Time Capsule, The Golden Age of Canadian Motorcycle Road Racing
The Golden Age of Canadian Motorcycle Road Racing occurred during the mid-1980s. With the closest drag strip hours away, I sought out other ways to get my motorsports photography fix. To my good fortune there was an exceptional road course minutes from my home.
Westwood Motorsport Park, a 1.8 mile, eight-turn circuit was already famous when I made my first trip up the hill in Coquitlam to see “Mountain High Racing” first hand. The cars were cool, but it was the races put on by The Westwood Motorcycle Racing Club that really got my attention.
Formed the same year the track opened in 1959, within a couple of years I was the club Media Director and one of many “official’ photographers.” I found the issue of not being able to see the whole track somewhat solved by moving to literally dozens of great shooting spots on the winding, altitude-changing course.
Needless to say, in the age of big, heavy cameras, this made for quite a workout tromping through thick (on the rare occasion bear infested) forests, and running across the track when it was clear. The press coverage was as good as it gets in this part of the world with local and national television coverage, a number of local and national print publications and every local newspaper represented.
There was also the issue of weather, for unlike circle and drag racing, these guys and gals ran in the rain, and with the track being at altitude, I lost track of how many times the races were soaked while at the bottom of the hill in town it had been dry all day.
Classes ranged from the insanely fast Superbikes to near stock production classes of all sizes, one for V-Twin machines as well as the always popular sidecars. It just so happened that I was there at a time when a number of world class riders were regular competitors. Names like Steve Crevier, Canada’s second winningest motorcycle road racer with numerous Canadian championships in many classes including Superbike. Described by Canada Moto Guide as “often colorful, sometimes controversial and always fast”, Crevier was just too much fun.
Once each year in mid-summer the best riders from across the country would come here for the western leg of the national series. Of these, the most memorable was the 1987 event when up-and-coming rider Tom Walther won his first national race at his home track gaining him a factory ride for Suzuki. It was to be a bittersweet moment however as a few months later on October 23rd, he lost his life at a race in Fuji, Japan. I was just putting the finishing touches on a local cable television program called Two Wheel Challenge, featuring Walther and Dick, a rough copy of which can be seen below.
Soon after permission was given to the Walther family to market the video which was sold around the world with all proceeds going to track safety across Canada.
While that was the most memorable experience for me, others include the day Goodfellow fell far behind during a club Superbike race then proceeded to reset the track record three times on his way to victory. I was at the start/finish line with track manager Pete Jadot, both of us shaking our heads in disbelief! Or the day Dick won the National, a rain-soaked affair that saw him nearly lapping the field. Then there was the day I put together a season-opening press conference. A local television crew asked for wheelies (note this was well before today’s stunting). Typically they asked for more than a few ‘takes’ resulting in Ken Lalonde toasting an engine because he hooked so many catwalks down the long front straight, the oiling system unable to keep up!
A noted feature of the course was the back straight which began with a long uphill run to a small peak dubbed ‘Deers Leap’ after a car once took out one of the critters years before. The bikes, at full throttle in high gear, would often yard the front end at speed. It was very cool.
Each season ended with a six hour enduro complete with a LeMans type start and some very entertaining pit work and rider changes ending with a bunch of burned out folks.
It truly was a very special time in my photojournalism career, as never really being a two wheel fan, I gained a whole new love and respect for these racers. Westwood closed in 1990, but a decade later the club was reborn at the new road circuit at Mission Raceway Park where they still race today.