Every Father’s Day, children around the country struggle to find a gift that will make their dad really happy. This year, John Martin’s three kids came up with the perfect gift. Bryan, Ian and Jennifer got their father an authentic NASCAR racing experience. That’s right. John got to drive a real racecar on a real racetrack.
“When we were first married,” said his wife Melanie, “we would tape all of the major races and then watch them after work. “We would be up until the wee hours of the morning watching these cars circling around and around the track. “The most exciting part of the race was the final lap. “Since we taped the race, you would have thought that we would have fast-forwarded through it. “But no! “John always wanted to watch the entire race.”
Naturally the kids were excited when they bought this for him, because they knew it was something that would be just for him.
John didn’t even have to venture too far from his Whitby home. Right in the Municipality of Clarington (which is in the Durham Region) is the peaceful little town of Bowmanville, which just happens and to be the home of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park … otherwise known as Mosport. The 750-acre, multi-track family facility has been presenting road racing on it’s famed 3.957 km circuit since 1961, including Formula 1, Indycars, sports cars, stock cars, endurance racing, motorcycles, motocross, showroom stock, historic vintage racers, “Big Rig” trucks and karts. Mosport is one of only 3 tracks in the world to have hosted Formula 1, Can-Am and Indycar events.
Of course, it wasn’t a matter of just showing up at the track and saying, “I’m going for a ride in that fast car over there.” The Martin kids had signed their dad up for the The Rusty Wallace Racing Experience. This included training, four laps riding shotgun with a professional driver, AND 16 laps driving solo!
This past week John got to experience his Father’s day gift, which he says was, “quite a surprise”. Off he went with his wife, Melanie, along for the “ride” and to photograph the day’s events for posterity. First, there was a 10 am session that began by explaining what exactly oval racing is, which was followed by some valuable instruction on driving a race car. The classroom is located strategically in an upstairs booth over the grandstand.
Then it was time to pick out his racing gear. Once John was outfitted it was all about getting into the vehicle. There is but one way … through the window. The steering wheel actually has to come off to get into the drivers seat.
To get used to the actual “feel” of the car, John rode four laps with a professional driver at the wheel. “It was hot and noisy with non stop vibration. And fast,” said John. “Very fast.” Then it was his turn to climb behind the wheel. The class started in groups of three in a “nose to tail” position. At first the others were passing him because “I was slow”. He was nervous, mostly because he knew that if he totaled the car he paid for the car. Remembering everything he learned that morning, John would go into a turn slower and come out faster and picked up speed as he worked through his allotted 16 laps. There are four “corners” on an oval track. According to John, however, corners one and two are really just one big corner and corners three and four are pretty much the same. The track is fenced in but it goes by in a blur.
The noise can be overwhelming as there are no mufflers on the cars. The cars are mostly made of steel tubing with panels attached, foot wide tires and some very cramped quarters for the driver. “They are designed and set up to turn left,” John pointed out. “They don’t do well going straight and they absolutely don’t do right.“ With no rearview mirror, your vision is pretty much limited to straight ahead and to the left. The helmets are fitted with communication devices so at all times there is someone in your ear that you can contact and will let you know if you are going too fast or if you’re in someone’s path etc.
For John it was incredible and a lot of fun. Definitely a Father’s Day gift he will never forget and an adventure he would recommend to anyone, “… as long as they like loud, hot cars.”