As was often the case back in the 1950’s and ’60’s, car clubs looked to auto racing as a fairly safe (and legal) outlet for their “need for speed” and the Victoria “Checkmates” club, started by Fred Best and four of his friends in the early 1960’s, was no exception. The boys decided to run a car in the 1964 “Jalopy” class at Western Speedway and, joining the “Vancouver Island Track Racing Association” (VITRA), they chose Fred’s own daily transportation, a 1951 Dodge 4 door sedan as their car and elected him as it’s driver. Fred quickly showed his ability at the wheel of the green #88 car, one of only three Chrysler products in an over 40 car field of mainly 1949 to 1953 Fords. His steady driving style and consistent race finishes against the numerous Fords earned him 7th place in the season end points standings and Jalopy “Rookie of the Year” honours with the Checkmates pit members being awarded “Best Looking Crew”.
A 2 door version of the previous year’s racer carrying the #7 carried Fred to the 7th Jalopy race meet of 1965 when a heat race tangle with Dick Miller’s ’49 Ford resulted in a multiple rollover that ended it’s racing days. Fred and crew replaced it with a smaller Dodge “business” coupe, a body style they would use for rest of Fred’s Jalopy and “Stockcar” driving years.
Western Speedway owner Andy Cottyn’s cancellation of his sanctioning agreement with VITRA meant the club suddenly had no track to race on except Nanaimo’s “Grandview Bowl”. Along with their fellow VITRA Jalopy competitors, Fred and crew hauled their business coupe-bodied #12 Dodge up to the Hub City track until later that season when a group of Victoria businessmen purchased Western Speedway from Andy.
The “Jalopy” classification was dropped for the 1967 season and replaced with “Stockcar”. Fred and crew ran this year’s #12 Dodge at both Western and Nanaimo with Fred guiding the little coupe to 7th place in the points race.
Deciding it was time to move up to a faster class, Fred (who was also VITRA Vice President this year) and crew purchased an “A” class open wheel “Modified” roadster from Nanaimo’s Ray Pottinger. With an eye to running it in the 3 track “InterCity” circuit and some “Canadian American Modified Racing Association” (CAMRA) races, Fred and crew prepared the car for the 1968 season. But it would be a frustrating 1st year for them in the new class. Constant mechanical failures plagued their new car which only eased later in the season, allowing Fred to finish more races and record some good finishes including a 5th place in that year’s “Daffodil Cup”. Fred also tried his hand at sportscar racing on Western’s new 1 mile road course and at Westwood’s mainland track, driving a yellow 1967 Chevy Camaro which he and Bob Low also entered in the “Vancouver Island Road Rally” which they won. Not wanting a repeat performance of their exasperating first season as open wheel racers, the #12 crew tore their car apart to the last nut and bolt and totally rebuilt it for the 1969 season. Fred also moved up to the Presidency of VITRA this year.
In addition to driving the Modified, Fred took an Assistant Starter’s position at Western for the 1970 season. During a race meet “hot lap” session at Western, the throttle stuck wide open on the “12” car which shot Fred and the car off the end of the grandstand stretch and into the rocks and trees off the 1st turn. Following a hospital stay, Fred finished his recovery at home. The car was a write-off and Fred’s driving career came to an end. But his involvement in racing did not. He served two more terms as VITRA President in 1974 and 1975 and also filled the track’s ”Chief Steward” position during those two seasons.
Now in retirement, Fred has enjoyed curling, fishing, hunting and golf.