Provincial series part of karting’s revival on Vancouver Island

Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Vancouver Island Karting Association president Gary Smith gives a tour of the pit at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by VIKA on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Vancouver Island Karting Association president Gary Smith gives a tour of the pit at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by VIKA on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
The youngest drivers, in the seven- to 11-year-old age group, line up to start their event. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)The youngest drivers, in the seven- to 11-year-old age group, line up to start their event. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
A kart driver heads into the stretch at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)A kart driver heads into the stretch at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
A kart driver heads into the stretch at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)A kart driver heads into the stretch at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Kart drivers round a turn at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Monitors in the control room at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit show drivers in a race hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Monitors in the control room at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit show drivers in a race hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Fans watch a kart race at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Fans watch a kart race at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit during races hosted by the Vancouver Island Karting Association on May 8. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Go-kart drivers and their crews scrambled to switch from slicks to treaded tires when the sky suddenly exploded with rain and hail over the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit on Sunday afternoon.

But that didn’t dampen spirits during the remaining races of the second day of the BC Summer Sprint Series, a brand-new series of races launched this year by the Vancouver Island Karting Association and two other clubs.

About 95 karts raced at the VIMC on Saturday and Sunday at the first stop on the Summer Sprint Series, hosted by VIKA. They came from all over B.C., and as far away as Lethbridge, Alta and Washington state. The series will continue at the West Coast Kart Club in Chilliwack in August and Kartplex in Oliver in September. Points will be compiled over six races — two at each stop — to determine the winners in seven separate classes for different ages and kart makes.

“We all have the same rules and the same classes,” VIKA president Gary Smith explained. “We are working together to grow the sport.”

Each driver gets two practice sessions, followed by a qualifying round, then the pre-final, then the final. The fastest lap time in the qualifier gets to start at the front for the pre-final, and a driver’s finish in the pre-final determines where they start in the final. The winner of the final, of course, gets the trophy.

The Summer Sprint Series races aren’t the first events VIKA has held at the VIMC this season. They’ve been racing at the track since January, with more events scheduled until October.

Originally known as the Capital City Kart Club, VIKA raced for years at tracks in Cassidy and Youbou, but sat dormant from 2003 until 2021 when Smith got races going at the VIMC. They started with karts in March, and had 60 racing by the end of the year. There are more than 100 racing at regular VIKA races this year.

Smith credits the location at the VIMC, just west of Duncan, with the rapid growth of the revived club. Because of zoning, karts are the only vehicles that can race at the VIMC, although full-size vehicles and motorbikes can use the track for other purposes.

“The track is beautiful,” he said. “I think that’s really helping.”

The track is more than just appealing to the eye. While most kart tracks are flat, level courses, the VIMC track goes up and down a slope. Drivers can also go four-wide on corners, something other tracks don’t have room for. And then there’s the technological advances at VIMC, like video replay.

“This is hugely unique, high-dollar, first-class stuff,” Smith said, standing outside the VIMC control room. “No go-kart facility has this.”

VIKA has members from all over the Island. Smith acknowledged that most come from Victoria, but numbers from mid-Island are increasing.

Smith’s grandfather started the original Capital City Kart Club at Western Speedway in 1970. Smith himself started racing in 1972 at the age of three-and-a-half, and raced karts until 1990 before moving to bigger vehicles, eventually following his father Roy’s footsteps to NASCAR. About a dozen members of the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame got their start in karting, with Smith set to join them this year. Several hall of famers are still involved in VIKA and played key roles in making last weekend’s races run smoothly.

Smith expects more drivers to flock to VIKA in the future, as the Island’s best-known race track closes its doors.

“I think it will grow next year with the closing of Western Speedway,” he said. “Drivers will have no place go, and they’re addicted.”

Drivers on the weekend ranged in age from seven to the mid-60s. But it’s the kids that Smith likes to watch the most.

“This is the reason I got back into it,” he said, gesturing to the seven- to 11-year-old drivers as they lined up to start their final on Sunday.

“I love the community. I love that we all help each other. That’s how I grew up.”

Summer Spring Series winners for Day 1 (May 7)

Senior Briggs/4 Cycle Open

1. Braydon Otto

2. Mitchell Nursey

3. Doug Litherland

Junior 1 Briggs/Tag Cadet

1. James Bedard

2. Mason Bemister

3. Branded Moria

Junior 2 Briggs/Junior Tag

1. Tanner Bouman

2. Joey Jay

3. Kayden Martens

Tag Masters

1. Alan Burnell

2. Sam Beswick

3. Johnny Sutton

4 Cycle Open/Tag Sportsman

1. Tim Tchida

2. Mark Parry

3. Hazen Furtdado

Tag Senior

1. Kristian Dinkov

2. Ian Pirie

3. David Nyki

Summer Spring Series winners for Day 2 (May 8)

Senior Briggs/4 Cycle Open

1. Rick Payne

2. Braydon Otto

3. Robbie Horvath

Junior 1 Briggs/Tag Cadet

1. James Bedard

2. Branden Moria

3. Mason Bemister

Junior 2 Briggs/Junior Tag

1. Tanner Bouman

2. Charlotte Baye-Pearson

3. Kayden Martens

Tag Masters

1. Alan Burnell

2. John Webster

3. Michael Chalk

4 Cycle Open/Tag Sportsman

1. Alan Zaalberg

2. Janel Church

3. Carl Wilson

Tag Senior

1. Kristian Dinkov

2. Ian Pirie

3. David Nyki

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