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Ron Fellows excited for Mosport's future

7/22/2011

For those of you who have never been to the iconic race track at Mosport near Toronto, too bad.

It's a gem of a circuit in the mold of Road America and Watkins Glen in the U.S., with lots of hills, lots of character and lots of history.

The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón races there this weekend, and it's just a bit more special because this will be the first big event there since ALMS founder Don Panoz and his Panoz Motor Sports Group sold it to Canadian Motorsports Ventures in May. CMV's principles are longtime racer Ron Fellows and Toronto businessmen Al Boughton and Carlo Fidani.

Heading into Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport, three-time ALMS champion Fellows, who retired from endurance racing in 2008, said he is excited and a little nervous.

"I hope we get a lot of people and that everybody has done the job in creating enough awareness of the race," said Fellows, who has been part of the Mosport scene since he was a youngster as a fan and a very successful driver. "It's the first time the race has moved away from the traditional late August date [in several years]. Now it's right in the middle of the ALMS schedule, which I think is ideal moving forward."

This is the first venture into track management for all three of the new owners, which makes it more than a bit daunting.

"The deal closed on May 31 and we were the new owners on June 1 and the season was well under way," Fellows explained. "It's really just a matter of keeping up and getting to know how things operate [in] the racetrack business."

One major plus for Fellows and his partners is that Myles Brandt, the longtime president and general manager of the track, stayed on.

"Myles is a guy I've known, it seems like forever," Fellows said. "He's been there 40 years. I think when I was there as a kid, so was he. He's very, very familiar with the business and the region. So he's a huge asset for us.

"Right now, we've got to be sort of proactive on where we take the facility next. When Don Panoz got it in 1998, it was in bankruptcy and the Panoz Motor Sports Group managed to revive Mosport and the business makes money.

"It was not for sale. When I first called about it, they wanted to meet the ownership team and find out what our plans were. We're sort of entrusted to taking Mosport to the next level. In the short window of time we'll have in the late fall -- early winter, before [the weather] gets too bad -- we'll have to figure out quickly what are the things we'll have to do to the facility for the short term and beyond."

Although he is partially retired from racing, Fellows is hardly retired. He still competes in NASCAR road races for JR Motorsports, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick, recently finishing what he called "a disappointing second" in a Nationwide Series event at Road America.

The man some call "Mr. Corvette" has also continued his longtime alliance with General Motors as an ambassador-advisor for Corvette Racing.

So what will be his major role as part of the new Mosport ownership?

"Right now, what I have the opportunity to do, with the bit of the notoriety I have as a racing driver ... is to better engage some of the corporate candidates based in the Toronto area about what Mosport is all about and where we as a group are going to take it in the future," Fellows said.

"Obviously, there's my connection with General Motors and companies like Canadian Tire and Michelin, for example. They all have a presence in this country ... and I know a number of people at other manufacturers as well that are keen on hearing what the plans are for the future.

"The good news is it's a tremendous race track that has an incredible amount of history the last 51 years. So we've got that going for us. Now, can we get it into the 21st century from the corporate side, which will also enhance the overall fan experience, which is very important to us. And then again, that's another area, to bring more events to Mosport as well."

Sounds like the Mosport experience is only going to keep getting better. If you haven't been there, the next race might be a great time to remedy that.

Mike Harris is a retired auto racing writer for The Associated Press and remains a frequent contributor to a variety of racing outlets. He will file periodic reports on the American Le Mans Series to ESPN.com.