Mike Grute’s father Morris first sparked his 7 year old son’s interest in auto racing when he began taking him to watch the races at Western Speedway in 1961. A highlight of that season for Mike was the inaugural running of the “Daffodil Cup” race on the Labour Day weekend with a crowd so large that some spectators had to be accommodated on the backstretch rocks.
Father and son attending Western’s races continued throughout Mike’s childhood with him also getting to see a car and crew close up when Fred Best’s Dodge coupe stockcar came to the family home for some rollbar welding by Morris. Other racecars showed up as well which helped fuel Mike’s desire to one day build and drive his own cars.
In 1971, Mike and his Dad bought an old 1956 Ford “Figure 8” car which they cut the rollcage out of and removed the engine from, installing both in another ’56 Ford which they entered in Western’s “Stockcar” class. With support and advice from fellow drivers and crews, Mike soon became a consistent finisher in the top 15.
The 1972 season saw Mike, Morris and crew building another 1956 Ford, this one from scratch which included putting the engine together and also resulted in their building a 2nd car for Ron Fleet. Mike again ran with the top cars and the following season began to qualify for trophy dashes and fast heats which culminated in Mike finishing 9th in points and winning “Best Looking Stockcar” for 1973. This scenario repeated itself the following year with Mike stepping up to 7th in season-end points. A preseason decision by the “Vancouver Island Track Racing Association” (VITRA) to cancel the Stockcar class and allow existing cars to move up due to a low Super Stock car count resulted in Mike selling his car.
Mike then took an assistant starter’s position, but halfway through the 1975 season the “race driving bug” bit him again and he bought Larry Christie’s 1965 Chevelle Super Stock which he ran for the remainder of that year. Over the winter they worked to improve it, racing most of the ’76 season and reaching as high as 8th in the standings until a blown engine ended their year. Fabricating a 1970 Chevelle from the ground up for 1977 turned out to be a great learning experience with Mike and crew with them racing it again in ’78. The same car with a ’74 Camaro body swap for 1979 repeated last year’s performance but with the passing of his Dad in August, racing was no longer the same for Mike with Morris having been such an important part of his racing life. They did run the car the next season with Mike selling it at the end of the year and taking a break from racing but still attending the track as a spectator.
In the fall of 1982 Mike got very interested in the “Mini Stock” class and, along with his friend Roy, began attending meetings and assisting with rule changes. They decided to build a Volkswagen “beetle” which they ran the following season, winning not only the “Mini Stock Championship”, “Best Looking Mini Stock” and setting the class track record, but the “Billy Foster Memorial” trophy which for Mike was an extremely proud moment.
In 1984 Mike and Roy returned with the same car, again capturing the #1 spot in points. At season’s end, Mike made the extremely difficult decision to finally “hang up his helmet” for good and sell the car, thus ending his driving career in local auto racing.