Ban on leaded fuel could kill drag racing in Canada

The Government of Canada is going to kill drag racing in this country, industry experts predict. The pending decision to implement a total and permanent ban on the use of leaded fuels for competition purposes, effective Jan. 1, 2009, will force tracks such as Grand Bend Motorplex and St. Thomas Dragway to close, say their owners.

The ban won't, however, affect stock car racing as that industry saw this coming almost 20 years ago and has changed over for the most part to unleaded fuels.

But drag racing is definitely in trouble.

"If the ban happens, professional drag racing in Canada is over, immediately, completely and forever," said Dennis Smith, with Atchison Racing in London. Rob Atchison is a three-time IHRA alcohol funny car champion. This isn't the same as the challenges we've faced in the past. This time, they're dropping the 'Big One,' " Smith said.

Paul Spriet, who operates Grand Bend Motorplex, said 40 per cent of his track's income comes from the IHRA national event in June and then there are the dollars the North American touring series brings to area businesses. The Grand Bend event requires hotel rooms as far away as London and Sarnia.

The IHRA Knoll Gas Nitro Jam Series makes two other appearances in Canada each year, at Toronto Motorsports Park near Cayuga and at Castrol Raceway near Edmonton.

Spriet said the government has said there'll be no exceptions for international events.

"It's interesting that only 1.5 per cent of the consumption of leaded gas is by race cars, the other 98.5 per cent is used by the aviation industry," he said.

"I can only speak from the drag racing perspective, but the negative impact is huge.

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