Spectators gather, cold beers in hand and the engines roar to life. Brave warriors and their fine metal steeds line up and the flag drops. Let the carnage begin! There’s the acrid smell of grease and stinking exhaust, the sequel of tires, the sickening sound of tearing metal followed by shrieks of joy from the excited crowd. The air is electric!
Ancient autos, once someone’s pride and joy are now unrecognizable franken-cars, perfectly at home in the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. They duke it out gladiator style, a fight to the death on four wheels. Vroom! Screeech! Crash! It’s carmageddon, cheap excitement with a hillbilly attitude, a giant jacked up truck load of low brow fun for the whole family. Welcome to the figure-eight racetrack…OF FEAR! They’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!
But it’s all over now. The crowds are gone and the track is silent. Another one bits the dust.
The location here is Southern Alberta. The site, a former racetrack in business from the late 1990s until sometime in the 2000s (most people we spoke with state it closed in 2002 or 2003, some said as late as 2008 – see the comments section). BIGDoer.com visited the site with permission, by the way.
In auto racing, the figure-eight form is not that odd, but that this one is so incredibly tight and small and that it’s dedicated and not incorporated into a larger racing oval, is indeed strange. It’s a very specialized racing venue. The acronym F.E.A.R is used to describe it – Figure Eight Auto Racing. Fear is also what most drivers felt, no doubt, upon seeing what they were up against. Officially the track was called “World of F.E.A.R”.
The race winner was not determined by who was the fastest but rather who survived. Drivers would do their best to disable the cars of opponents by smashing into them, all the while trying to avoid the same happening to them. It was a smash-up derby with an element of speed. You could hit and be hit anywhere on the track, but the middle X where the routes converged momentarily, was where most of the damage happened. The layout made it dangerous. When your ride died, or could not longer move, you were out of the game.
Drivers must have taken a beating. Bruises, abrasions, of course, rattled brains, must have been all to common.
Based on old photos of the place, it looks like the track was often wet-down which added to the excitement. Go too fast and spin out!
Many of the cars participating at an event would be older full-sized body-on-frame American models from the 1980s and earlier. They also ran separate races for small car and also trucks. Vehicles would be kept fairly stock but were all modified in regards to safety (addition of roll bars, removal of glass, etc). They’d often be painted up rather garishly. Since vehicles would often be write-offs by race end, most were old worn out beaters already destined for the scrap yard, but temporarily diverted to the track for a final hurrah.
In addition to figure-eight racing, mud bogs and even traditional style demolition derby events were held here. Looking at old photos it seems the venue was reasonably well patronized. Drivers, of course, were all amateurs (not like figure-eight racing is real career choice), mostly local (presumably) and generally of…well…the redneck persuasion.
The racetrack had its own website, a Geocities-esque special if I ever saw one. It was gaudy and amateurish with lots of bright colours, flashing lights and animated gifs. So 90s!
Some years after closing, an attempt was made to revive the business with the addition of a drag-strip. Some grading work was done, but nothing’s really happened for the last half dozen years or so. Funding, no doubt, is the big problem. For the time being, the property is in limbo.
On entering the site, we’re immediately struck by just how small and tight the figure-eight track is. It’s so tiny and narrow, with some modest banking on the curves. For seating there is one bleacher with space for perhaps a couple hundred. In behind is a small concession building, the “Pit Stop” and the track offices. Beside it is portable trailer, which looks to be a residence of sorts. It was kinda’ suggested it was a bunk house for visiting drivers. It looks it.
Our back is the remains of an old truck camper and further down, a large trailer. The latter looks like it’s been here for some time and may have been where the track owners or site-custodian lived.
As is typical, there is lots of junk scattered about. Many, many helmets, go figure (eight). The grass has taken over and is knee deep in places. The track surface still seems in pretty good condition. No signs of the mud-bog pit were seen. Perhaps it was filled in or we simply missed it? The recent (or fairly recent) drag-strip prep work, recall it was begun but soon aborted, can be seen to the north.
Small town racetracks were once reasonably common in Western Canada post World War Two. Every region had one it seems. This author can think of many and in the 1980s often attended racing events in Cranbrook BC (yes, at times, Chris has good ol’ boy tendencies) – Cranbrook International Speedway, aka Echo Field, closed sometime in the 2000s.
Most speedways, raceways, or racetracks (pick your favourite term) were shut down in the 1990s and 2000s, a victim of changing demographics, although I’m sure other factors were in play too. Getting insurance must have been a big costly issue – speaking of which, for safety, there used to be a catch net at this facility, seen in old photos, in between the track and stands. Good to keep flying parts from taking out spectators. It’s bad for business you know.
We leave, reluctantly of course, and a bit melancholy. A place like this, a venue of fun and excitement and so much noise, now eerily quiet and forgotten, is enough to make anyone reflect I guess.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: November, 2015.
Location: Southern Alberta.
This site is on private land and BIGDoer.com visited with permission.