Racer Turns Promoter in Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Championship
By Rick Voegelin
BOWMANVILLE, Ont. - Ron Fellows wears many hats - and many helmets. In addition to competing in the ALMS, SCCA, Grand American and NASCAR racing series, Fellows is also the driving force in the Sunoco Ron Fellows Karting Championship. Now in its fourth season, the karting series provides a training ground for more than 200 aspiring young racers. It also provides a different perspective on the sport for the man who organized the series.
"As the promoter, I worry a lot," Fellows said with a laugh. "I worry about the weather, about the track, and about everyone's safety. On race day, I'm primarily an observer. I look for things we can do to make the series better for the participants and more professional for the racers."
Fellows will be a busy man this weekend at the Grand Prix of Mosport. In addition to driving Corvette Racing's championship-winning Compuware Corvette C6.R and Team Cadillac's championship-contending CTS-V, he will be keeping an eye on the competition at the Mosport Kart Club that adjoins the 2.46-mile Mosport road course. The fifth round of the series that bears his name will be contested on Sept. 3-4 at the Mosport kart track.
Fellows has given more than his name to the burgeoning series. His hands-on involvement has made the program a stepping stone for future Canadian champions. The series comprises six events at six tracks, all within a 90-minute drive from Toronto. Nine classes of karts with engines ranging from seven to 40 horsepower provide a ladder of performance levels. Racers must be at least 9 years old to participate in the series, and there is no maximum age limit.
"I raced karts as a kid, and my sons, Patrick and Sam, were interested in starting in the sport," Fellows recalled. "To be honest, I was concerned about what kind of environment my boys would find in karting. I felt there was a big difference in cultures between karting and car racing. I thought that there could be a higher level of professionalism in karting in terms of how a race weekend operates - consistency in scheduling, consistency in officiating, prize money and media exposure. My goal was to create a series that focused on rules, safety, and good competition, and then to provide a path for successful racers to follow to reach the next level of racing."
Fellows found an ally in Tom Ryley, the president of Sunoco. Together they devised a plan to nurture the grassroots of Canadian racing. Paul Cooke, the vice president of competition for ASN Canada, the national motorsports sanctioning authority, provided the essential administrative and operational services for the fledgling series.
"I'm proud of how it's turned out," said Fellows. "In four years, we've grown from 70 participants to more than 200. The track operators have seen the series develop and have upgraded their facilities. The Toronto Star is the presenting sponsor, and they cover our races in the Saturday Wheels section, which has more than a million readers.
"Promoting races has given me a different perspective on what it takes to run a successful series," Fellows confides. "I had no idea how hard it is, and I'm not the one doing most of the work. I try to incorporate the best features of the professional series that I race in. I've learned a lot by watching how ALMS and NASCAR conduct their events."
Fellows' only regret is that his sons haven't yet competed in the championship. Traveling with their parents throughout the summer, they haven't had time to complete the year of club racing that's a prerequisite for the series.
"With our busy schedule, the boys haven't been able to get their license to race in my own series," Fellows laughed. "Both boys are interested, but it might be hard for me to watch them. When I'm at the track, I'm focused on making sure that everything goes smoothly and everybody's safe. That's a very different hat than the one I wear when I'm a race car driver."