Written by Ken Keating – Photos by Illusion Photography (ISN)
April 15, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Rocky Horne, the long time voice at Western Speedway, opened the 2013 Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies held at the Eagle Ridge Community Center in Langford on Saturday April 13th.
Many fans, drivers, and family members had the opportunity to view photos, race cars past and present, and memorabilia on display in the big arena before the ceremonies got underway.
Fans and drivers enter Eagle Ridge Community Hall for Hall of Fame induction Ceremonies – Photo by Illusion Photography
This year four Pioneer Awards were presented to Jim Isacson, the Hitchcox Family, Ken Keating, and Wayne Townsend the individuals who have made outstanding contributions, have provided services or have shown exceptional dedication to the sport of Auto Racing.
The presentation of these awards began in 1993 and brings a total of seventy-two persons in the historic Hall Of Fame. Four new Inductees were presented with Hall Of Fame jackets and plaques and brings that total to eighty-four Inductees and they will join the other great names that line the walls that preserves the great tradition of auto racing.
John Biggs was an owner of Victoria Auto Wreckers when one of his employees, the late Bob Bissenden, approached him to build a race car. ”Much to the disapproval of my dad, I agreed to Bob’s idea and this started a very successful partnership over the next twelve years. In order to race at Western Speedway you had to belong to VITRA (Vancouver Island Track Racing Association)”.
John Biggs Hall of Fame Inductee – Photo by Illusion Photography
After John joined, He never missed a meeting so he could learn all there was to know about racing, in particular, the rules. The first car John and Bob built was a stock car, a 1949 Ford. They raced the car between Grandview Bowl in Nanaimo on Friday night, and Western Speedway Saturday night each and every weekend for five years.
VITRA then started a new Super Stock class and in order to run they had to Build a 1957 Ford. Other than running at Western Speedway, they also ran Tri City circuit and Monroe.
During John’s twelve year span, he was elected VITRA President three times; in 1968, 1971, and 1972. As President it was his responsibility to represent VITRA at Western Speedway Board of Directors meetings, as VITRA owned 10% of the track.
It was also his responsibility to actively promote racing at Western, and it was his suggestion to enter race cars into the May Day Parade to make this happen. This is still going on to this day, and has encouraged other racing groups to join in as well.
John’s idea was that the more fans they put in the stands, the bigger percentage of the gate receipts they would receive in purse money, it was very popular. Some of John’s highlite held other executive positions; John won mechanic of the year in 1968, Sportsman of the year in 1966, Member of the Year twice, in 1968 and in 1971, Tech Chairman, as well as being awarded the Honorary Award in 2009 along with Bob Bissenden.
One year while racing on the Pacific North West Circuit, a fellow racer told him about a tire that was called a racing slick and how it would improve the cars handling. The next weekend John drove to Sedro Wooley and bought a set of four which they called ‘slicks’. When John got home he bragged to his friends and Promoter, the late “Reg Midgley”, that they were going to get a clean sweep, (which Reg announced in the program). They did just that!! winning – Fast time, the A Dash, Fast Heat race, and Main Event; for this they made a staggering $35.00 dollars. After that race everyone had to go out and get themseves a set of slicks, they never had another clean sweep again.
At one point when John was President, VITRA had a staggering seven hundred members, they had to together a banquet which was quite a challenge. John rented Work Point Barracks, a large empty building and he had to find tables and chairs to fill the space. John managed to get the table and chairs from the school board, find outhouses to rent, had three bars to set up, as well as arrange catering and music for the event.
Getting the event all in order took a lot of time and effort, but all in all everyone had a great time. One drawback was the next morning, thanks to a lot of volunteers (and a lot of hangovers), they had to put the building back to the way it was. The next year same thing had to be done at the Bay Street Armories, not a small feat by any means.
John met and made many friends while racing and as Head Tech had to make some hard decisions with fines, even suspending a friend for one year for an engine infraction. This did not make him very popular at the time, rules were rules and had to be strictly adhered to. But as John said: ”Ì enjoyed this time of my life, being part of VITRA and the fellowship and, if I was young (a lot younger) I would not hesitate to do it all again”.
This Inductee started going to the race track with his Father in the mid-fifties to early sixties. In 1966 he joined VITRA and served as a crew member on a 1955 Ford six cylinder, a stock car owned and driven by Al Hitchcox.
Bob Collins Hall of Fame Inductee – Photos by Illusion Photography
In 1967 Bob decided to build his own car, a 1949 Ford powered by a 1951 Mercury flat head. His goal was to learn to become a competitive driver, that first year saw Bob Collins become one of the fastest B-Main cars. In 1968 he found himself qualifying in the middle of the thirty-five car field A-Main class. This was more competitive than ever and provided some exciting races, most of the A-Main cars were running six cylinders.
The days of the flat head were numbered, but not for Bob. He vowed to run a flat head forever! Bob’s wife Kathy had a racing jacket done up with ‘Flat Heads Forever’ on the back and she wore it proudly, supporting Bob all the way. That season saw Bob splitting the season between the A-Main class, starting at the front and the B-Main class starting at the rear, getting the confidence in his driving ability.
In 1969 Bob found himself qualifying in the top six, and on occasions making the A Dash. That year saw him qualifying ninth in the Billy Foster 100 in late July. On the 75th lap, Bob saw his
faithful Merc flat head blow up, after working so hard to make it competitive at Western Speedway against the six cylinders; this was not in the cards. Pushing forward, Bob built a 223 Ford six cylinder, replacing his beloved flat head.
This made him even more competitive throughout the rest of the season, with some fast Heat wins, finishing top among the top drivers in the A-Mains, Bob finishing third in points. In 1969, a lot of drivers had a tough decision to make as the Stock Car class was not the Premier class anymore. A new class called Super Stock was taking over in 1970 and in the season of 1970, Bob set fast time and won his first Main event.
With his enthusiasm and desire, Bob wanted to be in the new Super Stock class. Making some allowable changes to his outdated 49 Ford, Bob ran the Super Stock class for the rest of the season. 1971 saw Bob and his brother Gary team up to build a new car powered by a 312 cu. in. Mercury engine. Bob was able to keep the car mechanically reliable and fine tune his driving skills to finish fifth in points.
In 1972 Bob and Gary updated the suspension components to make the car faster, but the rpm’s in the motors were also getting higher and the 312 cu. in. Mercury did not like this! It did not like to run over 6600 rpm, having a lot of engine valve trouble. Bob finished seventh in points, but managed to win his first Main event that year.
1973 Saw Bob bring out a very slick looking 1964 Ford Galaxie Fast Back, with a newly purchased 289 cu. in. Ford Engine with all the good stuff in it. He took it apart and rebuilt it, the season started out well with new tires and all. The car was top four, but found the cost to stay competitive was high. Third in points with two races left and having to put new tires on for every race, took its toll. Bob decided not to buy eight more tires and parked the car and announced it was for sale.
The season was good with a couple of A-Dashes, ten fast Heat wins, and finished sixth in points. 1974 saw Bob change from driving to Crew Chief and engine builder on a new Open Super Stock Class. This car was owned and driven by Terry Forsyth, and with a few early adjustments, Bob’s motors proved to be highly competitive. With Bob’s help, Terry would go on to win the Blitz-Wenhard series and finish second in the IDC overall points. Sadly the car was totalled in a hard crash on the back stretch at Western Speedway near the end of the season. Bob and Terry parted ways at the end of the season.
Bob won Mechanic of the Year at the VITRA Banquet for his efforts that season. The end of this year would see Bob back in the seat of a part time car for Mark Meeres in his new 59 T-Bird. As it turned out the Part time thing did as short lived. The 59 T-Bird turned out to be a very fast race car which was a very consistent top four car, winning three Main events and fourth in points at the end of the year.
1976 saw Mark refine the 59 T-Bird and Bob would win six Main events and finish second in points. 1977 would see the beginning of the Island Super Stock Series, three race tracks, and sixteen races. Bob, Mark, and crew built a brand new 1968 Cougar for the series (the first Pony Car to run at Western Speedway). With Bob’s consistent top three and a six A-Main wins, Bob finally won a Super Stock Championship. This would be Bob’s last time in the seat of a race car.
Bob then directed 100% of his attention to building High Performance engines for other racers. In 1975 Bob decided to become self-employed. He would open High Performance Engine, and
build performance Street and Oval Track motors. Over the years Bob built motors for thirty oval track drivers winning over 110 Features and 15 Series Championships. Young Bill Hitchcox was one of them taking Bob to the next level and maybe the first Canadian engine builder to win a Nascar Championship.
Early in 1996, Bob slowly moved away from race car motors to just building High performance street motors. In 2009 Bob retired from engine building, while some have seen him at the track helping. Bob will tell you he is truly proud of his racing accomplishments and his Canadian Built Motor.
Bill started his racing career in 1966 at the age of twenty-eight, with only six races left in the season, towing his 1949 Ford over the Malahat to Victoria. That year Bill raced in the Jalopy Division, after six races he finished 42nd in a field of fifty-two drivers.
Bill Drummond Hall of Fame Inductee – Photo by Illusion Photography
In 1967, Bill would race at both Western Speedway and the Grandview Bowl, and would have a great second season. For the first time in the Association’s history, a tie occurred for top honors. Bill jointly accepted the O’Keefe’s Old Vienna Brewing Company Trophy for most A-Dashes and the Globe Hotel Trophy for the most Main events. Bill also received the Simpson-Sears Trophy for the fifty laps Stock Car Championship as well as the MIARA Trophy for Best Appearing Stock Car, finishing second in points.
In 1968, Bill built a second 1956 Chev, racing mainly in Nanaimo with the occasional race at Western Speedway. He would win a couple of Main events and Trophy Dashes, by the end of the season the body of the car was ready for the junk pile. The old beast managed to keep him in the number two spot in points for the second year in a row. In 1969, Bill built a second 1956 Chev that would carry him once and for all into the foreword ranks.
Bill would break an axle and roll end over end but would make the necessary repairs to go on to win the thirty lap Main event. By the end of the season he set a new track record of 19:23, winning the most Main events and Trophy Dashes. Voted Most Popular Driver, Bill carried off all of the trophies in his class at the Grandview Bowl, and finished first in points.
1970 would see Bill in another 261 Pontiac powered 1956 Chev running a big number 1; this would be another good year. After the first two races of the season, Bill pulled the head off the motor and found that a wrist pin had broken. It was 3 PM on a Sunday afternoon and the only remedy was a new motor. This was a simple enough solution, but not a practical option when the next race was at 1:30 PM the next day. By the time Bill and his crew found a new block and had new parts delivered, it was 11:30 PM at night. The team worked all night building a new motor and had it installed by the early morning light. Making it to the track half an hour before time trials, Bill went on to win the Trophy Dash and the Main event. By the end of the season Bill would emerge at the top of the points standings once again.
In 1971, Bill would dominate at the Stock Car races, breaking the track record three different times throughout the year ending with 18:47. Winning most of the Dashes, Heats, and Main events for the third year in a row, Bill was voted Most Popular Driver on the Vancouver Island circuit.
Bill went on to win the Championship Race for the fourth time, and the third successive year but would fall short finishing second in points. In 1972, Bill won the number 1 position back and in 1973 he took the year off of driving to be the Head Tech Man. In 1974 he drove Super Stock for Inductee Bill Vater, breaking the track record only to add more trophies to his trophy case. By the end of the year, Bill would finish third in points.
In 1975, he would continue to drive for Bill Vater and hold on to his third place standings, but at the end of the year, Bill would retire from racing. In 1977 Bob Powell took Bill out of retirement and got him to drive his Hobby Stock. However, he only drove a few races, but it was enough to get Bill’s motor running again.
In 1978 and 1979, Bill would be in his own car once again driving in the Island Series Super Stocks racing in Victoria and Nanaimo. He would finish both years in third place for points, and at the end of the 1979 season Bill would retire for the last time from race track.
Harold started racing in Jalopies from 1960 to finishing in 1978 in the Camra Circuit. He ran Stock Cars from 1961 to 62, moving to B Modifieds in 1963 and using his own designs. Harold is well remembered for starting from the back to winning the B- Main, qualifying him to start at the back of the A-Main, and going on to win the A-Main as well.
Harold Sjostrom Hall of Fame Inductee – Photo by Illusion Photography
In 1964, Harold built a B Modified with a 327 cu. in. Pontiac motor, it was one of the best. Harold won Sportsman of the Year, Most Popular Driver, most Main events as well as B Modified top point Champ at the Grandview Bowl. Harold had an inventive side, working as a welder in his own business he came up with quite a few innovations for the cars he built. One innovation was creating a third axle system for logging trailers to allow them to carry more logs each trip.
Despite keeping very busy raising a family, building axles, modifying trailers, and running his welding shop, he found time to put his building talents to work on a new A Modified for 1965, another for 1966, and a new offset B Modified for 1967. The new offset and under sprung B Modified worked well for him. With it he won the Inter City Championship competing with drivers from Langley, Victoria, and Nanaimo and setting new track records at all three tracks, as well as picking up wins at many others.
Moving up in 1970, another new car was built for the CAMRA Series with a 311 cu. in. Chevy for power. From 1970 to 1975, Harold ran in the A-Modified division and competed from Portland, Boise, Salt Lake City, Edmonton, Prince George, Langley, Victoria, Nanaimo, and to William’s Lake at their new track. This is where he set the new track record with one of the fastest times before being knocked out with a broken axle. After his hectic schedule, Harold was picked up by Ken Svendson to drive his new 09 car to run in the CAMRA series which included many of the same tracks from 1976 to 1978. This allowed Harold to acquire many new trophies to add to his collection along the way.
The Hall of Fame Committee is very pleased to induct these fine gentlemen into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall Of Fame.