Valley Voices: The Quarter Mile Drags in Barriere

The drag strip was situated on Barriere Town Road starting at the Barriere Secondary School

The Quarter Mile Drags held every second Sunday in Barriere during the mid-1970’s drew entries from Kelowna

The Barriere Trac-Masters was formed in the mid 1970’s thanks to a collaboration between local RCMP and area drag racing enthusiasts.

“We got started in 1975,” said Barriere’s Ray McDonald, who did a stint as president of the organization, “It started because there was so much street racing in Barriere at night –  it was terrible.  People would drive out to Barriere at night because it was quiet, and they could get away with it.”

McDonald tells that RCMP member Jerry Rath approached the local street racing enthusiasts and said, “Can we do something?”.

The question started those involved thinking about running organized races in the community rather than illegal racing at night.

“We went around and asked local businesses what they thought, and made sure we wouldn’t be offending anyone,” said McDonald.

With the help of the police and eager volunteers a letter was sent to Victoria, the Barriere Trac-Racers became a registered Society, and permission was received to hold the races.

Some of those also involved in the Trac-Masters at the time were Joe Webber, Gary Gammel, Bob Roy, Chris McDonald, Perry Roberts, Ed Tenzer, Bill Kershaw, Doug Edwards, Suzanne (Clearwaters) Hutchison, Tim Patterson and Jerry McDonald (Ray’s Dad).

The drag strip was situated on Barriere Town Road starting at the Barriere Secondary School and travelling west towards Highway 5 for a quarter of a mile, there was another  quarter of a mile of runoff.

Every second Sunday the cops would shut down the strip, and then clocked the racers with their radar guns to log the speeds.

“It just grew from their,” said McDonald, “It started to get pretty wild, and we were operating without any kind of liability insurance at the time.  Highways gave us used metal guardrails that we installed, and we worked hard to contain the crowds of people who turned out to watch.”

The crowds grew to 1,000 or more, and the  entries grew from an average of 30 cars entered to 45 or 50, making it difficult to run all the races as entries grew.

“It was just a great idea, but it turned out to be too much for us,” said McDonald, “We knew we couldn’t continue using a public road.  We were finding it really hard to contain the crowds, and people started to get a little  cranky about us blocking off their access to the lakes.”

The group started to look into leasing or purchasing 35 acres in the area to create a permanent track, but unfortunately the cost involved for such a venture came in at almost $500,000.

“We just had to shut it down,” said McDonald, “We were all having such a great time, the cars were getting wild, but they weren’t the issue, it was the liability and trying to contain the crowd behind the fence.

“We sure had great times though. We’d spend Sunday morning at my Mom and Dads making submarine sandwiches to sell at the drag strip.  We could never make enough submarine sandwiches.

“Most of the time we had our meetings in the Kershaw’s basement, and we also put on a few dances in the community to keep things going. The dances were huge, bringing people in from out of town, who then spent the night in Barriere and bought their fuel here as well.”

He tells the drag races were a “no alcohol allowed” event – anyone who turned up with booze had their alcohol confiscated by bouncer Jack Patterson.

“We were pretty lucky with the weather as well, only closed down once when we were rained out.”

Who were some of the drivers?   Brian Gunderson from Vinsulla with his ‘Falcon’, John Goforth of McLure and his black Anglia, Willie Matthews, Dr. Rick Rice with his red Prefect, Perry Roberts with his ‘67 Chevelle, Ed Terry with his ‘67 Camaro, Tim Patterson with a ‘68 Nova, Ray McDonald with a ‘67 Mustang coupe, Gary Gammell with a ‘68 Oldsmobile 442, Bobby Roy with his Beaumont SD, Jock Sorenson from Clearwater with a ‘68 Dodge Dart and Will Capostinsky with an Olds Cutlass.  There was also JP Dushane from Kamloops with his ‘65 Chevelle called ‘The Pink Elephant’ that clocked 119 miles per hour on the Barriere drag strip.

John Goforth of McLure with his Anglia at the 1975 drag races in Barriere.

McDonald himself won on the quarter mile with a speed of 108.

Unfortunately, the huge success of the drag races was the downfall of the event; the cars getting to be so powerful and the lack of liability insurance was just too much.  The group made the decision to close the races down in the fall of 1976.

“When we disbanded we paid for a PA system at the Elementary School and set up a bursary at the high school for awhile for any students going into mechanical.  Then we dispensed the balance of the funds between members kids for school.”

“It was good clean fun, and I miss those races big time,” said McDonald, “I miss it something terrible.”

A video taken in 1976 outside Barriere Secondary and posted on YouTube by McDonald’s daughter Suzanne, features an interview by CFJC TV with Ray McDonald on race day.  The second half of the video, which is approximately 10 minutes long, shows many of the  cars racing and the huge crowd that attended the event. Go to:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDhZrTEmURk&sns=fb

You can also find a number of photos from some of the race days by going to Facebook: Canadian Drag Racing History –  then search for Barriere.

Neil Kenney (right) driving B & K Racing’s 440-powered Valiant Attempt versus Sweet and Sour at a 1975 quarter mile race in Barriere.