Since the Race City Speedway closed in 2011, Calgary’s illegal street racing has seen a dramatic increase
If you know you know.
Whether you’re a part of the city’s underground racing scene or you happen to live around one of the city’s street racing hotspots, you’re probably aware that illegal street racing exists in our city.
Tabitha, who didn’t want her last name used, says she is often woken up by the sounds of street racing in Skyview near 128 Ave. NE, one of the city’s hotspots for weekend races.
“It wakes up my kids and it’s really frustrating,” she says, adding sometimes they go all night long or on weeknights, too.
That’s just one of the hotspots; Stoney Trail, Glenmore, 52 St. NE, and the new Tsuu T’ina Trail, and Barlow Trail are also popular street racing locations.
Why is this happening, anyway?
It’s a story as old as time — or at least as old as when Calgary’s Race City Speedway closed in 2011.
It’s been 10 years without the popular legal race destination, and illegal street racing has arguably gotten worse since its closure, says Chris Paavola. He’s the former president of Calgary Oval Racing Association and now the owner of Velocity Motorsports News.
“You could race on the drag strip for just $25,” Paavola reminisces about the Secret Street program.
Back then 100 to 200 cars would show up every Friday night to race one another in a safe and controlled environment.
“That’s what cut down on street racing the most,” he adds.
Does Calgary need another strip drag race facility?
Calgary police traffic Sgt. Brad Norman agrees.
When asked if a similar race facility would help cut down on the illegal street racing Calgary sees today, Norman said yes.
“It’s a controlled area; they have fire and EMS on standby. They have race officials that make sure the cars rotate and go,” he says, adding from a safety aspect, it would benefit the city to have another facility.
“Even though when we had Race City, you still had a lot of the racing in the industrial area.”
Norman says he witnesses the illegal racing on weekends and says it’s not just one area affected.
“If there’s a long enough stretch of road that they can either drift or line up and race. The industrial areas are where we see the main influx because there is especially less traffic and there are straight roads,” he says.
“I’ve seen cars lined up when I’m in my police vehicle, and they take off, but it’s happening everywhere. If they can have enough room to drift or race, they will.”
Taking a proactive approach.
“We’ll get there before they do and we’ll set up, you know, just parking there in some instances and they won’t go in while we’re there,” Norman explains, adding sometimes it’s a matter of education over enforcement.
Except when it’s not, and police take a harder approach when people’s lives are being put at risk.
“My concern is with the people that are very novice drivers, they lose control. These pedestrians and observers are going to be the ones that it won’t turn out well for. It’s not just that, but other drivers, pedestrians that aren’t even involved.”
They just need somewhere to go
Paavola says it would help if these drivers had somewhere to go. Currently, the closest street race-style facilities to Calgary are in Edmonton and Medicine Hat.
While the 16-corner 3.5 km RMM Road Course Carstairs Rocky Mountain Motorsports member track is opening in 2022 — it’s more likely to draw Lamborghinis and Ferraris. That’s because the membership is expected to cost upwards of $40,000 or more. An entry-level membership will cost $41,000, however, the website notes that the price may rise after construction has finished. On top of this, there will be annual dues set by the board of directors.
“A strip secret street style facility would help cut down on street racing more than anything else,” Paavola says, adding Edmonton’s race program is well-designed and affordable.
“There’s drag racing Friday nights, and you can even race the police on the drag strip and not go to jail,” he adds.
Showing off their cars
Norman believes a lot of the people drawn to illegal street racing just want to show off their cars.
“They spent a lot of money on the cars, they want to show it off … but to me, someone is going to be hurt or even worse,” he says, adding weekends are the busiest but it happens every night.
“There’s an older group of gentlemen that love showing their cars off. I’ve spoken with them. And they even say, you know, we come here and show off our engines and the work that we’ve done,” he says.
“Then they say it’s a younger crowd that comes and they spin their tires, and they do all this stuff. And it makes them look bad because they’re in the parking lot. They really don’t like the racing aspect either.”
Concerned residents can submit a traffic service request to the police that can lead to police monitoring an area.
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