As a resident of Langford since 1946, 2013 Pioneer award winner Jimmie Isacson could most certainly write a history book on the area. And that book would definitely include his memories of, and his participation in, local auto racing.
First attending Langford Speedway’s Saturday night “Big Car” races in the late 1940’s, Jimmie witnessed drivers including Gerry “the Jeep” Vantreight, Digger Caldwell and “the Little Man with the Big Cigar” Jack Spalding who drove races with a glowing cigar clenched tightly in his teeth! When racing later moved north to Shearing Speedway, Jimmie’s older brother Ed was one of the competitors in the Stockcar class, along with a 15 year-old rookie named Billy Foster. Andy Cottyn’s building of Western Speedway saw Jimmie spending time with Andy’s son George and also selling programs and watching brother Ed race with the likes of Dave Cooper, Phil Lambrick, Dick Willoughby, Dick Varley and many others. And due to the fact that the large neon sign advertising the track was later placed on property owned by Jimmie’s parents, the Isacson family regularly received free tickets, assuring their continued interest in racing.
In 1962, Jimmie started a shipwright’s apprenticeship at Victoria’s “Yarrows” shipyard. A lengthy worker’s strike there in 1963 turned out to have a silver lining as Jimmie got the opportunity to use his metal fabrication skills assisting his friend Grant King in the building of 4 offset/upright-style Sprintcars in a shop owned by Geoff Vantreight on Tyndall Avenue in Gordon Head. One of the cars was for Geoff and his driver, Al Smith and Jimmie subsequently became the towcar driver for the new yellow “Vantreight Daffodil Special”, transporting it to races throughout the Pacific Northwest on the CAMRA circuit where Al set new track records and scored both wins and good finishes during the 1964 season.
With the formation of the “Victoria Auto Racing Association” (VARA) in 1966, Jimmie served as the club’s Awards Coordinator and also as a Safety Man. The following season he built a 1953 Chevy to compete in the Stockcar class with his younger brother Fred as driver. Along with many good placings, Fred won the Stockcar Championship race and finished 14th in the season-end points standings. Starting out the following season with the same car and finding only limited success, Jimmy put together a newer ’55 Chevy with Fred setting a new track record on the car’s first appearance on July 5th. Good results kept coming for the rest of that year and Jimmie and Fred finished 8th in points. Selling the car at the end of the season, Jimmie stepped away from racing for a time but did construct a replica Sprintcar for his stepson Lorne to drive in Soapbox Derby competition with which they won the championship. In 1988, he fielded a Firebird Super Stock with his nephew Gary at the wheel which they also ran the following season.
Today, in addition to attending certain races at Western, Jimmie also makes regular trips to the North Island which include taking in the Sprintcar races at Saratoga Speedway.