PORT McNEILL—It should be no surprise that Otto Schulte proved a quick study on the eighth-mile dragstrip at Port McNeill Airport last weekend. After all, quick is a way of life for one of B.C.’s top drag racers.
Making his first appearance in the Rumble on the Runway series — and racing for the first time at the eighth-mile distance — Schulte swept the Super-Pro class with wins Saturday and Sunday in the first two of six days scheduled at the airport this summer.
“It’s way harder to race an eighth-mile,” said Schulte, the Black Creek driver who won his 10th career drag title last summer by claiming the Canada West Doorslammers Association title at the quarter-mile Ashcroft and Mission Speedway tracks. “In the quarter, you’ve got more time to make decisions. In the eighth, there’s no separation between the cars. It’s over before it starts.”
That will not keep Schulte from returning to Port McNeill. He has vowed to return with his high-powered Ford Falcon for each of the next two race weekends in the North Island Timing Association’s Rumble on the Runway series — one each in July and August.
Part of the reason is the closure of Mission Speedway, which recently underwent a resurfacing that proved unusable for racing. Additional surfacing repairs will keep it closed until at least August and wipe out the 2014 season.
Mission’s loss, however, has proved to be a boon for NITA, which enjoyed it’s largest turnout of drivers — more than 65 — and spectators in its seven seasons of converting the airstrip into a temporary dragstrip for racing.
“This is the best weekend we’ve ever had,” said Trevor Walton of Port McNeill. “It was the toughest field by far. Great racing; every finish was close.”
Schulte was the only double winner with his Super-Pro sweep. In the Pro Class Gord McKay of Nanaimo won Saturday’s trophy and Jay White followed with a victory Sunday. In the Sportsman Class, Roger Hagerty claimed Saturday’s win and Ron Clarke won on Sunday.
Connie Howie of Courtenay, who began racing a dozen years ago in her family van, was the only driver to post a perfect reaction time — leaving the start line to the thousandth of a second from the moment the green light flashed.
Schulte, who has been racing since the 1980s, has competed along with his wife Leslie in their own racing team, and won last year’s Doorslammers title in a 1955 Chevy Belair owned by Brad Lance’s Lance Racing Team of Campbell River — a behemoth that runs eight-second turns at a quarter-mile and deploys a parachute to help it decelerate.
But his first look at the North Island’s modest, off-the-beaten-path airport strip left an impression.
“I’m impressed with how they can put together a race series like this at an airport, and do it with so few people,” said Schulte. “I mean, this isn’t a corporate event; how can a couple of guys just come up with an idea like this and make it happen — and pull off such a class act?”