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Greater Vancouver Motorsports Pioneers Society

Vancouver has been a mecca for motorsport for over a century. The Greater Vancouver Motorsport Pioneers Society recognizes pioneers and supporters of motorsports who have made major contribution to the sport in Greater Vancouver. This video pays tribute to the society and inductees while telling the story of some of these motorsport heroes.

Transcript:

Hi folks and welcome to Center Lane, I'm Bruce Hitchen. Today I'm paying tribute to the Greater Vancouver Motorsport Pioneers Society. The society records the rich history of motorsport in Greater Vancouver and recognizes individuals who've made major contributions to the sport.


I have the privilege to emcee the annual induction ceremony of the Geater Vancouver Motorsports Pioneers that has inducted more than 300 pioneers and supporters of motorsports in British Columbia, really in the Greater Vancouver area, who have contributed in the last 40 years or so.


These pioneers have been motorsport enthusiasts their whole lives and have countless stories to share.


It was 1965 became aware that there was a speedway. Langley Speedway opened up. It was, I guess we heard about it or heard it specifically. My family lived two miles from it.


First race I ever saw at Mission Raceway, was when they had the double A fuel alternates out there and the Wild Willy Borsch and I was absolutely in awe. I think I was about 17 or 18 at the time and the ground was just shaking as they launched, I was impressed!


Ken Bayko was buying and building demolition derby cars before he had a driver's license, from the age of 14. And when he got a driver's license, he was a major, major participant in the demolition derbies.


I started in ‘68 at Callister Park. I was 12 years old, I couldn't drive cars but I was building cars and having people drive them for me.


Each year the society holds an induction ceremony to recognize these motorsport pioneers in Greater Vancouver.


All these drivers, they were heroes back then, and now 50 years down the road it's a chance to honor and induct these, these race drivers into the Greater Vancouver Motorsport Pioneer Society. It just seemed to be a natural fit to get them in and get them inducted.


A lot of these people were pioneers because they started their motorsports careers in the Greater Vancouver area, but many of them have branched out for international recognition. So, it really is recognizing people who have contributed in the Greater Vancouver area, but it broadens out to people who have made made major contributions, right across North America.


I did photography, basically started out as a high-school project back in the 1960s, and was able to get in and actually do photography at the actual racetracks. And was doing some freelance work for local magazines like Motorsport in BC that Doug Harder was the publisher.


Murray Chambers is one of the directors of the Greater Vancouver Motorsports Pioneers and Murray's a quiet guy, wears glasses, and you'd look at him and you think Murray might have worked in a bank or as a bureaucrat at some municipality in the background. Murray was a hell driver, I mean he was a demolition derby driver, he was fearless, and then as a stunt driver or hell driver, he would perform at the PNE and other places in North America.


I started doing a few stunts at the Pacific National Exhibition for the demolition derbies, and Doug Harder was the promoter at the time. And when the Motor Spectaculars came into BC Place, the big monster truck shows, Doug put on a demolition derby there and they were looking for somebody to maybe do a stunt. So, Doug asked me if I would like to try it at that BC Place, which I did.


And they would stack three vehicles, side on end and Murray would come off a ramp with a car and hit the one in the middle and make the top one go flying.


They put gunpowder everywhere in these big containers on each side and soon as I hit the ramp and hit the stack, they blew it up and you couldn't see the car. It burnt the decals actually, off the whole side of the car on both sides. It was, it was wild. And then the wall fire, you’d lay on the hood of a car and one guy throws gas on the wall and Murray drove the car, and drive through the wall, with me on the hood.


And from then, they booked us do the same stunt down in Dallas, Texas and Kansas City and L.A. Memorial Coliseum and we did a few other three different groups too.


Just a complete daredevil and he told me that he did this one time with a, with a truck and the truck that he was driving hit the middle truck on the stack of trucks so hard that it peeled the roof back and gave him a concussion.


I did a bit of a stupid stunt at the PNE one year, we stacked up three, actually it was four trucks, and we went through the top truck, a little Datsun pickup, actually buckled the roof of the cab of the truck I was driving, and it actually cracked my helmet and gave me a concussion.


Murray was fearless and at his home, he has a trophy room of well over 1000 trophies.


The trophies and plaques and everything is probably close to 1200 sitting in there. That's from basically competition and from car shows over the years.


Tom Johnston a race car driver and he ran a race car team competed all over the world and still runs the historic races at Mission drag ways.


We got Kaija Kalevala from Digney Speedway days in 1952 and 53, Hilda Randal of the Sports Car Club of BC, Karin Hall sports car racer.

Sylvia Braddick drag raced a twin Hemi powered Dodge pickup truck. She was the first woman to be licensed for wheel standing drag racing. She’d go down the whole track on her back wheels with two Hemi’s, I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 horsepower. She used to love to look over the shoulder to see the sparks coming off the casters on the back, because he's up in the air and flames coming out of the stack.


Kaija Kalevala who sadly passed away, was a stock car driver. This beautiful Finnish lady came to Canada, and then came specifically to Vancouver because the Digney Speedway was operating in the 1950s. All these people were major contributors to a sport that has been so very important in the Greater Vancouver area.


It's recognizing people and businesses or clubs that have helped grow the sport in the Lower Mainland, whether it's oval, drag racing, sports cars, motorcycles, custom cars, you know all that.


This is really our Hall of Fame. This is recognizing accomplishments in motorsports in the Greater Vancouver area where motorsports have always been a major passion for a lot of people.


Yeah, it is a virtual Hall of Fame. We have the annual event, the first event happened in 2001.


And it's not only important to recognize these people while they're still alive, it's important to record their accomplishments.


There's still more to be done, there's still more and people out there that we haven't recognized, that we haven't given them their due.


There's still so many people out there that deserve to be inducted. It's just a matter to get them nominated to get the history and get them in our society, because there's still a lot of people out there that deserve to be in.


To show these people in a very tangible way that they are contributors, that they have made an impact, that they are worthy of note, and that their accomplishments should be celebrated publicly, and that's what the induction ceremonies are all about, and that's what the website is all about.


While COVID-19 prevented the induction ceremony from taking place in 2020 and 2021, the organization is committed to continuing their tradition of inducting more pioneers in 2022.


We’ll be ready. We’ll be ready by next June, for sure.


For 2022, we’ll be back bigger and better.

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