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Racing roundup: Two racing pioneers die

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Ernie Martin, the great Pinecrest Speedway announcer whose expletive deleted earned him a job for life, or at least for the life of the speedway, has died. He was 91.

And, suddenly, at 81, Ronald John Mutton passed.

Ron Mutton 

In the early days of Formula One at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport), neighbours would often drop into one of his Bowmanville garages to view some of the F1 cars of the day that he housed for the Canadian and American Grands Prix races. In fact, in 1967, Dan Gurney changed his engine in one of them.

He was named North America’s Tow Truck Driver in 1971 and was very happy that Road and Track magazine did a full spread article on his career in auto racing.

Ron played a big part with Team Surtees and had a lifelong friendship with John Surtees, former Formula One World Champion and former Motorcycle World Champion.

Ron also had a lifetime friendship with former driver and commentator David Hobbs and was featured in books written by Surtees and Hobbs.

Many remember Ron from his Shell stations, one being on Scugog St. and the other on King St. beside the old beer store.  Ron was also the Service Manager at Cowan Buick GMC in Bowmanville.

Ron was a long-time member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 178 in Bowmanville. He was predeceased by his parents Cecil and Dorcas, sister Leona Etcher and brother-in-law Morley Etcher.  He is survived by his son John and his wife Ana.

Ernie Martin 

An expletive deleted got Ernie Martin his first job at Pinecrest Speedway.

“I was racing myself and my employer, the Toronto Star, said either stop racing or stop working for the Star. So, I stopped racing.

“It turned out that the announcer at Pinecrest that night didn’t show up. So Cappie Smith, who owned the place, said ‘You’ve just retired, get up in the booth,’ which I did. The first race, a guy went as- over tea kettle and I went ‘Holy. . . .did you see that guy go?

“I figured I was toast but Cappie said the crowd loved it. ‘But don’t do it again or I’ll have to fire you.’ “

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He was so famous, he announced at the CNE, Sunset and Barrie Speedways beside Pinecrest.

Racing Roundup

Ernie was active in the community and nothing made him happier than to make people laugh with his jokes.  He spent many years snowmobiling and restoring his prized ’56 Meteor Niagara. Over the years Ernie also came to love watching his grandchildren play hockey and cheering them on in the rinks.

Formerly of Brampton, Ernie was involved in the community, serving as Alderman in the inaugural years of the City of Brampton council and also on the Brampton Hydro Commission. Ernie was proud of his active involvement over many years with Big Brothers of Peel.

After spending 25 years at the family cottage on Lake of Bays in Dwight, Ernie retired there and continued with extensive involvement in the community. He continued to be an active driver for the Canadian Cancer Society. He was passionate about running snowmobile drag races and Kitty Kat rides at the local Dwight and Dorset Winter Carnivals. He was delighted to have his grandchildren play for Martin’s Meteors in the Dwight Minor Baseball League.  Ernie was a member of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, The Royal Canadian Legion and Doric Masonic Lodge.

He will be sadly missed by his loving wife of 69 years, Jeanette June (nee Smusiak). Loving father of Donna (Rick) Sidey, Debbie (Steve) Bradley and Dianne (John) Terry.  Cherished grandfather of Pamela (Patrick), Alexandra, Richard, Stefanie, Dustin (Nicole), Chris (Chelsey), Caitlin and great grandfather to Teddy, Willa, Riley, Leah, Mya and Brooks.  Dear brother of Donald, Gordon and Patricia, and predeceased by his siblings Bill, Jack, Lillian and Edith. R.I.P


Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain and Tyler Redick were on the podium at the NASCAR Cup race in Phoenix on Sunday. Briscoe is an accomplished road racer; he co-drove Ford Mustangs with Scott Maxwell of Toronto prepared by Multimatic of Markham. Noah Gragson won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Phoenix. Taylor Gray won the Camping World Truck Series at Phoenix. Four days earlier, the team’s hauler driver was killed

IndyCar ace Colton Herta has landed a McLaren F1 testing role while Michael Andretti waits a decision from the FIA . . . . J.R. Hilderand will drive the ovals for A.J. Foyt Racing . . . . Hilary Swank will star as the Indy 500’s first woman driver Janet Guthrie . . . . Alexandre Rossi and Michael Andretti are at odds . . . . Austin Cindric says he hopes to race for his father, Tim, in the Indy 500 someday . . . . 62 cars will enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans . . . . Kevin Magnussen is returning to Haas F1 . . . .

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Gary Magwood goes ice racing, 

Er, car curling.  

Gary Magwood was a Canadian Formula Ford champion and instructor back in the day. He tried something new this winter. 

In the frozen wastes of the North American continent reside some very hardy motorsport enthusiasts.

In the depths of winter when the temperatures drop to minus stupid, these hardy individuals will drive for at least a couple of hours to a small dot on the Eastern Ontario landscape called Minden. Here, car club folks under the supervision of ageless Tom Prentice carve out a kidney shaped race track, then flood it with lots of water.

Viola, an ice surface that is treacherous to even walk on.

Given the propensity for lots of snow in Halliburton County, the track is surrounded by large snow banks that I’ll discuss in a minute. The next part of the ‘activity’ involves many, many rather dubious looking four-wheel contrivances that, probably 20-plus years ago were used to get groceries, take kids to school or even drive to Florida to sit on a beach in warm sunshine.

These vehicles are towed or trailered to the track or just left in an area loosely called a paddock. The action gets underway with dozens of floor jacks hoisting up the dented and rusty vehicles in order to install the most important component that makes this seeming insanity feasible: very special winter tires that are either tractionized or studded.

Tractionized means that a very expensive brand of winter tires is offered up to a spiked drum and rotated at speed to create a sort of ‘shredded’ surface that, in theory, enables these vehicles to accelerate, brake and corner on glare ice (more about this later)!

The other option is to embed other very expensive winter tires with tiny (expensive) Tungsten studs to a specified number per tire circumference. The end result of all this tire technology are $500 vehicles mounted on a couple of Ks in tires.

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Now, I opted to compete in the rubber to ice class given my age and lack of experience. A call to Zack Wenzel, who has a ‘fleet’ of five or six ice racers, secured a questionable looking Honda Civic of unknown vintage. My first question to Zack was, “Does it have a working heater?” The second question was, “Where is the mock grid?” Prior to this stage I had to join a CASC club, apply for a Class C Competition License and purchase a helmet that was manufactured in this century; all relatively easy to do if one is a techno wizard.

So, on a freezing cold Saturday morning, I clamber into the ‘roll-caged’ Civic, and buckle up, line up for practice, show my wrist band and head out onto the ‘track’. With a lot of coaxing, gentle brake and throttle inputs it was feasible to get the Civic around the corners, albeit at a slow speed.

Up the pace and understeer becomes the de-facto ‘attitude,’ simple, more throttle means more understeer. I must mention that these vehicles are broken up into various classes: front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and all or four-wheel drive that can race in rubber to ice or studded classes. That was practice. Line up another 20-plus vehicles, wave a green flag and the entire grid moves off in slow motion, gathers speed and enters into the first corner.

That’s when the ‘car curling’ began in earnest: A bump here, a little nudge from behind and I’m relegated to the back of the field. The leaders fast disappeared so I gave chase. Around five laps of the 10-lap race, I was introduced to a snow bank: Poof, straight in like a dart!

The balance of the weekend and subsequent weekends was spent learning and watching. The experienced regulars handed me my butt on a plate! Humbling! After watching the studded classes compete, I opted to join them for my final weekend.

The same Civic now equipped with studs was transformational: suddenly car curling became drifting on ice. Pitch the car sideways, stay on the gas, twiddle the steering wheel to keep it pointed in the right direction and accelerate onto the straight.

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