Sunday, February 28, 2010

Motorsports at the 2010 Toronto International Auto Show

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Attending the 2010 Toronto International Auto Show, I took a break from the shiny presentation of all-new street vehicles to visit a more unique display at this year's event.

Located in the on level 700 of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the majority of the floor paid tribute to the abundant history of American sports car Kingpin Carroll Shelby. Not only was there a slew of Shelby Cobras, modified Mustangs and the rare GT40, the showcase also included cars significant to Shelby's racing career as a driver. A relatively short career which was ended due to personal health problems, Shelby started racing as a hired gun first for drag racing but more memorably for road racing. Shelby's 2nd and 3rd cars (a MG-TC and an Allard) were represented as well as a replica of an Austin-Healey he ran in the 1954 Carrera Pan Americana Mexico rally.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Past the Shelby exhibit, I ventured into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. A collection of cars stocked with a choice sampling of vehicles wearing the maple leaf flag in competition.

Entering the small hall, the first car to greet me was a Midland F1 M16 race car. Since the team was classified as a Russian F1 team, the Canadian connection wasn't entirely clear. I needed to take a brief modern history lesson to learn that the Midland F1 Racing was owned by a Russian-born Canadian business Alex Shnaider. Co-founder of the Midland Group, Shnaider's ventures includes the current Trump International Hotel and Tower scheduled for completion in 2010. The Midland F1 Racing team existed for one season in 2006 having previously been the Jordan Grand Prix organization. Absent the Toyota powerplant which propelled the Formula 1 car, the Midland F1 car's place in the display is now clear.

Deeper in the Hall of Fame exhibit, another Formula 1 car sat representing to more successful efforts of Walter Wolf. Wolf, like Shnaider, was a foreign born man who settled in Canada who entered into grand prix contention through the mid to late 1970s. Walter Wolf Racing, proudly displaying the Canadian flags, was founded for the 1977 season with future Formula 1 World Championship driver Jody Scheckter piloting the race car. In the hall was one of the Wolf WR1s that competed in the maiden season which included one of the team's three F1 victories.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

On the right of the Wolf WR1 is probably the most prestigious car in the display. The 2000 winner of the LMP675 class at the LeMans 24-hour race, the Nissan-powered Lola was campaigned by Markham, Ontario's Multimatic Motorsports, Along with being a Canadian-owned entry, the driver lineup was an all-Canadian contingent of John Graham, Scott Maxwell and Greg Wilkins.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Last but certainly not least, the eye-catcher in this Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame exhibit was a #99 Reynard chassis wore the famous Players blue and white colours. With the tobacco brand a staple in the open wheel series for 11 seasons, this car from 1999 wore the name of late, great BC native Greg Moore on the bottom of the roll hoop.

Photo Credit: Christopher Nagy/XSL Speed Reporter

Providing only a snapshot (pardon the pun) for the rich auto racing history of Canadians, the vehicles within this exhibit are without the drivers that once piloted these race machines. However, unlike the beautiful, newborn factory creations that consumed much of Metro Toronto Convention Centre, these vintage race cars radiate the sweat and passion of their former drivers as a lasting time capsule.

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