Manitoulin Island Road Trip & the COVID CHALLENGE at Granby (6th JULY 2020 Report)


Manitoulin Island Road Trip & the COVID CHALLENGE at Granby (6th July 2020 Report)

For this weeks report, I was back at Autodrome Granby in Quebec for their second  show of the year, and once again  no fans were allowed. This was scheduled for Saturday the 4th of July, and called the COVID CHALLENGE.

Before I get to that, I will tell you about my midweek adventure.

Normally at this time of year there are plenty of mid week races  either Canada or the U.S.A to keep me busy, but COVID 19  thing has put a stop to most of them. The border between the two countries remains closed, and the Canada Day activities on the 1st of July , were more or less non existent .

With scorching hot weather and nothing going on, I decided to go on a long road trip.

Twenty  years ago I was employed on a regular contract hauling bales of wood pulp from Espinola in the north of Ontario , to the paper mills of Ottawa. It was a 13 hour round trip from my base in Ottawa.

I did this every work day for about 5 years but never had time to stop and appreciate the beautiful scenery. I promised myself that one day I’d take a leisurely drive up there in my car and take it all in. This was the perfect opportunity.

So about 6-15 am on Wednesday (Canada Day) , I set off from Cornwall.

It wasn’t long before I’d passed Ottawa, and Pembroke and was heading into the hills of the Trans Canada Highway .  Bissett Creek, and Deux Rivieres, were places  I remember well.

I was beside the water in the small town of Mattawa taking a few pictures by 11-00.

From Mattawa , I continued up towards North Bay, where I checked out the site of the old North Bay Speedway. 

I used to see racing taking place there as I passed by in my truck on Sunday afternoons .

Alas , my tight schedule and the lack of parking for a 22 wheeler, meant I could only watch for a few minutes on the shoulder of the  Hwy 17.

The track is long gone and now  the home of riding stables.

From North Bay , I carried on along the Trans Canada Hwy through Sturgeon Falls, Sudbury and on to Espinola.

I got into Espinola  mid afternoon and checked in to the Clear Lake Motel.

As you’d expect on Canada Day , everywhere was closed and with the added COVID 19 restrictions it meant everywhere was dead.

I went out and took a picture of the Domtar Mill, and ordered a take out supper from the Cortina Grill for my motel room.

When I was doing this route for a living , I would return the same day and the same way, after a quick 30 minute loading  at the mill. This time my trip was a lot more leisurely , and my journey home would be the  next day and I’d take a slightly different route. 

Espinola is located right next to Manitoulin Island , which can be accessed by a swing bridge at Little Current.  One of my ‘more do-able’ Bucket List items , has been to drive across  Manitoulin Island and return to mainland Ontario at Tobermory by way of ferry. 

I booked the car ferry from my  motel and the sailing time was for 11-00 am the next day (Thursday) . I had to be at the dock, one hour before boarding.

I wanted to give myself plenty of time for the 1 hour 30 minute drive across the Island, so after grabbing a Tim Hortons coffee ‘to go’ in Espinola ,  at around 8-00 am , I set off for South Baymouth where I was to catch the ferry.

I got there in good time and joined the line of vehicles waiting for the boat.

It sailed in to dock about 10-40 and with a quick turn around for unloading and loading,  we left the port at 11-05 bound for Tobermory.

Once on board the strict COVID 19 , rules meant masks had to be worn at all times. 

It was a beautiful hot day as I sat in the sunshine on the top deck as we passed the occasional Island and light house.

The water was as smooth as a mill pond and the very enjoyable  crossing  took 1 hour 45 minutes.

As we docked at Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula, we were quickly off loaded and I was soon on the road again.

It was now past 1-00 pm and my next stop was to check out the Sauble Beach Speedway and meet up with my friend Sylvain Lauwers and his wife Lise. 

Sylvain is one of the media guys at my local Cornwall Speedway , and he was holidaying in the area.

He’d been to the track the previous day and was  lucky enough to catch a car doing practice laps.

I had to be content with peering over the fence to see what it looked like. It’s a track I have yet to visit for my TRACKCHASING  totals.

The track is only a few minutes drive from the beach , so I had to check that out too. After an Ice Cream with Sylvain and Lise, I took off in a homeward bound journey.

It was still a long drive, which took me via Owen Sound and the other Georgian Bay resorts, . I was in Barrie around 7-00 pm , where I gassed up the car with enough to get home. It was plain sailing with no hold ups , all the way down the 400 to the 401 in Toronto and then the final leg back to Cornwall. I was back home about 12-30 am.

After a nice long rest on Friday , I drove across town to my buddy Ron Morins place, where his grandaughter Elizabeth and Thomas Cook were getting their DIRTCAR  SPORTSMAN  ready for the next nights races at Autodrome Granby.

Saturday was race day and at 1-15 pm , my ‘tog partner’ Don Simpson arrived at my place . Once his camera stuff was loaded in my Impala, I was on the road again.

We happened to meet up with the Jarrett Herbison Team on the way up and followed them right to the track . Once inside, I used their hauler as a ‘base camp’ to keep my Camera bag and return every so often to cool off. It was a warm night.


There were some nice new panels and wrap on the car, so a new set of Rick at the Races stickers were attached.

The nights program consisted of 358 DirtCar Modifieds and Sportsman, with the Lightening Sprints, Compacts and Slingshots (on the kart track) as the support.

I went up into the empty grandstand to take some first turn shots, before returning to the infield to shoot turn one and two. 

The Compacts and Sprints had their features first , and following the intermission , the Sportsman were up first.

This was certainly the best race of the night, where it could of been any one of five drivers who were in contention.

As they went into the last lap, it was my local Cornwall driver Gab Cyr, who fought off Evan Racine and Moise Page for the checkers.

The Modified feature was not so interesting, where Francois Bernier led from start to finish, and was virtually  unchallenged. This being his second 2020 victory  , after winning a fortnight previous.


Completing the podium , it was David Hebert and Martin Pelletier

The races finished dead on the 11-00 pm curfew time, and as soon as the Victory Lane pics were done, Don and I were out of the gate.

It was a slightly later finish than the last one (two weeks ago) but we were still back in Cornwall by 1-30 am.

Well that completed, quite a hectic week for me, so its now time to relax and look forward to the Cornwall Motor Speedway on the 11th July 

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