Western Speedway’s Hall of Fame is celebrating 30 years of recognizing some of the greats of local racing, who are in turn looking back at the storied history of the track and auto racing in Langford.
Dave Cooper was among the first inductees entered into the Hall of Fame in 1984. Cooper started racing in 1941 at the old Langford speedway, located where Ruth Kind elementary now sits.
“It was one of the first tracks paved in Canada,” Cooper said. “There were lots of dirt tracks, but not paved ones. … We had a lot of fun there.”
The circuit closed down in 1949 and around 1953 Western Speedway opened up, though it was a dirt track at the time.
Cooper went on to win big as a stock and sprint car driver in the late 1950s and, as a plumber by trade, actually did all the plumbing for Western Speedway when it was built.
When the Hall of Fame started up and Cooper was announced as an inductee, he said it was a wonderful surprise.
“I was dumbfounded, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It’s very nice, I’ve enjoyed it.”
Cooper spoke to the Gazette along with six other past and soon-to-be inductees from various eras of the track’s history.
All the inductees agreed auto racing is a intrinsic part of Langford’s identity and that the spirit of the community is in part what got them into racing in the first place.
“It’s was just kind of the thing you did when you lived in Langford, all your life,” said 1996 inductee Neil Montgomery, who started racing at 16 thanks to a consent form signed by his parents. “It’s been a race area forever.”
“I just remember seeing as a kid all these modifieds and stuff parked on the side of the road,” said 2006 inductee Rockie Collins. “I turned 17 and as soon as I could got a race car.”
Richard Graham, a 2007 inductee as an owner, said family can play a part too, as his father was a driver in Vancouver, first for sport and later for profit, running rum across the border by boat into the U.S.A. during prohibition.
“It’s always been there,” Graham said. “The first (race car) I had, my mom and dad didn’t even know I had. … I kept it in a garage about three blocks away, I couldn’t tell anybody anything because I was only about 13 or something.”
2014 is Joe Macmurchie’s year, as he is inducted into the hall of fame for his work both as a driver and a crew member over the years.
“It’s quite a privilege and an honour, for sure,” Macmurchie said. “I grew up with a wrench in my hand. If you asked me when I started racing, I have no idea. I raced every kind of car you can imagine, and airplanes. Anything with a motor on it.”
Growing up in Cordova Bay, Macmurchie developed a love for the mechanics of vehicles, as well as for driving as he raced the streets of Victoria.
“Driving on the street meant racing back then, you didn’t worry about having a race track. Drag strips and race tracks came later.”
Macmurchie still has a hand in the sport, working on race cars for friends.
Along with Macmurchie, the other inductees for 2014 are John Copp, Dick Miller, Hank Nielson, Ken Svendson and Norm Wilcox. Being honoured with Pioneer Awards, recognizing individuals who have made contributions to local auto racing, are Joe Poulin, Bob Powell, Sherri Epp, Vitra First Ladies, Robert G. Hunter and Island Bakery.
The Hall of Fame is located at Western Speedway and is open to the public during most special events. There is a satellite display at Eagle Ridge Community Centre (1089 Langford Parkway) which includes a classic racing car and other materials.
The new inductees will be welcomed to the Hall of Fame with a ceremony on Saturday, March 1 at Eagle Ridge. Tickets are $25 each at the door, with only 200 available. Doors are at 1 p.m. and the ceremony begins at 2 p.m.