~ by Daniel ‘#12’ Demaras ~

I’ve been to Mosport many times in my life. As a little kid we would go to all the big races there. When I got older, I started racing karts right next to the big track, at Mosport Kartways. I even won my first karting championship there. Mosport is a historic, high-speed, old-school racetrack that I’ve always loved. But, I would be lying if I said it didn’t scare me a little. Last weekend I faced that fear head on.

In the ‘new to me’ 1999 Mazda Miata, my driving coach John Venditti and headed out of te paddock and onto the track. It was cold and windy, and I definitely was feeling some nerves. John demonstrated the racing live for two laps, and I must say, that did not ease my nerves.

Venditti is a talented driver with a lot of coaching experience, most recently at the BMW Club of Canada. I fully trust him behind the wheel. However, sitting in the passenger seat while he drove laps at 70% pace was pretty crazy. The MX-5 may be small but it really hustles, and when John finished his demonstration laps and pulled into the pits I really wasn’t sure how my session would go.

Right off the bat, the elevation changes of the circuit amazed me. Coming down the hill at Turn 2, feeling the car get light and then grip back up into the uphill Turn 3, then downhill again towards a blind corner where all you see is forest. Mosport still has all the character of a track designed in the 1960s.

I’ll admit, my first session was shaky. But observing other racers, and getting some instruction from John, I felt more confident the second session.. That time, I got into a rhythm on track, and while I wasn’t setting track records, I started figuring things out. One of the biggest challenges was dealing with differing speeds of race cars versus road cars on track. It was cool to pass some of the slower cars, and humbling when a Porsche 911 blew by on the straight while I was redlining it in 3rd gear.

For my third session, I was ready to go … and then it started snowing. This wasn’t going to stop us from going out on track! With some coaching, I adjusted my lines and pedal inputs so as not to get myself in trouble under braking or acceleration. I felt pretty comfortable despite the conditions.

By the end of my last session, I went from being scared to carry any speed through the corners, to late-braking, heel-toeing and limit-pushing. More importantly, I kept the car in one piece, and drove it back to Toronto at the end of they day. Coach John provided truckloads of valuable guidance, and I left the track filled with confidence. The 2022 racing season will have multiple trips to Mosport with Vallis Motor Sport and the F1200 series, and this was a great start.

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