The Canadian International AutoShow is Canada’s largest automotive exhibition. Virtually every car and light truck on sale in this country is on display. In a 10-day period, more than 350,000 people pass through the Metro Toronto Convention Centre each February (except this year, because of COVID-19) to examine, up close, what might soon be in their driveway.
Great as the exhibition is, the cars at the AutoShow don’t move. And you don’t hear what they sound like – except for 10 seconds, or so, once a day, when an experimental sports car is fired up, giving those in attendance a thrill.
Adam Ruppel, a promoter, car enthusiast and performance driving instructor, is hoping to change that. Next weekend the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, which is north of Bowmanville and only a few kilometres away from Hwy. 407 East, will host Canada’s first Drive Festival.
And what, pray tell, is a Drive Festival?
According to publicists, it’s an outdoor, interactive exhibition for auto enthusiasts showcasing rare and exotic cars. The sponsors of next weekend’s extravaganza include Nissan, Pfaff, Kal Tire, Hyundai, NOS energy drink and the FLO EV charging network. And some of the cars that will be on display and running on one of three tracks are (according to a media release):
The McLaren GT – a masterclass in engineering and innovation. A standing start from zero to 100km/h (0-62 mph) takes just 3.2 seconds. Top speed is as spectacular as you’d expect from a McLaren: 326 km/h (203 mph).
The Pagani Huayra Roadster BC – a completely new engine that boasts 800 hp. With one of the best power-to-weight ratios in the category, the Pagani V12 features a set of innovations including two new turbos, a revolutionary hydroformed manifold, twin throttle bodies and four water-air intercoolers.
The McLaren720S – a new and fearsomely powerful M840T engine with 720PS. Press the start button and the twin-turbo V8 comes alive with a potent growl that ignites your senses and focuses your mind.
Bathed in vibrant red light, every part of this 4.0-litre unit is refined to maximize power, sharpen responses, and increase fuel efficiency. Top speed on this car is 212 mph.
Legendary Motor Car of Halton Hills is bringing a 1966 original Ford GT40, while vintagemotorsports.ca will have one of only 18 1967 Ferrari Dino 206SPs ever built on hand. Oh, and the fastest production car of its era, the 1956 Mercedes Gullwing, will be there. The festival will feature about 100 cars in total, organizers say.
All, or most, will be showing their stuff on the Dream Car Speed Run, a hillclimb-type solo run starting near CTMP’s Corner 5 and going backward past corners 4, 3 and 2 before ending on the circuit’s main straight. The Speed Run track is one of the three that will be in action during the weekend. The manufacturer test drive course starts and ends in the Upper Paddock. It then goes out on the Grand Prix course, down to where the backstretch bridge crosses the track. And the off-road test track crosses the main track at that point and meanders along inside and outside the track. Daily admission is $34 for adults, $24 for people 13 to 18 and kids 12 and under are free with an adult.
Ruppel said organizers would prefer that everybody buy their tickets online as, at the time of our interview, the decision on whether to sell tickets at the gate had yet to be made. Car clubs have been invited, motorcycles will be on display (and moving), a kids-zone will keep the children happy and there will be food and drinks. Oh, and there will be lots of fun. Ruppel said he got the idea for the Drive Festival after attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England and Car Week in Monterey, Calif., featuring the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
“Goodwood was so dynamic,” he said. “It was a game-changer for me. We were missing an outdoor show here in Canada. We’re starting out with this being a small version of Goodwood and we plan to grow it. We’re not looking to replace Motorama or the AutoShow. What we’re trying to do is give people who are excited about cars and go to those shows something to go to in the summer.
“There’s nothing wrong with those shows. But if you have a piece of art, you want to put it where it was designed to go, in a gallery, and that’s how we feel about cars: they belong on the road.” Unlike Goodwood, where famous drivers like Dario Franchitti and Jackie Stewart put some of those classic cars through their paces, organizers won’t have any Darios or Jackies at this show.
“COVID-19 knocked everything for a loop,” Ruppel said, “and there is still all sorts of racing going on and those folks are tied up. But we will still have some names. Elvis Stojko is coming with his 911 Porsche Turbo and will be taking it for a spin on the Dream Car Speed Run.” Hmmm. Wonder if he’ll do a triple salchow halfway up?
Norris McDonald is a retired Star editor who continues to write for Wheels under contract. Every Monday, he reviews the weekend’s auto racing at wheels.ca.
— to www.thestar.com