Don Spencer gives a bit of a smoke show with his 1971 Dodge Challenger RT during a previous Thunder in the Valley drag racing event. ROGER HAGGERTY PHOTO

Port Alberni gears up for racing on its main drag

Thunder in the Valley returns to Stamp Avenue for 2018

Preparations are ramping up for Thunder in the Valley drag racing in Port Alberni, taking place for a third year in a row on Stamp Avenue in the middle of the city. Racing events start Friday, Aug. 10 and conclude Sunday, Aug. 12.

Residents can expect to see activity starting right after the August long weekend, when grandstands will be brought in and set up. Stamp Avenue will be closed to traffic starting Thursday, Aug. 9 at 2 p.m. and won’t re-open until 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12. Parts of Roger Street between Stamp Avenue and Victoria Quay will also be closed off from Thursday to Sunday as well.

Access to the parking lot on the Catalyst Paper site for spectators will be via the entrance closest to Victoria Quay.

No test runs will be made on the track this year, says Anita Spencer, spokesperson for the Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association. “Having raced on it for two years, we know the ups and downs of the road,” she said.

RELATED: Thunder in the Valley test run successful

Registration for the event has been busy. Race classes include pro, modified, sportsman, drag bikes and junior dragsters. The fastest cars will be in the pro category—they’re essentially five-second cars on an eighth-mile track.

“Because it’s an eighth-mile we do not have any feature cars,” Spencer said. “The door slammers are too fast.”

This year’s event has drawn racers from the Vancouver area, but the majority are from the mainland, she said.

This is the third year Thunder in the Valley has been held on Stamp Avenue, after starting out at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. The race was moved to Stamp when the airport runway was expanded, and construction closed the airport that summer.

Spencer said there is a committee working on moving the race back to the airport.

Race weekend for 2018 kicks off with the show n’ shine at Harbour Quay, put on by Valley Street Rods. The quay will be closed off to vehicle traffic and filled with cars from rat rods to the classics, bikes to trucks. Registration for vehicles for the show n’ shine starts at 4 p.m. and the event opens to the public at 5 p.m.

Thunder in the Valley is putting on a burnout contest this year following the show n’ shine. “This is brand new. They’re doing it after the car show at approximately 7 p.m.,” Spencer said. “There have been some issues in the past with cars leaving the car show and the RCMP not being happy.”

Thunder in the Valley organizers are encouraging drivers to sign up for the burnout contest and compete on the approved Stamp Avenue “racetrack” at the cement burnout box during a specified time.

Pre-registration for the burnout contest is $30 per car at Pacific West Home Solutions on Third Avenue until Thursday. “Registration on Friday evening at the gate is $40. There are prizes. There is a time limit for each burnout, and it’s going to be ending at 9:30 p.m.,” Spencer said.

Admission for spectators to the burnout contest is $5.

Another option for Friday night is a drive-in movie at Boston Pizza. Alberni Teens Can Rock will be performing from 7–9 p.m. at Boston Pizza and the movie—they haven’t divulged what it is, but it’s car-related, for adults and different from last year—will start at dusk (9:15 p.m.).

On Saturday, Aug. 11 gates at the Catalyst Paper parking lot open at 8 a.m. and the first qualifying round begins at 9 a.m. On Sunday, Aug. 12 gates open at 8 a.m. and the fourth round of qualifying starts at 9 a.m. with elimination rounds starting right afterward. The event usually wraps up around 4 p.m.

Volunteers will be selling tickets Friday night at 7 p.m. during the burnout contest at the south end of Stamp Avenue, by the railroad tracks. Otherwise tickets will be available at the gate on race days: $20 per day or $35 for a weekend pass per person. Children under 12 are admitted free with an adult.

For more information, go online to


A pro class racer makes some smoke in the burnout box before a run at Thunder in the Valley 2017 on Stamp Avenue. The 2018 event will feature a burnout competition on Friday, Aug. 10. Pre-registration is required. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

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