Gordon Kirby's greatest Can-Am race tracks
Can-Am was blessed with powerfully loud, spectacular cars driven by some of the world’s best drivers, but it also played out on a superb selection of North America’s finest road courses which were at the height of their popularity in the Sixties, drawing huge crowds. All of these tracks – Mosport and Mont-Tremblant in Canada, plus Bridgehampton, Elkhart Lake, Watkins Glen, Riverside and Laguna Seca in the US – were classic high-speed road courses filled with fast corners and plenty of up and downhill plunges. The fluid nature of the tracks played to the spectacular character of the cars with bootfuls of power and plenty of downforce produced by giant wings and acres of bodywork.
It was my pleasure to visit all of these tracks through the early years of my career, covering Can-Am, Formula 5000 and Indycar races. I grew up in Toronto so Mosport was my home track as a kid. I saw Stirling Moss win the first major race at Mosport in 1961 and was able to enjoy watching the rapid development of Group 7 or Can-Am-type cars through the Sixties and into the Seventies.
Mosport is a very fast, daunting track that also offers the spectator plenty of great vantage points. Mont-Tremblant in Québec is a little tighter and more frenetic, but it’s also one the best road courses I’ve ever visited for spectating. Watching Can-Am, Formula 1, Formula 5000 or even Formula Atlantic cars powering their way through and over its sweeping downhill Turn One were invigorating, breathtaking experiences. St Jovite is a superb, old-school road course.
So too were Bridgehampton out on Long Island and Riverside in Southern California, both sadly long gone. Still with us are Watkins Glen in upstate New York, Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin, and Laguna Seca on the Monterey Peninsula, all of them proper, high-speed, chicane-free road courses that formed the heart of Can-Am.