As Toronto gears up for the Grand Prix this weekend, a Canadian racing icon is challenging street racers to get off the roads and onto the tracks.

Paul Tracy has pushed his car to speeds in excess of 220 km/h during competition, but the champion has a message for speeders -- there are many professional tracks in Ontario so there's no excuse for racing on public roads.

"If you want to prove yourself behind the wheel ... if you want to become a race driver, you have to go to the racetrack," Tracy said.

The 2003 Champ Car World Series winner has teamed up Thursday with the Ontario Safety League to launch a three-year program to battle the escalating problem of extreme driving in the Greater Toronto Area.

Tracy will be appearing in a series of TV advertisements as part of the campaign.

The Scarborough native said the adrenaline rush from racing has kept him on the track, but he's never been tempted to use public streets as a drag strip.

"I've always gotten my thrill at the racetrack," Tracy said. "I can't tell you the amount of times I had people say to me, 'Hey, you want to go and race' or 'I'll drag race you' when I was younger.' I never got involved in that because I got to do it on racetrack."

Ontario's Community Safety Minister, Monte Kwinter, echoes Tracy's message.

"Racing is meant for the track, not for roads and highways," Kwinter said at a news conference.

The anti-street racing initiative comes less than a week after police announced traffic fatalities on OPP-patrolled roadways have risen more than 20 per cent over last year. Officers have also laid more charges related to dangerous driving.

The provincial government has made consequences for reckless driving more severe -- maximum fines for racing have been increased from $1,000 to $10,000, the highest in Canada.

Police can also immediately suspend licences and impound cars for seven days if they suspect street racing or stunt driving.

The president of the Ontario Safety League said the campaign will focus on the consequences of putting the petal to the metal on public streets.

"Drivers have to be made aware of the fact that within seconds, this type of driving can lead to a lifetime of misery," Brian Patterson said.

"There have been several tragic examples of this recently, and it's time we demand that all drivers take responsibility for their behaviour."

Meanwhile, race fans can satisfy their need for speed at the Grand Prix of Toronto Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as drivers from 10 countries compete in six different events.

The races generate $50 million in economic activity in the GTA, which supports the equivalent of about 448 full-time jobs.

As a result, Lake Shore Boulevard from Strachan Avenue to Ontario Drive will be closed to traffic from 9 p.m. Friday to late Sunday night.

With a report from CTV's Chris Eby