Larry Olson wasn’t going to let a little thing like a broken ankle keep him from flagging the first four-wheel race at the Langley Speedway oval since 1984.
He wasn’t deterred by the fact the event featured custom-built ultra-light electric vehicles instead of the beefy V-8s that used to rampage around the track at the foot of 208 Street in South Langley.
The Wednesday (May 18) event was the annual vehicle-in-a-box competition by BCIT students.
Five teams of future high school shop instructors designed and built electrically-powered four-wheelers that had to fit in a box for assembly on race day.
For Olson, who arrived with a plastic brace for the ankle he fractured less than three weeks earlier, it was an opportunity to see powered vehicles rounding the track one more time.
As the official starter at the speedway from 1969 to to 1977, Olson flagged more than 9,000 races.
Events at the track used to draw crowds of 11,000 people to see 20 to 40 cars run the quarter-mile oval, he said.
“We couldn’t get all the cars on the track at the same time so we would run two or three main events in each class.”
Langley Speedway hosted NASCAR Winston West races in 1971, 1972 and 1978, making it one of only three sites in B.C. to run NASCAR events.
Racing ended in 1984 when the regional district parks authority refused to lease it out any more.
The track has since been declared an historic site.
Volunteers have cleaned up the abandoned oval in recent years, restoring it to the point where it is used for bicycle races and car shows.
But the dents on the metal rails remain to show where cars made unplanned exits from the track, including a gouge and crack on the concrete side wall inflicted by an out-of-control car during one race that narrowly missed Olson.
He got to brush up his flagging technique about two weeks before the BCIT event during a bicycle race at the oval.
“That was a real privilege and an honour to do that and to actually see some kind of racing back at this wonderful facility that we have in Langley,” he told The Times.
For the ninth year of the BCIT competition, instructor Randy Schultz had the idea of bringing motorized racing back to the oval.
“It’s nice to come back and revisit the idea of what happened here in a much more [environmentally] sustainable way,” Schultz said, watching the student teams assemble their creations.
There were three events, a timed assembly of the boxed vehicles, a one-lap sprint around the track, then an endurance run.
The winner was the “Green Guzzler” a low-slung design that came with its own stereo system.
“We wanted low aerodynamics and we really focused on rolling resistance,” Guzzler team member Regan Glendinning said.
The red-and-white “Road Warrior” design finished second.
The three other contestants recorded did-not-finishes, two because of mechanical failure and one because the battery ran down.