Could this be the final year that Thunder in the Valley is run in the middle of Port Alberni? Members of the Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association are hoping so.
This year marked the third year in a row that the annual drag racing event was held on Stamp Avenue in the centre of the city. For the first 15 or so years, Thunder was held at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport, and racing took place on a full quarter-mile drag strip set up along the airport’s runway.
All that changed three years ago when the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District—owners of the airport—made plans to expand the runway at the airport. Construction meant the drag racing association could not hold its event at the airport.
Rather than see the event shut down and possibly not reopen, the City of Port Alberni offered a temporary solution: Stamp Avenue.
The AVDRA has taken two years to smooth out the wrinkles of holding its event on Stamp Avenue—the temporary course is only one-eighth of a mile, so faster cars and doorslammers were ineligible—and this year built on those successes. While they are appreciative of having Stamp Avenue for a venue, officials with the association would like to get back to the airport too.
“We have a committee we call the ‘get back to the airport’ committee,” AVDRA spokesperson Anita Spencer said. “We’re working on it.
“We are on Stamp Avenue (because) the city invited us here. They didn’t want the races to end. We’re doing this to keep the racers racing. We are working on getting back to the airport. We would like to do quarter-mile races and have a much bigger race again.”
As for whether the AVDRA will pursue construction of a permanent drag racing facility, that is unlikely.
“Not here,” Spencer said. “Campbell River is working on it. They have full support of city council and their airport (commission).”
The Vancouver Island MotorSports Association, based in Campbell River, is looking at building a permanent motorsports facility, including a drag strip right beside the runway at their airport. They are in the feasibility study phase of that project, with many more steps left to climb, according to their website.
“That’s going to have to be a huge injection of cash to be able to pull that off,” Richard Spencer said.
The VIMSA is rumoured to have 1,000 members, and full support of their city council, Anita Spencer said. “We’ve been to meetings when their council has been there. It looks promising.
“If Campbell River becomes a full-time drag strip it won’t interfere with Thunder in the Valley or Port McNeill (which also holds races on its airport runway).”