Powell River oldies chalk up wins in two classes

At Sunday’s drag races in Sechelt, one of the Powell River cars was 70 years old – but in the skilled hands of Chris Moretto, the Oldsmobile Rocket charged to victory in the Super Street class at the members-only event. Only drag racing can provide these crowd-pleasing surprises. 

But there was no crowd at the airport because under COVID rules, and under the eyes of the District of Sechelt, the insurers, and Vancouver Coastal Health, the drag races were prudently managed as a “stealth event” with a limited number of registered members staying six feet apart. 

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Moretto’s rival in the Super Street final race was Aussie engineer James Florance from Roberts Creek, appropriately driving a modern Australian Holden V-8, nicknamed “The Wombat.” Moretto and Florance are both decades-long veterans of the races. 

The Hot Rod class shook the runway until the final pairing was local Brian McLennan’s blue “Millennium Falcon” challenging Bob Baxter in another Powell River oldie: a 1955 Chevy pickup with a monster 555 cubic inch (nine litre) engine specially built for racing, which Baxter has owned for 40 years. Another victory for Powell River. 

The Tucker brothers Keith and Gary never miss a race, and in the Street Rod class Keith’s 1978 Malibu advanced to the final, where it took second spot to winner Brian Hinada from Vancouver. Hinada blew his Mustang’s engine in July’s race, but the replacement served him well. 

In Street Machine – a favourite of the crowd because the familiar cars are often family-driven every day – young Jordan Engler’s modest Nissan Maxima won over veteran Steve Hoops in his V-6 Mustang: Sechelt beat Gibsons this time, and the friendly feud continues. 

A highlight of the day was the repeated runs of 13-year-old Wesley Gurney, heavily jacketed and helmeted, on a tiny race kart. Wesley from age 10 has helped his father Rob Gurney work on his Dodge Challenger. Together they had tuned the kart’s 420cc Predator motor till it barked like a Rottweiler. Wesley began with a tentative 14.6 seconds for the 1/8 mile, and continually sped up until he crossed the photo-electric beams in just 10.6 seconds, to the cheers of onlookers. As the announcer commented, “Not a bad way for a kid to grow up.” 

Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association volunteers who ran every aspect of the event, prepping on Saturday and organizing all day on Sunday, gave themselves a pat on the back. 

The races can be seen later on local television, thanks to Community Cable TV and Internet provider Eastlink, whose manager Steve Sleep brought his crew of three and their equipment to record the action, and the atmosphere. Will there be one more race this year? Watch this space!

See more photos in our online galleries.

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