Feud over Canadian sports car racing ends with a series put ‘on hold’

Feud over Canadian sports car racing ends with a series put ‘on hold’

FEL’s Sports Car Championship Canada takes over the TCR class, putting the CTCC on ice

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A bitter feud that fundamentally fractured Canadian sports car racing for more than a year has finally reached a conclusion — and brought about the collapse of a series that had been running for more than a decade.

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The Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) was established by John Bondar and contested its first season in 2007. Bondar’s wife Dominique later joined him in administrating the series, and she took over its leadership when he co-purchased Shannonville Motorsport Park late in 2019.

In roughly that same timeframe, groundwork began on the Sports Car Championship Canada (SCCC), which was established by FEL Motorsports and its founder, Chris Bye. The series was established with the intent of directly competing with the CTCC, which Bye says came at the request of a group of CTCC competitors who had become dissatisfied with several aspects of the operations and policies of that series. Bye incorporated a prize money system among other changes into the SCCC in response to these concerns.

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Motorsport is a highly regulated business. Every racing series anywhere in the world that wants to host a specific class of cars needs to receive a licence from a regulatory body. The class at issue here is TCR, which is a touring car racing class for front-wheel drive production cars with 4 or 5 doors that are powered by 1.75 to 2.0-litre turbocharged engines. Cars such as the Hyundai Veloster N TCR and Elantra N TCR, Honda Civic Type R TCR, and Audi RS 3 TCR are among those competing in this class globally.

FEL SCCC
FEL SCCC Photo by FEL Motorsports/John Walker

CTCC was the exclusive licence holder for the TCR class in Canada for 2021. Bye says that when he established SCCC, he was unaware that the TCR licence was exclusive and was under the impression that he would also be granted a licence when he began registering teams and signing television deals for his inaugural season. (Both series were granted a GT4 class licence for 2021 as no exclusive Canadian agreement existed for the class at the time.)

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When Bye’s request for a licence was denied, he went around the TCR framework entirely and instead approached a different licencing body for the right to establish the TC Canada class, which hosted the same cars that would qualify for the TCR class.

What followed was months of in-fighting, mud-slinging, cease and desist orders, and unsustainably low car counts for both series — though more so for CTCC than for SCCC — along with a hearty helping of concern over whether the rift in the sport could ever be mended.

The situation finally reached a conclusion on April 4 of this year when the global organizers of the TCR class, WSC Group, announced that FEL has signed a three-year deal for the right to operate TCR in Canada. CTCC’s agreement with WSC Group was terminated a year early, for which the series received compensation of an unspecified amount. The WSC statement included a statement from Dominique Bondar of the thanking the group for their partnership.

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With CTCC no longer having rights to the TCR class and the GT4 class having a relatively small pool of competitors to draw from in Canada, Bondar says the CTCC has decided to “take a break.”

“We did not close the series or terminate it,” Bondar told Driving.ca. “We just put it on hold. … We don’t know what the future will hold, but if at some point there’s an opportunity, or demand, or whatever, then we will come back. For now, we’re just enjoying the peace of mind.”

Bye says the higher car counts in SCCC illustrate why his series was successful in procuring TCR class rights.

“The teams have spoken,” he says. “(Some observers call it) a hostile takeover. I absolutely do not see it that way. It’s like I opened a restaurant across the street from your restaurant. Why is that a problem? I would assume the teams feel we offer better value because they all came to us.”

The 2022 SCCC season begins on the May long weekend as part of Victoria Day Speedfest at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. For more information, visit felmotorsports.com.

Stephanie Wallcraft picture

Stephanie Wallcraft

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