Enthusiasts hanging over the trackside fence at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to watch this weekend’s Canadian Historic Grand Prix will be treated to a noisy, nose-to-tail and wheel-to-wheel, high-velocity stream of veteran machinery taking part in one of North America’s premier vintage events.
Among them, emitting that signature howl only Porsche air-cooled flat-sixes produce, will be the bright yellow number 72, an example of one of the raciest and most revered versions of the now 50-year-old 911.
Strapped into this limited-production, “homologation special” 1972 Carrera RS 2.7, will be Doug Kurtin of Georgetown, Ont., who spent many hours behind Mosport’s trackside fencing himself as a youngster, before finally turning up as a racer just a year ago.
Growing up as part of a close-knit, motorsport-focused family in Burlington, Ont., and then Toronto, Kurtin says, “I knew absolutely nothing about football and hockey.” His parents Jim and Peggy were members of the Oakville Trafalgar Light Car Club and keen rallyists, competing in Volvos and Peugeots in events such as the Shell 4000 and Canadian Winter Rallies.
His father’s motorsport aspirations weren’t limited to rallying; however, with six kids, his finances limited any notion of also going road racing. But Kurtin says he spent many weekends with his dad spectating at Mosport – likely watching some of the cars taking part in the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada (VARAC) event this weekend.
Kurtin says this early exposure created a deep-seated enthusiasm for racing, which survived the family’s involvement in motorsport being knocked out of gear by a rally crash that almost claimed his mother’s life.
The family then took up skiing, competitively, of course, as soon as they’d figured their new sport out, with Kurtin and a sister making it to the Canadian B-team. “Instead of going fast on rubber, we went fast on skis,” he says.
Kurtin went on to work in construction and then the flooring business as a salesman and founded his own industrial flooring company, CPS Flooring in Oakville, Ont., 16 years ago. Business and raising his own family kept him off the race track, but racing remained something he still yearned to try.
Another near-family tragedy – his wife Heather was diagnosed with terminal cancer six years ago, which she is still valiantly battling – led to Kurtin’s motorsport involvement. “Three years ago, Heather said, ‘We’d better do this racing thing you’ve been talking about for so many years.’ So we threw our hat into the ring.”
Kurtin found his rare Carrera RS in Virginia, where it had been raced by a NASA engineer who didn’t appear aware of its pedigree, which stretched back to its creation in 1972. It includes competing in the IMSA Camel GT Series, at Sebring and Daytona, and being driven by well-known racers Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg.
“It was a diamond in the rough. It had some age on it, but it was a wonderful car,” says Kurtin, who launched a two-year restoration to bring it back to its original state.
Its original 1972 state was pretty racy, as the RS in its name, (which stands for “Rennsport”) suggests, and it was created to compete in Group 4 racing, which required a run of 500 cars for homologation purposes.
The RS was based on the then-nine-year-old first-series 911, from which anything that could be removed – soundproofing, door panels, etc. – was binned to make it lighter. And the standard 2.2-litre, single-overhead-cam, air-cooled, flat-six was stretched to 2.7 litres, and 210 hp.
Suspension was also up-rated, including wider rubber, which required flared wheel arches, and it was fitted with the famous “ducktail” rear spoiler, the first production car to wear one, according to Porsche. Gearing was also changed, giving it a top speed of 245 km/h.
The sales department, which had balked at having to sell 500 pseudo-racers, had to fight buyers off and eventually 1,600 were sold, although many were equipped with touring amenities.
The restored RS – wearing its original Gerrard Record Players, Kendall GT-1 oil and Goodyear tire sponsor decals – and Kurtin, wearing a brand-new fire-suit and helmet, made their debut last year in VARAC events, winning six of the eight races entered.
“It was a great learning year,” says Kurtin, who moved up to the more challenging G70 category this year, and took three class wins on the season-opening weekend.
Those looking over Kurtin’s Porsche in the paddock this weekend will notice it does carry one non-authentic sticker on each of its front fenders, the “Heather’s Heroes” badge of a street hockey team that has raised $90,000 for cancer research.
“It’s my good luck charm,” says Kurtin. “She’s my hero.”
The Canadian Historic Grand Prix is being staged this weekend – June 14-16 – by the Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, just north of Bowmanville, Ont.
The focus is on three days of vintage and historic racing, which draws competitors from across Canada and the United States. They’ll race in a wide variety of classes for sports cars, sedans and open-wheel racers, and fields will include some exotic and potent machinery. The featured marque this year will be Porsche’s 944, which will be celebrated with a recreation of the mid-1980s Rothman’s 944 Challenge Cup series, with a full grid of fast racers expected.
Other events built into the weekend include the free-entry Checkered Flag Cruise, open to everything from VW Beetles to rat-rods, on Friday night, twice-a-day opportunities to lap the track, the Esso Tower Road Rally/Tour on Saturday, the weekend-long Mini Meet North gathering, the Legends of Mosport Racer’s Reunion Sunday morning, and the Mercedes Owner’s Club German car concours, and the Field of Dreams Car Show and track parade on Sunday.
For details, go to canadianhistoricgrandprix.com
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