By Ken Keating
(ISN) – Langford BC, Celebrating its 31 Induction Ceremonies at the Hall of Fame at Western Speedway with well known radio personality Cliff Lequesne as the MC. Jennifer Smith, on behalf of O’Dell Slinger Service, was introduced as she presented a cheque to President George Jenson as O’Dell Slinger Service has agreed to be the title sponsor for the Hall of Fame for the next three years.
Pioneer awards are presented to 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 was begun in 1993. On this day Pioneer Awards were given to Bill Jamieson Jr., Bob MacMurchie, Gary Pepin, and Basil Wells. The first individual to receive his Induction was Harry Roberts. He began racing in 1954 under the rules of BCASA because Nanaimo did not have an association. They raced at Shearing in Cobble Hill which was a very rough track as it was only a blade mix pavement. Harry raced there for two years until Western Speedway opened with a dirt track. The first car he raced was a 1935 Ford. The #77 was in Harry’s word, “a real tank, but it was our first try at racing”. The next car was his first #13 race car, a 1935 Ford 2 door coupe that he drove on the dirt at Western Speedway. Harry’s cars were always green and carried the #13, he said “no superstitions allowed”. In 1958 Harry was elected President of MIARA and negotiated with the City of Nanaimo in building Grand View Bowl. He continued to race at the now paved tracks at Nanaimo and Victoria until 1960. The last car he drove was painted with a candy apple lacquer paint. Bing Foster dubbed it the The Apple Green Baby; Harry sure thought it was pretty and wishes he had it now. Suddenly, in 1960, there was no time for driving raxe cars because that year is when two of his three children contracted polio and had to stay in the Queen Alexandria Solarium in Victoria. Although Harry wasn’t racing he stayed active in MIARA getting elected President again in 1960. Also, from time to time, he did get called upon to do some flagging. We are profoundly grateful and pleased to induct Harry Roberts into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall Of Fame and Museum.
Don Gordon started his many years, at Western Speedway, crewing for Greg Court from 1979 until the end of 1982. They won several races and set some track records but never managed a championship. In 1983 through 1994 he was Crew Chief for Roy Haslam. They won numerous races, broke track records, and clinched championships throughout the Northwest during those years. Switching hats and duties at the track in 1994, Don became General Manager of All Fun Recreation Park and Western Speedway. He worked long and hard taking care of the vast property for Fran Wile until the water park closed in 2007. The race season of 1998 saw Don run the track with Matt Sahlstrom and that same year was when big changes happened at the track. Don oversaw and assisted putting in the new drainage system, repaving and rebuilding the race track, and rewiring the infield. He was instrumental getting the new lighting around the track installed in 2006. Among the many things Don did for the race fans was to institute the free seasons pass for all Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame members.Thanks to his knowledge, expertise, and hard work, Western Speedway was refurbished into a great race track that will be enjoyed by racers and fans for years to come. We take tremendous pleasure in induction Don Gordon into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall Of Fame and Museum.
Walter Illot: “My interest in auto racing began as a spectator and goes back to Duncan at a track called Shearing Speedway. I believe that I was still going to high school at the time,” says Wally Ilott of Nanaimo, B.C. Five years and a Chartered Accountant’s degree later, Wally was immersed in the sport. In 1956, Wally joined MIARA as part of Red Burke’s crew. Red drove the #10 car. Later in the same year, Nibbs Anderson introduced Wally to Bob Ibbotson (later brotherinlaw): a machinist. “With Bob’s expertise and Cowie Machine’s sponsorship, my car #17 was born,” says Wally. On September1, 1956, Wally ran his first race on Western Speedway’s clay track in Victoria, B.C. Wally was a driver, a pit boss, a starter, part of the safety and technical committee, a participant in promoting the construction of Grandview Bowl, and president (1959 &1968). Being a Chartered Accountant, it was a perfect fit for Wally to assume responsibility for all of the club’s financial affairs over these years. He volunteered his services in this area until 1969. If you ask Wally he will tell you he wasn’t much of a driver. Just a guy who loved the thrill and skill of the ride and being at the track. His closest brush with a trophy was in May, 1958. Wally came 4th finishing closely behind Ray Pottinger, Digger O’Dell, and Bill Temple. However, his wife Fay,holds a first place trophy for a lady’s Powder Puff race.
Perhaps Wally’s 15 seconds of fame came in May of the previous year. In 1957 Wally made the headlines in several Vancouver Island papers. “ilott uninjured in Speedway Spill.” Driving before a crowd of 2100, Wally did a double endoverend in the backstretch of the third heat. Wally recalls Phil Hendry pulling him out of the car. As headlines stated, Wally was uninjured but the car took a beating. With the support of Harry Roberts of Paramount Autobody, the frame was straigtened and Wally and Bob Ibbotson went on to rebuild the #17 car. Some time later a new #17 car was built by Wally and Bob; “We got the frame for free and paid $5 dollars for the battery,” says Wally. Down the road, selling his car did not stop Wally’s enthusiasm for the sport. By invitation, he began driving Main events for Art Clarke and later drove John Muckle’s car as well. Wally’s family also have their memories of MIARA. Fay’s parents were avid fans who attended all the races while Wally’s parents attended only one race in which their son missed a turn, due to broken steering, and drove straight off the end of the race track. Once again Wally was uninjured. Wally and Fay’s children have fond memories of getting French fries from the concession and circling the track in the back seat of dad’s ’65 red Mustang sitting aside the pretty trophy girls after Main events. These certainly were exciting times. “In my view, my contribution to the club came mainly from my financial and administration services”, says Ilott. This, in fact, seems to be a significant statement. Wally was awarded Sportsman Of The Year in 1965, a special appreciation award in 1968, and a lifetime membership in 1969.
Furthermore, during Wally’s 1968 year as President, the Club initiated a citywide children’s Easter Egg hunt. Proudly, it is a tradition for all families of Nanaimo that remains to this day. We are pleased to welcome new Inductee Wally Ilott into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame & Museum.
Fred Best: In the early 1960s, Fred Best and four friends formed a car club called the Checkmates. They decided to try auto racing in 1964 with Fred’s everyday car, a 1951 Dodge four door sedan as their Jalopy Class race car at Western Speedway. The Checkmates joined the Vancouver Island Track Racing Association, known as VITRA, a requirement to drive or be on a pit crew at the Speedway. The Dodge #88 participated with more than 40 cars in the Jalopy Class in “64. Fred did well in his Dodge six cylinder against the popular and fast Ford flathead V8s. At the end of the season Fred was seventh in point standings, earning the Jalopy Class Rookie Of The Year and the Checkmates won the Best Looking Crew. For 1965’s race season he drove the #7 Plymouth Coupe winning heats and finishing well in “A” Mains against Fords at both Western and Grandview Bowl in Nanaimo. The Class had grown to seventy cars so each race night saw three or four Mains. Car clubs were popular in the 1960s so the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Victoria Police sponsored a RoadEO at the Town and Country parking lot, 12 Island clubs participated. Fred and his friend Ken Holding won top honours in the three hour skills competition and the Checkmates Car Club got top Car Club Trophy. The 1966 race season saw big changes.
Jalopy Class was now Stock Car Class and VITRA tried bargaining with Western Speedway for more prize money. Things did not go well so VITRA decided to race only at Grandview Bowl and a new group, the Victoria Auto Racing Association formed at Western. Fred was on the VITRA executive so he he raced in Nanaimo. Suddenly auto racing’s future was at stake in Victoria but a compromise was reached during the summer when a syndicate headed by daffodil farmer, Geoff Vantreight, purchased Western Speedway. Both clubs were pursuaded to complete the 1966 race season together. Fred continued on the executive to help keep racing alive at Western and after four years of Jalopys and Stocks. Fred wanted something faster so in 1968 he drove a Super “A” Modified with Inter City Modifieds. He tried sports car racing too; driving a 1967 yellow Chevy Camaro on the new road course at Western Speedway and on the Mainland at Westwood Road course. Fred and Bob Lowe also entered the Camaro in the South Vancouver Island Road Rally and won. In 1968 he was Vice President of VITRA, and 1969 the President. Fred proved to be a strong leader for the racing community. He continued racing Inter City Modifieds but tried the Super Modifieds in the Canadian American Modified Racing Association at tracks from Western Speedway, (in the 150 lap Daffodil Cup) where he finished fifth against drivers like Roy Smith around the Northwest and into Alberta. Fred was of a rebuilt faster fuel injected super modified in 1970. One practice night he came down the front stretch nearing the track record when the throttle locked wide open slamming the car into the mountain at the end of the front straight. The safety crew got Fred out and transported him to hospital then he spent several days at home recovering.
The car was a write off and the crash ended Fred’s driving career. He continued to stay involved in auto racing at Western Speedway being elected President of VITRA four times, serving as Pit Boss, Race Director of the International Drivers Challenge Super Stock Series. Fred is retired, his interest now include curling, fishing, hunting, and golf. So with sincere gratitude we induct Fred Best into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.