Racer wants speedway reopened

Nanaimo woman leads campaign to reopen Cassidy Speedway.

Mona-Lisa Carstensen is leading a campaign to reopen the Cassidy Speedway

Mona-Lisa Carstensen is leading a campaign to reopen the Cassidy Speedway

Mona-Lisa Carstensen longs to hear the rumble of engines at the Cassidy Speedway again.

The Nanaimo resident is passionate about racing and is leading a campaign to reopen the speedway, but needs help to make her vision a reality.

“All I want to do is race,” she said, adding travelling to other Island locations can be an obstacle for some competitors.

She’s been discussing her idea with some of the land shareholders and has created a Facebook page, accessible through her website, www.viperformance.ca, where residents can vote whether they want the speedway back.

However, she wants to reach a broader audience. Carstensen wants to create a survey and send it to every household in Nanaimo. She’s looking for volunteers to help raise funds or sponsors for the cost of printing and mailing the survey to residents.

The speedway operated on Spruston Road until 1999 when it was shut down for not complying with Regional District of Nanaimo bylaws.

Paul Thorkelsson, RDN general manager of development services, said the land is zoned as Rural 9, permitting uses including agriculture, home-based businesses and residential. The RDN doesn’t have existing zoning bylaws that would accommodate a speedway or an auto racing zone.

Thorkelsson said the land would need to be rezoned for specific use. If the landowners applied to have a bylaw change it would go through a process that includes public consultation and a hearing.

Nearly a decade ago the owners applied to have the land rezoned but the application was denied by the RDN board. Thorkelsson said the historical documents show a “pretty clear” local opposition to rezoning the land. However, he added there were also many in support of the project.

Carstensen said the results of her online poll show support to have the track re-opened. She encourages people to contact her whether they are in support or opposition to the speedway so she can understand the issues.

She said some people may have noise concerns but race cars can now be fitted with mufflers to dampen the roar. Others have contacted her, concerned opening the speedway would detract from established tracks in Victoria, Courtenay and Port Hardy.

However, she said reopening Cassidy would enhance racing and could be incorporated into an Island circuit.

“There is no doubt people want to race,” said Gordon MacKay, track executive of the North Island Timing Association. “Kids grow up, they watch TV, they see race cars and they go ‘oh I want to do that’ and it gives them an opportunity here.”

MacKay, from Nanaimo, said he believes it won’t take much money to reopen the Cassidy Speedway, but it will take several volunteers.

“If people are serious about racing again they’ll pull it together –  there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “The grounds are still here, it’s messy … Scotch broom has overgrown everything, but a couple of pieces of equipment in here and you will hardly even know this place was shut down.”

For more information or to volunteer, please contact Carstensen at 250-802-56