Racing in the Rain

Fifteen miles outside Vancouver, bulldozers carved out a racecourse in the middle of the Pacific-Northwest rainforest.

Built in 1959, the Westwood circuit was carved into the mountain's ridge beside the Coquitlam River by the Sports Car Club of B.C. Tired of shredding tires on the rough and rutted asphalt of local airfields, club members wanted a dedicated facility at which to indulge their need for speed. Circling the hat, they collectively raised enough funds to lease a parcel of land from the Crown and built a swooping, curving, 1.8 mile course. Aiding in the design, development and promotion of the fledgling race track was world renown Grand Prix driver, Sir Stirling Moss.

1966 - Sir Stirling Moss on television series 20/20 giving an overview of the Westwood Race Track

photo: 20/20 television productions

Fifteen miles outside Vancouver, bulldozers carved out a racecourse in the middle of the Pacific-Northwest rainforest. When it opened in July of the same year, Westwood Motorsport Park was Canada's first purpose-built racetrack.

Westwood was one of the fastest circuits in North America, heart-shaped (from the air, it looked like a Valentine's Day card) and incorporating many of the most challenging elements of more famous racing venues. The twin humps of the steeply-banked carousel and valley corner curve formed the top of the skinny "heart". The twin straights, elongating out to a tight turn was known as Marshall's Hairpin. The high speed Mountain Straight had a considerable hummock right in the middle. Referred to as "Deer's Leap," this bump would occasionally fling unwary drivers off into the weeds at high speed.

George Chapman and Harold Brown battling for the lead at Westwood Players Pacific - 1966

photo: 20/20 television productions

Over the next three decades Westwood would host Formula Atlantic racing, Trans-Am and even NASCAR. Gilles Villeneuve would race here, as would Michael Andretti and Keke Rosenburg. Indy champions like Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan would also whip their machines around the course, much to the delight of spectators.

From 1964 through 1966, The Little Red Corvette with Laurie Craig behind the wheel, became Westwood’s most successful racing automobile in its class. The 1966 Players Pacific Series was the crowning achievement when Laurie Craig and his stock corvette took the overall championship defeating all including professionally built and driven racing machines. Upon the completion of the race, Laurie Craig drove the little red corvette to the local market to purchase a celebratory bottle of vino. Craig's main transportation off the race track was, indeed, the little red corvette.

Laurie Craig and The Little Red Corvette taking the checkered flag . Westwood Racing Circuit 1965

photo: Tom Johnston collection

When the housing boom hit in the late 1980s, real-estate values skyrocketed and the Westwood track lost its lease to a developer. That was the end of the circuit.

Each year, British Columbia's vintage racing society, formed in 1976 at Westwood, takes to the confines of the only remaining local track. The past comes to life, engines once more race to the red line, and Canada's first racetrack lives on, if only in memory.

"Know you not that they who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?

So run, that you may obtain."

1 Corinthians 9:24

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