Laura-Ashley Grant

Mother-daughter team return to the track

Western Speedway racing legend Lois-Pollard Grant gets back in the game with a new car and a new co-driver.

For some, the only way to get the adrenaline flowing is to sky dive out of a plane, or affix themselves to the side of an abyssal cliff.

Others, however, such as Sooke racing veteran Lois Pollard-Grant, and her daughter, Laura-Ashley Grant, prefer a mix of high-speed and octane for their adrenaline rush.

The Grants are what you’d call true gear heads – they love the sound of an engine and the rushing air over a race car’s fibreglass body. And starting next year, the duo will be racing in their all-new black and pink No. 97 Toyota mini-series race car.

“Some people do skydiving or other thrill-seeking things, we race cars. You still get that same rush of adrenaline before and after,” Grant said.

“When you’re in the car going around a track, you don’t really think about it, you just do it. The adrenaline just carries you through.”

The two plan on splitting the duties when out on the track, which is why they’re still trying to fine-tune the current car for next year.

Grant’s older ride, a Ford, is too quick for the mini class, which is why she raced it in the United States. It can loop the entire Western Speedway track in 16 seconds, whereas the Toyota can do it in 19.

Unlike the Toyota, which has a stock rear-wheel-drive Corolla chassis, the Ford is also custom-built from the ground up. Lighter and with more power, it’s little wonder why it’s so quick.

Not that the Toyota is a slouch by any means. Its carbureted 2.0-litre 3T-C four-cylinder engine pumps out around 180 horsepower (over the stock 65 hp) — with no turbocharger or forced-induction whatsoever; just good old-fashioned tuning and know-how. It also redlines at 8,000 RPM, which means it will utilize every horse in the stable to bring in the flag.

Ashley already looks forward to it. Already a fan of a tuned and fairly-rare Acura GSR, she is a fan of Japanese imports and a big gear head in her own right.

Having raced on Wednesday nights in the front-wheel-drive hornet division at Western, she said she needs some practice with a rear-wheel-drive race car, as opposed to a front-wheel-drive car.

“I’m so used to the FWD pulling me off the corners, now with RWD I’ll have to be more careful with the throttle,” she said.

She’s certainly got one of the best mentors around. Grant has raced cars for the last 25 years in just about every class out there; from stock cars, to bombers, to claimers and minis. Four years ago, she took home two championships in a row, making her a Western Speedway legend.

Grant says what kept her in the sport is her love of competition and the camaraderie between the drivers.

“The first time when I got into racing, all the guys were so supportive,” she said.

“They came over giving me tips, because I had never been around a track before. It was a bit overwhelming, because when you’re out there, ‘do this, do that’ –  I thought, my gosh, how am I going to be able to do this’ – my dad’s words before I went out on the track were, ‘you’ll figure it out. Listen to what everyone says, but you will figure it out yourself.’”

It wasn’t until four years ago when she took a break from racing altogether, when her husband, George Grant, was dealing with kidney cancer.

Fortunately, the disease went into remission, allowing the family to get back to doing what they love doing most. Pollard and Grant even met on a racetrack.

“He was racing in the modified division at the time and he kept pitting next to me in order to meet me, so we finally got together and the rest is history,” she said, adding that while he eventually retired from driving, he remained on board as her crew chief.

Going down to the track, whether to be there to race or watch a race, it’s just a Grant family thing – it’s a chance to get together on race nights and have fun.

The lineage of racing cars goes even deeper for Grant. Her brother down in North Carolina has been involved with NASCAR for many years, having worked for racing legends such as Richard (The King) Petty, and Richard Childress.

With the final race of the year coming up on Sept. 12 at Western Speedway, Grant, who will be racing the new car alone this time, said she’s very much looking forward to next year’s racing season, which begins in May.

She and her daughter may head back to the United States next year, though that depends on overall cost and how things go with the race cars.

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