Thunder a wonder in Alberni

Between 6,000–7,000 people from across the country to watch Thunder in the Valley 2011, a significant rise from last year’s event.

Competitors race to the finish line during the semi-finals at Thunder in the Valley 2011 on Sunday afternoon.

Competitors race to the finish line during the semi-finals at Thunder in the Valley 2011 on Sunday afternoon.

The Alberni Valley Regional Airport is calm and tranquil now, but that’s a far cry from the engine roaring, exhaust hazed, crowded drag strip that it was 24 hours ago.

Between 6,000–7,000 people from across the country attended Thunder in the Valley 2011, significantly up from last year’s event.

“From the weather to the spectators to the volunteers we had a fantastic year,” event president Bill Surry said.

More than 280 racers competed in six different car classes over the weekend.

Winners included Leland Van Humbeck: street class; Don Spencer: modified; Steve Erickson: pro; Garth Wright: super pro; Kevin Lantz: door slammer; and Trevor Myles: bike.

The eldest competitor was Bill Friend, 74, who drove a 1965 Comet.

There were a few changes to this year’s event.

One, the slate was reduced to a 64-car field in each class except for super-pro, which had 32 cars.

The move ensured that only one heat of races needed to be run in each class.

And there were two new types of cars added: A 1969 GTO alcohol funny car driven by Alberta’s Cal Tebb; and a nitro dragster driven by Phil Ruskowski.

The weekend went off smoothly, save for a couple of mishaps. One that happened on Saturday stands out in Surry’s mind.

“When (Alberni door slammer) Shane Wangler went off the track, into the bush and came back out again,” Surry said.

Wangler came back to finish racing on Saturday and competed on Sunday.

“It was a close call, and was a heck of a piece of driving,” Surry said.

The event is in its 11th year and it has come a long way since the first time it was run.

“We didn’t have the parking space that we do today back then so we’ve gotten both bigger and better,” Surry said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com