Moving from his native province of Manitoba as a young man in 1938, Andy Cottyn brought with him a deep and abiding love of auto racing, one which would have far-reaching effects that would extend into the next century.
Settling in Langford, Andy attended the races at nearby“Langford Speedway”until the track was closed in 1950. Three brothers named “Shearing” then built a track just north of Duncan which saw racing from 1952 until late 1954. A self-employed logger by trade, Andy saw an opportunity which was also encouraged by others including neighbours Jack Spalding and Jim Haslam about building a new local track. At one point, Jack told Andy that he would “be a millionaire” with scores of people flocking to his new speedway. Having only a vision and very little money, Andy sold his logging equipment in addition to borrowing money from the bank and his brother George and purchased a 62 acre tract of land off Millstream Road. With help from his son George, friends and neighbours, Andy constructed a 3/8” mile dirt oval with grandstands capable of holding 3,500 fans and a parking lot that accommodated approximately 2,000 cars.
The first race was held on May 22nd of 1954 with 2,700 fans attending a “Big Car” (Sprint car) meet. The following Saturday, Stockcars took to the track in front of a crowd of 1,500. The total paid attendance for the 17 events held that first season was 16,745. The opening race of 1955 drew a record crowd of over 3,000 with the number of events rising to 19 and a total attendance of 23,512.
Andy made improvements for the start of the 1956 season which included an enlarged and improved parking lot, the painting of the grandstands and the building of a 4 foot wall on the inside of the track’s grandstand stretch. Following an opening day crowd of 2,300, another record was set on May 22nd when 3,400 fans filled the stands. Total events that year rose to 21 with attendance at 36,029. 1957’s major change was the paving of the track with the size being reduced from 3/8ths to 4/10ths of a mile. The new surface was 40 ft. wide down the straightaways and 60 ft. wide through the turns. The June 1st inaugural races saw no fewer than 18 Stockcars break the old “dirt” track record.
Andy became a racecar owner in 1959 when he ran the #16 Stockcar sponsored by “MacNutt’s Grocery” and driven by Bill Smith. Andy got behind the wheel himself at various times to compete in special “crash elimination” races.
Subsequent seasons saw attendance figures continue to rise with Andy adding more improvements including the paving and improved lighting of the parking lot plus two additional sections of grandstands. In September of 1961, an all-time record crowd of over 8,000 saw the first running of the Geoff Vantreight-sponsored “Daffodil Cup” which forced the seating some of the vast overflow crowd on the rocks behind the track’s backstretch.
Following the end of the 1965 season, Andy severed his sanctioning contract with the “Vancouver Island Track Racing Association” (VITRA) and the “Victoria Auto Racing Association” (VARA) was formed at Western with VITRA running their races at Nanaimo’s “Grandview Bowl”. Towards the end of the season, a group of Victoria businessmen approached Andy with an offer to purchase the track which he accepted and “Western Speedway (1966) Ltd.”was formed. Andy held shares in the new company and was also on it’s “Board of Directors”.
He played a major role in the erection of the track’s new steel grandstands in the late 1970’s with the project’s cost of $250,000.00 making it at that time, one of the most ambitious privately-financed undertakings in Vancouver Island sports history. The new structure was dedicated to Andy at the 1979 season-opening race meet.
Andy Cottyn passed away in 1998, leaving the track he had carved out of the Langford wilderness so many years ago as his enduring legacy to Vancouver Island auto racing.
In 2018, Western Speedway was recognized by the BC Government as a designated tourist “Stop of Interest” with the erection of a sign behind the grandstands. Andy would have been proud!