Atlantic Motorsport Park has been club-owned and operated from its inception in the 1970s, a popular outlet for speed lovers in Nova Scotia.
The story really begins with the popularity of sports car racing in the 1960s. The Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs (CASC) organised races were popular with competitors from coast to coast, prompting the development of new circuits such as Westwood in the relatively prosperous Vancouver suburbs, while Toronto and Quebec soon also enjoyed popular facilities.
The Atlantic Region of CASC, by contrast, was located in a more rural part of Canada, with more lower quality road networks and smaller numbers of competitors. Racers on the east coast made do with temporary circuits created from old military airfields. Debert, near Truro in Nova Scotia, hosted its first race in 1968 and continued to hold regional races for the next five years. In 1972, the Department of Transport decided to open Debert for civil aviation and so racing shifted to the abandoned airport at Pennfield Ridge, near Saint John in New Brunswick. While this kept the racing flame alive, it was far from ideal and a long way from Halifax, where the majority of racers were based.
A better solution was required and in 1972 Atlantic Region race director Frank Jobborn made a bold announcement at the CASC AGM; the region was going to built its own track. “If members of one club on the west coast can build a race track like Westwood, then the members of this Region can build one here,” was his rallying cry.
It seemed a tall order; Westwood was in a more prosperous area and run by a club with many more members, yet it was already in financial trouble (and would close for good in the 1980s). The Atlantic Region was much smaller, comprising six clubs with around 100 members between them. Raising the finances was going to require a major effort.
Into the breach stepped Frank McCarthy, well known in racing circles as the manager of the Team Atlantic Racing Squad. His legendary promotional skills proved a boon and fundraising was soon in full swing. A non-profit company, Atlantic Motorsport Park Inc, was formed and soon had acquired a parcel of land near Shubenacadie. Formula Vee racer and architectural student Robert Guthrie was entrusted with coming up with the layout and soon local firms were encouraged to pitch in to help keep construction costs as low as possible.
The 1.6-mile course that finally emerged largely followed the contours of the land – this helped to reduce any expensive earth moving or grading to a minimum. The finished course proved a good driver’s circuit thanks to its twists and turns.
Atlantic Motorsport Park opened for business in August 1974 and has remained in the ownership of its founding clubs ever since. Early highlights included the visit of the Formula Atlantic cars for the track’s first five years. Canadian national racing legend Bill Brack won three of the races, while Gilles Villeneuve set the official lap record of 60.00 seconds in 1975, before winning the race the following year. While the Atlantic cars departed at the end of the 1970s, the circuit has become a integral fixture on the Canadian Superbike Championship to this day.
One of the most unique things about AMP is that it was designed, built and operated since August, 1974 by a volunteer group of motorsport enthusiasts, from the automobile, snowmobile and motorcycle racing groups. It remains completely owned by its member clubs and is believed to be the only track in North America that hosting a national series competition that is volunteer run.
AMP has hosted notable auto racing categories, including Formula Atlantic and a NASCAR race in the 1970s. The official lap record of 60.00 seconds was set in a Formula Atlantic Event in 1975 by Canadian racing legend Gilles Villeneuve. The circuit also featured the Canadian Honda Civic challenge in the 1980s.
At present, AMP is the annual host to the penultimate round of the Canadian Superbike Championship.
From May through October the track is busy with several local motorcycle and car clubs activities. Each year the Society of the Atlantic Roadracing League runs a full schedule of motorcycle racing. The Atlantic Region Motor Sports (ARMS) uses AMP for sedan and formula racing schedules. The Atlantic Sports Car Club (ASCC) the facility for Slalom and SoloSprint events and was host to the 2009 and 2015 ASN Canada FIA Canadian SoloSprint Championships.
CASC Atlantic Championship
Atlantic Motorsport Park hosted the CASC Player’s Challenge Series (Atlantic Championship) from 1974 to 1977 and again in 1979.