for the Rams, at Ryerson) but I always wanted to be around the engineers on the race team, and to listen to everything that they said and my dad said.
“I did some karting at (Stouffville-area) Goodwood Kartways when I was 12 or 13. It was very brief, though. When I was 15, I got into cars — Corvettes — at Spring Mountain (Motor Resort and Country Club outside Las Vegas, where Ron Fellows has a driving school). I’d follow my dad out there a couple of times a summer and he’d stick me on track. But I wanted to start racing.”
First, however, he had to get an education.
“I didn’t want to go to university,” he said. “My parents (Ron and Linda) talked me into it, and I’m glad they did because I’m a heck of a lot smarter now for having done that, and I have a degree.”
But racing was never far from his mind.
“It’s in my blood, for sure,” he said. It’s something that I thought about all the time at school. I don’t want to use words like ‘depressed,’ or ‘miserable’ — I had fun at school — but I always had my mind on racing. I was always getting up early or staying up late to watch Formula One, not going to class. I had a little simulator that I built that I took with me and I would skip classes and play racing online all day. My parents know now, but I definitely didn’t tell them at the time.”
After graduation, he started working at what he calls “the family business” (Ron Fellows and Carlo Fidani are co-owners of CTMP, formerly known as Mosport Park, located in rolling farm country north of Bowmanville) and preparing for a racing career.
“I did the Formula 2000 school, and that went well. And then we started club racing with a Camaro. After one of the club races, Steve Bortolotti (Pfaff Motorsports team manager) came over and he said, ‘Hey, we should get you in the BMW sometime.’ I went and tested, and the following year (2018) we did a weekend in the Canadian Touring Car Championship and I won a race in my class. So, Steve came up to me again and said, ‘We should get you in a Cup car — and so here we are.”
Since starting to work at CTMP (he does a lot of everything, from working on sponsorship proposals to marketing and public relations — “I don’t have an official job title because I do tons of stuff; I do the instructor nights with the Ron Fellows Driving Experience, I do some of the social media, I help out Jerry Priddle with PR…”), Sam has been a familiar presence around the media room on major event weekends. He’s very aware that all the reporters and photographers will have their eyes on him.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I can’t wait to get going. I want to prove to Pfaff, my dad and my media room colleagues that I can do it. My overall goal is to see where I can go in racing. When I went to Le Mans for the first time with my dad, I was a teenager. It was an unbelievable experience, and if I could ever get back there, that would be the high point of my career. I’ll reach for the stars and say if I could ever get to Le Mans, I’ll have lived my dream.”
First things first, however. The 2019 season is about to explode at CTMP, and Sam was keen to talk about what’s in store for fans when they drive out to the track for a day at the races.
In addition to races in the Porsche GT3 series and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series championship, next weekend’s Victoria Day Speedfest will also feature races in the Canadian Touring Car Championship, the Nissan Micra Cup Series, the Blancpain GT World Challenge and the Pirelli GT4 America Series.
Oh, and because it’s Victoria Day weekend, Saturday night will feature fireworks.
In June — June 14-16, to be exact — the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC) will hold its 40th annual three-day festival that will include the VARAC Grand Prix, a Field of Dreams Car Show and more.
From July 4-7, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will headline the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix. World-class drivers like Helio Castroneves and Oliver Gavin will race prototype and GT racing cars entered by Acura, Aston Martin, Cadillac, Audi, Corvette and other famous automakers.
The two-wheel set takes over Old Mosport Aug. 9-11 with the Mopar Canadian Superbike Championship. Besides the racing, the Jordan Szoke Extreme Show will add thrills and the outdoor movie night on Saturday will inject some romance and nostalgia.
(Gee, I wonder if they’ll show that wonderful old motorcycle racing movie, Little Fauss and Big Halsy, starring Robert Redford and Michael J. Fox. That movie’s got all of the above in it — and more, including a killer title song sung by Johnny Cash.)
The Chevrolet Silverado 250 weekend, from Aug. 23-25, will wrap up the major event schedule at CTMP for ’19. The headline NASCAR trucks series — and that race is always a barnburner — will be supported by the Pinty’s Series, the Micra Cup, the CTCC and the Toyo Tires Formula 1600 Championship.
I asked Sam to take off his crash helmet and put on his PR person’s hat and tell me which of the major events was his favourite. Naturally, he said they were all great, but did admit to being partial to two — the IMSA and NASCAR weekends.
“The NASCAR truck race is always incredible,” he said. “Every single race we’ve had has seen crazy, dramatic, highlight-reel racing. And every one of those truck-race guys has gone on to the Monster Cup series. Chase Elliott, who won the first truck race at CTMP, just won a huge NASCAR Cup race a couple of weeks ago. All the drivers are either in Cup now or soon will be. They are the future stars of NASCAR.
“It’s a toss-up between NASCAR and the IMSA sports cars, though. Watching those prototype cars is just incredible. My dad and I went up to Corner 2 for qualifying last year, and the sheer speed and downforce of those cars, and the abilities of the drivers — well, you just have to see it for yourself.”
Sam Fellows will take to the track in his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for first practice next Thursday at 8:50 a.m. His first race will be on Saturday at 10:55 a.m. and the second Sunday at 11:55 a.m. All the people in the CTMP Event Centre media room will be watching and cheering him on. I hope you will be too.
For more information about CTMP major events, starting with the Speedfest, go to canadiantiremotorsportpark.com.