Back in November of last year, a big announcement was made that is set to change the landscape of Pro Late Model racing in Ontario. Along with some key partners, Luke Ramsay founded the APC United Late Models of Ontario Tour.
“We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now,” Ramsay said. “We finally decided to go to the next level and try and get people involved from the track ownership side. It was well accepted. They wanted a traveling late model series. We announced it in November – we wanted to get the information out there so people could be prepared.”
In putting the series together, Ramsay says that they spoke to a lot of people, going through rulebooks and asking them what has worked for them and what hasn’t worked for them. Two of the key people that Ramsay bounced ideas off of was Joe Chisholm and Mark Dilley. Chisholm, the host of Race Time Radio, was one of the key players with the ALSTAR Late Model Series and saw success with that. Meanwhile, Mark Dilley is a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series competitor and the promotor for Sunset International Speedway.
“I was excited,” Dilley commented. “We met in October in London, and the biggest thing we agreed on was it had to be done fast so everybody could see what was happening and we could talk to the race tracks. I just think the Pro Late Model stuff – it needed a bit of direction in the form of a touring series. I think it will help the field in the next five years with the rule package going into play. I think that it’s a good boost for the division.
“I think as far as the caliber of racing will go, it’s going to be top notch. It’ll feature a lot of champions, which will mark a lot of excitement for the series. I think it’s going to be really good, and help John (track owner of Flamboro Speedway) and Delaware (Speedway) with their regular programs in adding cars to the classes. I think, for racing in general, it’s an exciting time.”
The series, meant to bring all of the Late Models together, will debut this summer, with eight races scheduled across five different tracks in Ontario. There is a possibility of expanding the series length moving forward, however Ramsay says they won’t do that till they get a perfect set of eight races with 20 to 30 guys running every event.
Each event will feature time trials, setting the top 18 starts in the field. There will then be four provisionals, as well as four drivers from the last chance race to complete the 26-car field for 100 laps. The early season roster has expanded quickly, with over 30 drivers registering and many previous champions committing to the full tour.
The goal behind the series is give an avenue for the late model drivers to compete, where they know the rules are fair for everyone.
These rules aren’t tailored to what you have in your garage, but to the series moving forward.
“I think the mindset is that the rules have to be in the best interest of everybody involved, and that’s the tracks, teams, sponsors – everybody that’s involved,” Ramsay explained. “It just can’t be tailored to one driver, one team or one track. There’s a lot of people involved, and a lot of people have made a significant investment in the series. We got to look after everybody that’s going to be in the series. Everybody has had to make changes to fit the rules.”
One of the rules moving forward to help keep costs in check will be the crate engine program. Built motors are allowed for the inaugural season, but the series will become an all crate series in 2016.
“We believe in the long-term haul of the series that we need to be a crate motor program,” Ramsay stated. “Obviously, there’s some guys with built motors and we don’t want to scare them away, as they want to try it out and we’re going to do as we promised. But as of 2016, it will be a crate motor series.”
In an effort to keep the competition as fair as possible, there will be using a new technical system – the referee. The metal contraption is meant to measure a lot of different elements of the cars, keeping the bodies all looking the same.
“Junior Hanley built us a great piece for teching the cars, checking bodies, wheel-base and ride height,” Ramsay commented. “It’s meant to create an equal playing field as that’s what we want. We want the most equal division that we can have so that they can go at it.”
Based on how the Pro Late Model division has gone the past couple of years, a lot of people within the racing community feel that this was the much needed boost that was needed.
“I really think the way things were going, they were on a down-turn for the Pro Late Model division,” Jamie Cox commented. “The Limited Late Models – they were healthy but the pros are on a down-row spiral. I think this is very needed to breathe health in the division and carry it down the road.”
Cox feels that the series is going to get a lot of people to come out based on the size of the points fund, and the size of each race’s payout. McHattie added that the drivers are going to come out, simply based on how strongly Ramsay is leading the program.
“Ultimately, I like the format of the series and how APC has taken the lead with the long-term goals for the series, working with the race tracks and working with the rules for these cars,” McHattie said. “There are eight to 10 guys that can win any race that can put up at any track across the series. You can’t ask for any better competition. Racing is an entertainment business, and this is a good package to where we can go and draw a tour crowd, as well as the local home track crowd.”
Mike Bentley is hopeful about the series as well, hoping that it creates an atmosphere up here reflective of the atmosphere seen in the United States.
“I went down and ran the Snowflake, and the atmosphere down there is a lot different than up here,” he commented. “I think with this series and how it’s being put together, it’s something that the drivers want with that atmosphere. We are the show, the main attraction. It’s a good boost for racing in Ontario.”
Though while everything looks high and mighty, it’s going to take time to get it perfect. Dilley mentioned it will take a couple of years to get the rule package to where it works for everyone and the series.
“Looking at a couple of racecars, they’re all different with the rule packages and nobody has a direction of where they’re going,” he shared. “We know racers put a lot of money into it, so I think there’s direction now and it will only help with the speedways in getting the package the same. There’s lots of guys that are sitting on cars that are sitting in barns or whatever the case may be. They’ll start coming back out and getting back on track. Racing, in general, the whole sport no matter a specific speedway, needs a sole rule package to help the racers. And that’s our goal here.”
With the formation of a series program, there were concerns that this would hurt the weekly racing car counts, but that hasn’t been the case so far. There are a significant drivers running the series, well there are a significant drivers running a sole based one-track program. On the flip side of the coin, there are some that have committed to both the APC Series and a weekly track program, and that was made possible by the scheduling.
“Scheduling wise, we aligned with all the tracks – that was the easy to do,” Dilley commented. “There were no conflicts and where there was, we changed the schedule.”
Dilley added that being a racecar driver himself, he can understand why some drivers wouldn’t want to run a weekly championship program, as that takes a lot of time and focus – which some people don’t have time for with their regular lives. That attitude was reflected by Bentley. He won the Sunset Speedway Limited Late Model Championship in 2013, and then came out last season and had a dismal season.
“It did burn me out, and it showed in 2014,” Bentley commented. “It just takes a lot to put together a weekly racing program and race 20 weekends in the summer. It takes a lot. Coming into 2015, I was kind of up in the air and didn’t know where I’d be. The APC Tour – it got my interest.”
The theory that this could hurt the local program is something that wasn’t even entertained during discussions at the Motorama Custom Car and Motorsports Show. But rather, everybody focused on how it could help weekly racing if it’s done right.
“It’s all about brand awareness and promoting and putting racing out there,” Dilley shared. “All of us sitting here – we know racing, but 80% of the people in this building right now don’t know it or understand it. So if you get them interested, it’ll help other short tracks. Trying to get the younger generation to understand what it is, it’s a tough thing to do. I think it’ll help with everything.
“This deal – it’s a series that comes with money, comes with sponsorship, comes with dedication, and anywhere that you can get dedication, it brings a lot of drivers to the race track to say that they’re onboard and understand what you’re trying to do. There’s a lot of racers that are committed to do this program – it’s going to be some of the best racing that we’ve seen in this province – everywhere. I think, as a whole, I don’t look at it as separate, but part of Sunset Speedway. It’s part of my group, and all of the tracks are part of that group.”