Jim Steen has been racing since he was 16. He raced at the opening event at what is now called Westshore Motorsports Park in Langford back in 1954, and he had the honour of driving the last lap of the track on Saturday (Sept. 17) as the checkered flag waved, and the track closed.
“For myself, I’m going to miss it but I’m turning 85 next month, so it’s about time for me, I need to start relaxing, but wow am I going to miss this track,” Steen said ahead of his race. “It’s been my whole life really.”
Steen has raced nearly continuously since that first race, competing in almost every category the track has hosted. He never considered stopping, even after some pretty serious crashes he wasn’t expected to survive, because the track and the community which called it home for so long were just to special.
In fact, he nearly wasn’t able to race on Saturday as he blew an engine during qualifying on Friday. His crew worked through the night to rebuild it, getting it race ready just hours before the green flag.
“Myself and my cousins, we just went for it, you know,” he said. “It’s always exciting, but when you are in the car, everything is calm.”
For Brian Wakelin, competing in the bombers category on Saturday, the fact his race is among the last held at the track had been on his mind for weeks as he reflected on the friends made along the way.
“I’ve raced here since 1974, steady now from ‘92 until now,” said Wakelin. “It’s a lot of fun, and everyone feels good helping someone else get their car going when something goes wrong.”
In one race in particular, Wakelin recalls finding the solution to another racer’s problem allowing them to keep on racing that night, eventually claiming the pole position.
That special community spreads far beyond the pit lanes and into the grandstands. Keen on helping the track get the send-off it deserves, the racing community easily filled every seat in the house on Saturday.
Spectators cheered nearly constantly, but there were also plenty of wet cheeks knowing this would be the last race they would be able to take in on the West Shore.
“Heartbroken, I think that’s the only word to describe how I’m feeling tonight,” said general manager Daryl Crocker. “The turnout from the crowd has been unbelievable, and we just had every class of car come out tonight because I couldn’t decide which people got to be here tonight and which did not, so we just scheduled everyone and made it work.”
Crocker said he heard from racers and fans alike how sad they are it is all coming to an end, but he feels the community has given the track the send off it deserves.
“Everyone is holding back tears, and they are not doing a very good job of it, myself included.”