To young kart racers, the Bear Hunt at Shannonville is something from the old days. Today’s karters weren’t around for the BSRKC (Brian Stewart Racing Karting Championship Series). Thanks to KartStars Canada, racers that weren’t even born last time Nationals was held at Shannonville were able to compete at the track this year.
The history of Shannonville Motorsport Park deserves to be remembered.
Nelson International Raceway was built in 1974 by John Nelson who was a racing enthusiast. He operated a motorcycle shop in Toronto and built the track to organize motorcycle racing events. The raceway first started off as a dirt oval, with bedrock for a front straight. Later, the 1.8 km “Nelson” circuit was built.
The original track was expanded over the years, with four different configurations. The twisty track provides plenty of run-off, making it an excellent choice for testing. This is especially true of preparation for street circuits, as the tight circuit shares many characteristics with them.
In addition to the “Nelson” circuit, the 2.23 km “Fabi” circuit was built to the north, and the two were linked to form the 4.03 km, 14-corner “Long Track”. The “Fabi” circuit was named after Bertrand Fabi, a young Canadian driver who died while testing a Formula 3 car in England. The “Fabi” circuit has a long backstraight that now doubles as a drag strip. A link was then made between the Turn 1 on the “Nelson” to Turn 7 on the “Long Track”, creating the 2.47 km “Pro Circuit” layout.
Founder John Nelson owned the circuit from 1974 until Jack Boxstrom bought the facility from him in 1979 to operate his racing schools. The property was later sold to Raymond David in 1986, and substantial improvements were made. Shannonville became became very successful and an important player in the motorsport industry. Sold again in 1992 to Jean Gauthier the track reached its peak, and it was the go-to place for Canadian race teams for many years. Finally in 2019 John Bondar & Steve Gidman acquired Shannonville Motorsport Park with plans to return it to its former glory with the planned addition of a new Events Centre.
Most importantly to Demaras Racing, the KartStars Canada Series moved their national championships away from home track Goodwood, and back to the historic home of Nationals. In 2021 the Bear Hunt finally returned to Shannonville.