“My interest in auto racing began as a spectator and goes back to Duncan at a track called “Shearing Speedway”. I believe that I was still going to high school at the time,” says former Nanaimo racer, Wally Ilott.
Five years and a Chartered Accountant’s degree later, Wally was immersed in the sport. In 1956, Wally joined the “Mid Island Auto Racing Association” (MIARA) as a crew member on Red Burke’s #10 stockcar. Later that same year, fellow racer Nibbs Anderson introduced Wally to Bob Ibbotson (later to become Wally’s brother-in-law), a machinist. “With Bob’s expertise and Cowie Machine’s sponsorship, my #17 car was born”, Wally recalled. On September 1, 1956, he ran his first race on Western Speedway’s dirt track in Victoria.
Throughout his racing years, Wally was a driver, a pit boss, a starter, both a safety and a technical committee member, as well as an active participant in promoting the construction of Nanaimo’s “Grandview Bowl” track plus serving as MIARA President in both 1959 and 1968. Being a Chartered Accountant was a perfect fit for Wally to assume responsibility for all of the club’s financial affairs over these years, and he volunteered his services in this area until 1969.
If you ask Wally he will tell you that he wasn’t much of a driver, just a guy who loved the thrill and skill of the ride and being on the track. His closest brush with a trophy was in May of 1958 when he came 4th in the main event, finishing closely behind Ray Pottinger, Digger O’Dell, and Bill Temple. His wife Fay however, holds a first place trophy for a ladies’ “Powder Puff” race. Perhaps Wally’s 15 seconds of fame came in May of the previous year when he made the headlines in several Vancouver Island newspapers: “Ilott uninjured in Speedway Spill”. Driving before a crowd of 2100, Wally did a double end-over-end flip down the backstretch in the third heat at Western Speedway and recalls Phil Hendry pulling him out of the car. As the headline stated, Wally was uninjured, but the car took a beating. With assistance from Harry Roberts of “Paramount Autobody”, the frame was straightened and Wally and Bob Ibbotson rebuilt the car. Some time later, a new “17” car was built. “We got the frame for free and paid $5 dollars for the battery” says Wally. Selling the car later on did not stop his enthusiasm for the sport and by invitation he began driving main events for Art Clarck and later drove John Muckle’s car as well.
His family also have their memories of Wally’s racing days. Fay’s parents were avid fans who attended all the races while Wally’s parents attended only one race in which their son missed a turn due to broken steering and drove straight off the end of the race track. Once again he was uninjured. Wally and Fay’s children have fond memories of getting French fries from the concession and circling the track in the backseat of their Dad’s 1965 red Mustang, sitting alongside the pretty trophy girls after Main events.
“In my view, my contribution to the club came mainly from my financial and administrative services” says Ilott. This, in fact, seems to be a significant statement. Wally was awarded “Sportsman Of The Year” in 1965 and a special “Appreciation” award in 1968 plus a lifetime MIARA membership in 1969. Furthermore, during Wally’s term as MIARA President in ’68, the club initiated a city-wide children’s “Easter Egg Hunt” which was a Nanaimo family tradition for many years to come.