~ by Chris “#16” Demaras ~

I’m not sure when we really started planning yesterday’s events. Maybe last year when Daniel took stick-shift driving lessons. Or at Christmas, when Santa stuffed vouchers for “Laps in an F2000 Car” in our stockings. Perhaps years ago when we designed the Demaras Racing logo. Probably even further back, to when Daniel attended Champ Car races at Exhibition Place when he was a toddler. It’s been a long time coming.

Toronto Motorsports Park (TMP) sells thrill rides in an open-wheel car as a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. ‘Bucket list’ items. But for me and Daniel, it felt more like a beginning than an ending. His first drive in a race car.

Awake at 5:00 am, on the road to Cayuga before the sun was up. The weather didn’t look promising as rain came down throughout the slow, two-hour drive to the track, getting heavier as we arrived. I knew Daniel would be nervous, so I joked about Fuji ’76 and how real racers love the rain. But for the kid’s first time in an open-wheeler, a dry track would be less intimidating.

Arriving at TMP we were greeted by Cindy, Dov and Christine who we’d met months earlier when we did hot laps in a Ferrari F430 at TMP. It was like seeing old friends again. Uli Bieri, the track owner, could be overheard telling everyone to be patient; the skies would clear and we would be on track soon. He went back to work on the cars and track preparation.

By the time driver training was complete, the sun broke through and the strong winds dried the track, rapidly. All the dreamers and would be racers tried on loaner helmets and suits, while Daniel unpacked his gear. To kill some extra time while the track sweepers did their duty, everyone posed in front of the Reynard F2000 car. This would be a moment to remember.

Waiting trackside while others did their laps, the nervousness was getting to Daniel. He’d been nervous about the clutch and old-school H-pattern shifter. I don’t want to say too much here, as Daniel will be writing about his own experience in the car in the coming days.

But as a dad, watching my kid get to live out a dream moment…it was incredible. Just an incredible day.

When the F2000 program was complete, we headed back to the main building to grab our gear. We’d already missed work and school, and it was after noon, so rather than heading home, we spontaneously decided to join the Dragstrip Experience that had started an hour earlier.

I went from watching Daniel to racing him in an SRT8 Hemi powered car! 175 km/h, door-to-door down the quarter mile.

More than once during the day, I compared Toronto Motorsports Park to Canada’s Wonderland. It’s a state fair of thrill rides that ends only when you run out of nerve or cash. But it’s much more than that.

It’s a historic track with a passionate owner. Uli Bieri is a legendary Canadian sports-car racer. He bought the track in 1997, added the road course, brought in supercars from his dealerships, and even the F2000 cars from Mosport’s Bridgestone Racing Academy. He’s really created a place where you can live every motorsports dream for a day, or every weekend.

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