We’re well into autumn now. Leaves are falling, temps are dropping, and opportunities to get out on track are getting scarce. To help extend the shortened racing season just a little longer, Toronto Motorsports Park is reducing the cost of hitting the trrack from now until Halloween.
Road racing with CASC-OR starts with getting a CASC-OR road racing licence.
The path to obtaining a CASC-OR road racing license is quite simple, it starts with an interview with the Chief Race Coach/Instructor, Paul Subject, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. During the interview, drivers will discuss their background in racing, their racing intentions and interests, the type of car they plan on racing. Mr. Subject will then guide the driver to the program best suited to their existing skills and experience as shown below.
The Canadian Automobile Sports Clubs – Ontario Region (CASC-OR) sanctions road racing in Ontario, and holds a series of race events from April through October at tracks like CTMP, Shannonville, and Calabogie. The wide variety of race groups includes open-wheel cars like F1200 and F1600 as well as closed-wheel cars like GT Sprints. To compete in sanctioned events, a CASC Race License is a requirement.
But what exactly is CASC and how did it come to regulate racing in Ontario?
Before World War 2, there was little in the way of organized auto racing in Ontario. There were stock car races held on a board track at Oakwood Stadium in Toronto and some dirt track racing as well as motorcycle races held on Wasaga Beach and in the Bridal Path area off Bayview Avenue in North York.
Auto Racing as we now know it did not start until 1950, when races were held at Edenvale Airport (near Stayner, Ontario). Races were organized by the early clubs without a sanctioning body or standardized rules. Sports cars were driven to the track, stripped of some ancillary equipment, and marked with a car number. Times certainly have changed.
In order to move toward standardized sporting regulations, three independent car clubs got together in Kingston on June 17,1951 to found the Canadian Auto Sport Committee. There were many aims and objectives detailed at this first meeting, but the primary reason was to organize competitions in Ontario and eventually, throughout Canada. The name was changed to the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs in 1958, when regions across the country were developed. To get permits for international races, CASC was affiliated with the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain until 1967, when we were recognized by the FIA as the governing body of motorsport in Canada and became a full member of the FIA (Federation International De L’Automobile).
The sport grew continuously into the 1980’s, with national amateur championships as well as a healthy national pro racing scene. In 1991, however, the administration of the sport underwent a complete re-organization as a result of the 1987 Labatt Grand Prix of Canada boycott by FOCA. National motorsport is now sanctioned by ASN Canada FIA. The five regions of CASC (renamed in all regions besides Ontario) continue to administer regional championships. There has been no amateur national championship since 1991.
Today, CASC is an association of over 30 member clubs within Ontario. CASC sanctions events, licenses competitors, sets safety standards and handles administrative matters. Associate clubs organize amateur road races at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Calabogie Motorsports Park and Shannonville Motorsports Park, as well as rallies, ice-races, time trials and auto-crossing. In addition, the majority of the timers, corner marshals and safety personnel at events such as the Honda Indy Toronto are members of CASC clubs.
Formula Vee (called Formula 1200 in Canada) was started in 1960 at the request of Volkswagen dealers. In 1963 a league was established and recognized as a class within SCCA (Sports Car Club of America).These mid-engines racecars are limited to a 1200cc engine, VW Type 1 four-speed gearbox and suspension.. all from the Volkswagen Beetle.
The body is fiberglass over a tube-frame chassis. The open-wheel racecars are low-cost and easy to repair with high structural integrity, allowing most drivers to walk away from accidents. Spec tires (Falkens in Canada) are suitable in wet or dry racing conditions. Wings are not allowed, nor are limited-slip differentials or any type of traction-control. Since the playing field is relatively even in terms of mechanical components, drivers must heavily rely on their skill and technique in order to reach victory lane.
The move from karts to cars can be intimidating and confusing. Open-wheel or GT cars? Single-make series like the Global MX-5 Cup, or something wide open like the Lucky Dog Series? Then, of course, the consideration of budget. For Daniel Demaras, Briggs & Stratton karts is all he’s ever raced, so entering a series that would allow him to use his experience drafting in low-horsepower equipment would be idea. Formula 1200 seems to check all the boxes.
F1200 is an open-wheel, single-seat, racing series that has been competing for over 50 years. The strict formula rules are designed to promote driver development. A budget F1200 racer with an average mechanical ability can do routine maintenance and come to the track without a crew and be competitive using the same car year after year.
Canadian F1200 drivers compete in the VARAC scheduled events by racing in the formula classic group. The six race weekends make up the Canadian Formula 1200 Championship and are totaled for the final championship’s standings.
Racing costs are low because rule changes are rare, the F1200 racecars are rugged, inexpensive Volkswagen parts are used, as are spec Falken radials that last a season or more. The cars have improved a great deal over the years, but their strength is that the basics haven’t changed. Major modifications are time consuming, expensive and usually reduce reliability.
Competitor’s ages vary from teenagers to veterans. Racing is so close that often 3 or 4 cars finish within a second of one another providing an unparalleled learning experience per dollar spent for young drivers and excitement for all competitors. F1200 is a driver development class rather than a car development class.
The FTDA (Formula 1200 Drivers Association) organizes 6 race weekends held at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP) and Shannonville Motorsports Park (SMP). To qualify one must be a member of a recognized racing club as well as the FTDA. A race weekend will usually consist of qualifying and 3 races. The races are usually 20 to 30 minutes in length. Although the cars can reach speeds in excess of 200 km/h, the series emphasizes the driver ability rather than the car.
I was really excited when arriving at Shannonville Motorsports Park. Confident too. I knew the track pretty well from racing the modified ‘Nelson Circuit’ in karts this summer, and the ‘Fabi Circuit’ in Anthony Simone’s NASCAR Pinty’s Series race car in 2020.
But then I saw the cars I would be sharing the track with, and I got worried. A Porsche 911 GT3, a resto-mod Mercury Cougar, and two NASCAR racecars. Could my Subaru even keep up with these guys?
But the Brack crew put me at ease. Cars were separated into different groups based on vehicle speed and driver experience. I would be on track with other new guys looking to get their racing licenses, not professionals.
In the morning we performed some exploratory laps, and my coach Ken helped me feel comfortable right away. Despite the car being a 2003, it held up fine, and I gained confidence with every lap.
Before lunch we shifted gears and went to the skid pad. The circular track was soaked with a firefighters hose so we wouldn’t burn up our tires as we explored the limit of grip. RWD Camaros tried to turn oversteer into four wheel drifts, while FWD Hondas understeered right off the track. I was totally impressed with my WRX. No traction control, no problem. The car just has so much grip!
In the afternoon lapping session, my gas gauge was beyond empty, and we had to refuel. I took the opportunity during the break to watch the experienced drivers applying the techniques Ken was teaching me.
During the final session, Ken watched my driving from outside the car. Though I was a little nervous to drive without an instructor at first, as soon as I started turning laps, it felt great. I had a proper understanding of the track from the time spent with Ken, and I could focus on driving fast and having fun.
My day with Brack Driving Concepts was a success. My coach Ken gave me the green light to move on to the next step in acquiring my Regional Racing License; the race procedures written test. I may only be a road racing rookie, but after this day, I am filled with confidence!
We started early in the morning. A stop at the gas station to top off the tanks, and set the air pressures. Daniel in his WRX and me in the Mini Cooper. Off to Shannonville for Brack Driving Concepts race school.
I was signed up for Racer Development 1 course. This was actually my second time at Shannonville this year, as Daniel raced KartStars Nationals there this summer, and we spent 4 days at the track!. Then, of course, there was Daniel’s day in a NASCAR last autumn. But that’s him, not me.
Despite my familiarity with the facility, Id never been on track at Shannonville myself. Ever. This was going to be a steep learning curve!
I spent some time in the classroom with lead instructor John Burnet. He reviewed the track map, helped us understand which corners were early apex or late apex (and why). He also made it clear that nobody was timing us, or expected a new track record from us.
I was then paired up with my driving coach, Chris. A true gentleman with an easy-going style, he’d be right next to me on all my laps. Those first few laps were nerve-wracking. It was all moving so fast! I couldn’t remember the track layout and would approach corners without knowing if it was a hard braking zone, or a flat-out corner. But Chris was cool. He gave the corners names, and repeated his instructions in the same slow, methodical manner every lap.
Getting to take an advanced driving course with your son is not something that happens every day. Even though we spend nearly every weekend at the kart track together, we’re never on track at the same time. Sometimes he watches my ‘arrive & drive’ race on a Friday night, then I’ll wrench on his kart during the Saturday club race. But this was different. We were on a proper racing circuit in cars, not karts. It was very real.
During our third on-tack session, I exited the pit lane just behind Daniel and got a chance to watch him drive his WRX in anger. That same car we spent so much time into restoring this spring to use as a daily driver was now a track weapon.
The Mini Cooper is a well balanced car with quick steering and stiff suspension. I’ve heard commercials describe it as having ‘go-kart like’ handling, but as a person who’s raced go-karts since 2014 I can tell you that is just an exaggeration. The Mini Cooper is, however, an ideal car for learning how to drive on track.
There’s a true feeling of accomplishment in doing advanced driving courses. I may not be getting a call from a NASCAR team just yet, but I gained so much confidence in my ability, and a greater understanding of the car’s handling dynamics. I’m actually a better driver today because of the Brack course.
I absolutely drained a full tank of gas during racing school, and Daniel’s Subaru even used up the emergency jerry can we brought. After saying goodbyes to Ken, John, Chris and the Brack crew, Daniel and I were right back at the gas station where we started our day.
Watching drivers enter and exit the gas bar, I was amazed at how poor the driving was. So many near misses. People not focusing on their driving. I guess you’d say my eyes had been opened by this driver’s course.
I’ve decided to come back in spring 2022 for the Level 2 course. I still have so much to learn!
For more information about the school, named after Canadian racing legend Bill Brack, check out their website at http://www.brackdriving.com.
When the kids were little, we’d go to Mosport all the time. Mostly they enjoyed the ice-cream and just being out in the sunshine. They thought the race cars were ‘cool’. We always watched the VARAC Vintage Grand Prix, and the IMSA Sports Car races. But the past two years, the closest we’ve gotten to a race track was on TV.
This weekend, we were finally back at Mosport.
It was surprising just how many racers from the world of karting we bumped into. Austin Riley is well known for his inspiring ‘Racing with Autism‘ campaign. It was great to see a kid from Goodwood out on the big track racing a Radical SR3 prototype.
Over in the F1600 (Formula Ford) paddock we chatted with Jake Cowden and family about how their season has been going. But it was really cool to see our former teammate from PRO, Kai Dalziel, also jump into an open-wheeler after a season in Nissan Sentra Cup.
The Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada event brings out a lot of older European cars with racing pedigrees, like the Fiat 500 Abarth and the iconic Mini, just a little older than my wife’s Cooper S..
It was also really cool to see our sponsor Paragon Competition represented in the pit lane at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. I’m sure Joe Chan was there racing. I should call him and ask how the weekend went.
For me, the highlight was seeing all the Subaru race cars! There was a late-model Legacy lined up behind a very sinister all-black WRX STi in the GT3 field. Out on track, the car that stole the show, was a 2005 ‘blob-eye’ Impreza WRX all painted up like Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR!
The 2021 CASC-ON Celebration of Motorsports wasn’t everything it could have been. Restrictions prevented any spectators from attending, even though this was an outdoor event on a 900 acre facility. Maybe next year will be the big comeback the Canadian motorsports scene needs.