The NTT IndyCar Series amounts to Toronto this weekend after a two-year hiatus triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s been 55 years since IndyCar held its first championship round in Canada. Since 1967, the national championship has been played in various cities north of the border, from Montreal to Vancouver on the west coast of Canada, but By far the most successful IndyCar event in Canada is street racing in Toronto. It is hard to believe that the temporary circuit was originally intended to accommodate Formula 1it is Canadian Grand Prix.
IndyCar’s first visit to Canada was the 1967 Telegraph Trophy 200 at Mosport, now known as Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Mosport, located about 50 miles northeast of Toronto, was and arguably still is the first permanent racing facility in Canada. Only a month later, the track also hosted Canada’s first world championship Grand Prix. IndyCar would visit the Ontario circuit again in 1968 before ending the partnership, alongside the conclusion of a brief two-year stint at the Mont-Tremblant circuit in Quebec.
In 1968 it was proposed to move IndyCar and F1 racing to Toronto. The planned track was centered around the Canadian National Exhibition and used Lake Shore Drive, similar to the current IndyCar street circuit. The only major difference between the two was that the ground at the now demolished Exhibition Stadium would have been used for the starting straight.
This decision would have removed Mosport’s two most profitable events, so track owners went to extreme measures to prevent it. They went to a local neighborhood group in Toronto to sow discontent against a possible race on their streets. According the toronto starthey “frightened them in broad daylight with stories of noise-induced deafness and the terror wrought by the Hells Angels burning down their homes and kidnapping their daughters”.
It worked. The Canadian Grand Prix remained at Mosport, but IndyCar dropped out of Canada. Mosport would go on to host eight of the first ten Canadian Grands Prix. During this period, the Canadian brewery Labatt would become the title sponsor of the race. Additionally, Formula 1 racing has become considerably faster and much more popular over the decade. The Grand Prix passed Mosport, and Labatt wanted to adopt a revised version of the late 1960s proposal for 1978, but public opinion was still against the idea a decade later. Toronto City Council voted to reject the event by a margin of two votes. The Canadian Grand Prix instead moved to Montreal, where it remains today.
Following the move from Montreal, Labatt competitor Molson helped IndyCar return to Canada in 1978 with a race at Mosport. In 1985, Molson decided third time might be the charm and spared no expense to make it happen. Toronto-based newspaper The Globe and Mail called the event “the most expensive beer advertisement in Canadian history”. Toronto City Council voted in favor this time by a margin of two votes. There were a number of conditions, including capping ridership at 60,000 and Molson covering road resurfacing costs.
Besides a minor spat with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the use of the term “Indy” in the event’s name, the 1986 Molson Indy Toronto went off without a hitch and became a fixture on the calendar. of IndyCar. Molson was the race’s title sponsor for 30 years until the partnership ended after the 2006 event.