Hank Nielson was 19 when he arrived from Nanaimo from Copenhagen, with his family in 1951, he had already completed his apprenticeship as a mechanic and machinist. Soon after arriving his father, brother, and he began operations of Mountain View Service which was a very successful business for many years. Encouraged by Ray Pottinger in 1952, Hank put his skills to work building a race car. He began racing at Shearing Speedway in 1953 on the newly paved track in a 1934 Ford. One night, in his first year racing after winning the B Main, he was invited to race the A Main which he proceeded to also win. Hank helped put Nanaimo on the racing map by winning a number of Main Events and Trophy Dashes against many Victoria drivers; some rather notable ones like Digger O’Dell, Dave Cooper, Ray Pottinger, and Dick Varley. Over the years Hank built his own engines and cars using his experience to improve performance, reliability, and finish races. The heating problems of the flathead Fords was solved when Hank and others removed fins from the dual water pumps restricting flow through the thermostat housing.
When the new Western Speedway dirt track opened in Langford, Hank raced at both tracks although within a year the Shearing track closed leaving Western as the place to race. It was here Hank discovered a weakness in the spindles on his 1934 Ford which caused him to loose a couple of wheels, the result was, a rollover that put him in hospital for two weeks with a severely broken arm. True to the racing spirit, he worked out the problem, then returned to race with a stronger truck axel. Hank was obviously fearless because that wasn’t his only rollover and he has several Rollover Crests to prove it. Some were sponsored by Bing Foster s Clothing and Speedway Motors.
The mid 50s saw Hank, Wally Illott, and a few others, devoting time and effort to successfully have the Grandview Bowl built in Nanaimo. They were instrumental in forming MIARA where Hank served on the Executive. In the mid 50s, on the newly paved Western Speedway with Phil Henry flagging, Hank held the first track record (at least for a short time since he was first to time in) Hank was narrowly edged out of first place in 1955 by Dick Varley in the 100 lap Championship Race at Western. He went on to win many races in both Nanaimo and Victoria as he drove several more of his 1934 Fords until 1960. The Ford retired that year but Hank didn’t, he drove, when needed for several drivers, including Nibbs Anderson, Ray Pottinger, and Red Burke. Hank could jump into a car when the driver was unable to make a race, drive the car competitively keeping them in the points and managed to win a few more races along the way. Retired now, Hank still lives in Nanaimo.
We take great pleasure inducting Hank Nielson into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall Of Fame.