A Historic Day of Passion and Sound
by Andy Lucardie
In 1968, the Edmonton International Speedway, also known as Speedway Park, a 251-acre (1.02 km2) multi-track auto racing facility situated on the northern outskirts of the city, opened its gates to its first road course, just in time for its first Can-Am race (the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, or Can-Am, was an SCCA/CASC sports car racing series from 1966 to 1987).
At its peak, Speedway had a capacity for over 30,000 fans. The track closed in 1982 after the area was annexed by the City of Edmonton. As a teen lad of 19, I was fortunate enough to do some laps on that very road course riding my 1984 Suzuki GS 750, just before they tore up the tarmac.
Fast forward 30 years and I find myself surrounded by the very cars that were tearing up the speedway track some 50-plus years ago, except this time doing it at Castrol Raceway on the very south edge of the city.
What made it doubly special for me was sharing it all with my son McLaren, who's namesake celebrates Bruce McLaren's legacy, a genius that left the world far too soon in the early 1970s, but whose masterwork was his cars, some of them we came to see in person on this very day.
And what a day it was. Those that were in attendance were lucky to touch and see these legends from an era where the regulations were minimal and permitted unlimited engine sizes, virtually unrestricted aerodynamics, and were as close as any major international racing series ever got to have an "anything goes" policy. As long as the car had two seats, bodywork enclosing the wheels, and met basic safety standards, it was allowed.
We came to see the Can-Am cars but were pleasantly blown away that there were also some gems amongst these beasts. Legendary metal such as a Ferarri 512, a McLaren/Yardley M23 Formula One bodied F5000 race car, an early 70s Cosworth-powered F1 car, two perfect representations of a 1966 Porsche Carrera 6, a Ferrari 156 F1 shark nose, and many, many different variations of 60s, 70s and 80s SCCA/CASC racing series cars that local owners brought out to showcase and race.
One of the highlight moments of the day was the generosity shown by a local collector. Not only did he bring his prized possessions out to play, but he invited my son McLaren to squeeze his 6'1” frame into his white McLaren M8E car, a first but hopefully not last experience for him.
Thank you, Jay, for this memory-making moment for me and my son!
The second highlight was to actually see these cars do what they were built to do. To feel them eat tarmac like no other race car was energizing. Pure ground-pounding displacement, glue-like aerodynamics, and unrestricted flow of howling engine notes, all to the delight of this spectator.
I could go on and on about this special day, but words don't compete with the in-person experience.
If you are a motored fan and have never been to a historic racing event, you are missing the key analog experience that these races take you through.
These legends are fueled by dedication and passion from their owners, and the excitement they bring in making them do what they were meant to do, which is to entertain and delight through the spectacle of sound, speed, and aerodynamic beauty.
And so I close this story with a sincere heartfelt thank you to all those that made it happen. It is my sincere hope that they will keep on making it happen for us motored fanatics in this northern Canadian town.
It was indeed a great history-in-the-making kind of day—a day where one relived the glory of those long-ago speedway days.