The effort of many individuals, most notably Mission Raceway Park Community and Ed Coates Memorial Foundation, have combined to keep the Frank Hurt Senior Secondary School Drag Racing Program in operation.
After a theft at the British Columbia high school earlier in the year created an uncertain future for the Drag Racing Program, former drag racing team member Matt Wilkie reached out to the racing community for help.
“Anyone from Grade 9 and up can join our drag racing program,” says Manpreet Grewal, Automotive Technology Teacher at Frank Hurt Secondary School.
“It is a volunteer-run program in an inner-city school, so when I saw that the team’s tools and helmets were gone, I didn’t know what to do. We have no extra budget for the program, and we are not able to do any fundraising to replace the equipment during the pandemic.”
As a Frank Hurt Secondary School alumnus, Matt Wilkie has fond memories of being a part of the drag racing team. Wilkie credits the program for igniting his passion for cars early and leading him into a career as an automotive technician and subject matter expert for the Industry Training Authority BC (ITA BC) and consultant for the Automotive Retailers Association (ARA).
“These race teams are building future racers, technicians, parts people, and other automotive-related professionals,” says Wilkie.
Wilkie also credits the program for teaching students how to be responsible and drive safely.
“The high school racing program is needed to keep young people from racing on the streets and onto the track instead. It allows students to race safely with the help of the staff and crew at an amazing facility like Mission Raceway Park,” explains Wilkie.
Gary Klose, former Frank Hurt Education Assistant and 12-year volunteer of the Frank Hurt Secondary Drag Racing Program, agrees with Wilkie.
“If students want to drive the our 12-second car, they need to be responsible. If we learn a student is not being responsible, that student is not driving our car,” says Klose.
The program has experienced success in NHRA (National Hot Rod Racing Association) high school bracket racing and impacted the lives of many team members.
“In 2019, we took first place for bracket racing and qualified to compete in Kent, Washington, against Canadian teams from British Columbia and Alberta, and teams from Idaho and Oregon in the United States. We took second place and another team from British Columbia took first place,” says Klose.
“But I’ve lost count of how many of our race team members have gone into technical trades. It is the hands-on training in the program that sparks interest in so many students to get into the trades,” he continues.
Klose was the first person Wilkie contacted from the program to say that help was on its way. Unknown to Klose and Grewal, Wilkie had reached out to his friend Jessica Armstrong, Mission Raceway Park’s Social Media Manager, former NHRA tech person, and overall racing enthusiast. Armstrong reached out to Mission’s racing community, and the community responded with donations of tools, toolboxes, and cash.
May also contacted a race helmet manufacturer. The manufacturer’s representative shared the drag racing team’s story with Ian Coates, Vice President of Sales at Lordco Auto Parts, Western Canada’s largest distributor and retailer of aftermarket parts and accessories.
“When our team learned about the problem, we knew the Ed Coates Memorial Foundation (ECMF) could help in a big way and provide the drag racing team with everything they would need to race again. It is unfortunate when theft threatens the sustainability of a program with deep roots in the community and a reputation of providing young people with a safe and supervised setting to pursue their interests.
“On the positive side, these situations allow racing and automotive communities to come together and support the foundational elements that form our industry. We are happy to assist the Frank Hurt Secondary School Drag Racing Program to get back on the track. My family and I created the ECMF to honour our father and co-founder of Lordco Auto Parts after his passing in 2014. The foundation embodies his beliefs in giving back and creating educational opportunities within the automotive industry,” explains Coates.
The ECMF donated over $5,000 of equipment, including race helmets and tools.
“Our racing and automotive community really came together for these kids,” says Wilkie.
“When I got the call from Matt to meet at the school for the donations, I couldn’t believe it. “It was beyond my wildest dream. The way it came together, it gave me hope,” says Klose.
Luckily, the program has many supporters willing to give of their time, talent, and resources. The stolen race helmets, for example, were a gift to the program from Chris Fox, racing enthusiast and long-time program volunteer, who passed away in 2018.
“When Chris passed away, past graduates came to the funeral and said they wanted to continue where Chris left off. They made arrangements to get time off work to trailer the vehicles and to be there for the kids on the track, just like Chris had for them.”
“There is no way without the generosity of the community, the ECMF, and our volunteers that we could think of racing,” says Grewal.
The Frank Hurt Secondary School Drag Racing Program is looking forward to racing again in April 2022, thanks to the generosity and support of the racing community at Mission Raceway Park, the Ed Coates Memorial Foundation, and the program’s devoted volunteers.
About the Ed Coates Memorial Foundation
The Ed Coates Memorial Foundation (ECMF) was born through the drive and generosity of Ed Coates. He supported his local community of Maple Ridge, as well as other communities throughout British Columbia, through Lordco Auto Parts, the business he co-founded. The impact that Ed had was significant and unforgettable. The ECMF embodies these same principles that Ed lived by each day.
For more information, visit edcoatesfoundation.org.
About Lordco Parts Ltd.
Lordco Auto Parts is Canada’s largest privately held automotive parts distributor and Western Canada’s largest distributor and retailer of aftermarket parts and accessories. With over 85 retail locations, two machine shops, seven distribution centres, and more than 2,000 employees, Lordco delivers an exceptional customer experience. Visit Lordco.com for more information about Lordco Auto Parts’ products, services, or locations throughout British Columbia and Alberta.