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Sunday is drag race day at Sechelt airport – here's what you need to know

The Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association (SCDRA) anticipates slightly faster times at the Sept. 4 races at Sechelt airport compared to its Aug. 7 event.
Drag racing h
July 2022 Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association Race Day at the Sechelt Airport.

The Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association (SCDRA) anticipates slightly faster times at the Sept. 4 races at Sechelt airport compared to its Aug. 7 event. Environment Canada is predicting highs near 24 degrees for the upcoming race day, more than three degrees cooler than during last month’s competition.

Cooler temps support faster times

“Cooler air is denser, so it has more oxygen molecules than an equal volume of hot air. The more oxygen in the cylinders in the ignition cycle, the more intense the explosion; the bigger the explosion the more horsepower created,” association spokesperson Richard Austin explained to Coast Reporter. He noted that the fastest time down the one eighth mile track in competition recorded at an SCDRA event was in 5.91 seconds (over 120mph) clocked in by Will McLennan of Gibsons.

Sept. 4 race day details

Race day this upcoming Sunday is scheduled to begin with the finals from Aug 7.  As registrations were higher than expected for that event, the group ran out of allotted airport rental time and had to defer the finals to this weekend's event.

Austin said that the number of racers who have signed up for this Sunday is down slightly from the August number but that registration remains open until 9 a.m. Sept. 4.

This weekend will also see the association's “Rookie of the Year” award presented to a newer racer who showed the most improvement during the SCDRA’s 2022 three-race season.

Austin said, “The facility is in great shape thanks to the hard work of club members and volunteers." He noted that the access road was graded on Aug. 29 and that the association continues to work on sound system improvements to benefit drivers and the audience.

The Robertsons – One of Sechelt's race-ready couples

A life-long lover of “anything with an engine” and a veteran local drag racer Norm Robertson is ready to race and looking forward to Sunday. In addition to being a driver, Robertson has re-built the engines in both his entry, a 1979 F100 Ford pick-up and the 1979 F350 Ford Super Cab 4-wheel drive truck, which will have his wife, Heather, behind the wheel.

“When I first started competing locally, I raced the Super Cab and it is still my daily driver,” Robertson told Coast Reporter. “I didn’t race it because it was fast but because the crowd likes it because it’s a big obnoxious-looking truck. It’s got lots of power, it does really good smoke shows and if I pull the mufflers off, it makes lots of noise.”

“A couple of years ago, my wife, who has always been part of my racing support team, wanted to get into racing. She raced her own street truck (a 2007 Ford pick-up) at the start and that was quiet and boring. So she switched to the F350 and has driven that at every SCDRA event this year.”

Unfortunately, according to Heather, her new ride broke down in both 2022 racing attempts; once after the “test and tune” trials and once during her preparatory “burnout." Now in her third year of local racing, Heather is determined to compete this upcoming weekend and says she has never been intimidated by the size of the F350 or the power of that propane-fuelled truck.

She told Coast Reporter she sees more women driving at each SCDRA event she has attended. While helping her husband with “putting on tires, taking off mufflers, doing the timing” on vehicles in the pit area at the July event, she became the influence for another “pit crew wife” to take the initiative to race in August. “I think that’s cool and hope more women get to see what’s possible,” she said.   

As for his motorsport background, Norm said he started by racing dirt bikes in his early teens.

“We had horses when I was growing up. I got bucked off a horse and I traded the horse for a snowmobile,” Norm said with a laugh. He moved on to snowmobile racing and in the 1990s he took up mud-racing, a sport where four-wheel drive trucks race side-by-side in deep mud pits. 

“I never drag raced on pavement until I moved to Sechelt in 2000…I have always liked the performance and the sounds of racing. I enjoy building the engines… it is gratifying for me to know that both trucks that we are racing I have re-built from the ground up with my own hands and my own tools and have successfully built motors that have lasted for a long time. It is basically my only hobby. I work and I drag race.”

Both of the Robertsons said they are buoyed by the “great turnouts” of racers and spectators that the SCDRA events. The couple reported having eight people, including family from Alberta, travel and stay at their home during each 2022 event so that they could watch the couple compete. 

“We also have a lot of Powell River friends that come out every time, but they are starting to get frustrated. They are no longer able to camp overnight at the site, and it is very difficult to get a room reservation on the Coast during the summer months,” Heather stated.

When asked for his view of using the Sechelt airport for racing events, Norm said “I think most of the town supports it. It has helped the high schools that have drag racing programs. Young people come to me at the races, asking me questions, asking for opinions and advice.”  He said that he has donated used parts to others who were just getting started to help them get into the sport.

“The local businesses are supporting us (the SCDRA) huge, it’s a community thing and it’s a pretty big deal … If we loose drag racing on the Coast it is going to be devastating.” 

Due to the uncertainty around whether the SCDRA would have racing events this year, the couple ventured to an off-Coast race for their first time, travelling to a three-day event in Cache Creek in June, where Norm competed.

“It’s on our list to go back every year now,” said Norm.

He explained that the Cache Creek racing is very similar to what happens in Sechelt, as that community also uses its airport for the events which, like the local races, are organized by a small local group of motor-sport enthusiasts. As a community that most out-of-town competitors can drive to without ferry travel, Norm said Cache Creek races attract a larger field with 190 racers registered.