It hasn’t been easy getting Stamp Avenue race-ready, but with Thunder in the Valley just days away, the finish line is finally in sight.
“It’s been very hectic because the logistics are so different than they were at the airport,” said Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association (AVDRA)president Bill Surry.
“Everything seems to be going together. We have to put everything in place during the week on the mill site and then on the road on Thursday and Friday.”
The AVDRA was forced to relocate the races for 2016 due to the runway expansion at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport—where the drag races have run for their entire 16-year lifespan.
In late January, Surry came before city council to ask for permission to hold the drag race along Stamp Avenue. The request was formally approved in February and the flurry of activity began.
“We had to bring everything from the airport to here plus the barriers down both sides on Stamp Avenue,” said Surry.
The barriers were only the half of it. Several pieces of centre median were removed from the stretch of Stamp Avenue in front of the mill, lines were repainted, a burnout box was built, trees were cleared to allow for spectators and a new exit from the Catalyst property was installed by the train tracks.
The AVDRA footed the bill for the burnout box and the tree clearing, while the city paid for the rest.
The course had to be shortened to an eighth-mile, a first for the drags in Port Alberni.
“The only thing that we really changed was that we took out the doorslammers. We do have some of them doing exhibition runs but they’ll cut their speed back because of the shutdown area and not knowing what the road’s going to do to us,” said Surry.
But the loss of the doorslammers will be balanced out by a new division—junior dragsters.
“We have five registered. They’ll be running at different times throughout the day. We don’t really know what to expect because we’ve never had them before,” said Surry.
“Some of them are quite quick for little cars. The youngest (driver) is eight years old.”
Surry hopes that having the youngsters racing will inspire local kids to start.
“People can come and talk to them and maybe get one of their own children into racing.”
The AVDRA did a four-car test run in early June but Surry admitted that with different conditions for race day, they can’t be certain as to how the races will go.
“We did run the four cars before but there was no prep on the road at the time… the road will be prepped on Friday and ready for Saturday morning,” he said.
A traction compound will be added to the burnout box once Stamp Avenue is closed to regular traffic, he said.
“We’re just really guessing at some of the stuff because we haven’t run there before and we haven’t run the eighth-mile before.”
While the new distance brings uncertainty, the tradeoff will be more track time for the racers.
“The participants in the races will get a lot more runs because it is only an eighth-mile and we do have a smaller car count overall,” said Surry.
“We do have some cars that will really put on a show. Some of the faster cars probably won’t go as fast but they’re going to put on a good show for us.”
As of late last week, 165 cars were signed up for Thunder in the Valley—significantly less than have raced at the airport most years.
“We had to cut it off because of space more than anything. We’re not sure how much space we really have once we get them parked—we might see we have room for another 20 cars but we don’t know that now,” said Surry.
“Normally, we were just over 200 at the airport but we’ve been as high as 300 at the airport.”
Spectators will enter the Catalyst Paper grounds through the entrance by Victoria Quay, and be guided to their seats from there.
Adult tickets are $15 per day or $25 for both days. Students ages 12-18 with an ID card are $10 per day or $15 for two days. Children under 12 are free if accompanied by an adult.