Location: Quebec City, QC (née Val Bélair, QC and Val-St-Michel, QC)
Track: 1/3-mile semi-banked oval
Also Known As: Autodrome de Quebec, Quebec Modern Speedway
# of ACT Races Held: 19 (ACT Pro Stock Tour/NASCAR North)
Most Wins: Jean-Paul Cabana, 6
A Brief History of Autodrome Val Bélair
Autodrome Val Bélair, then known as Quebec Modern Speedway, first opened its doors on July 19, 1961. At the time, the only track in the Quebec City area was the clay oval Autodrome Ste-Thérèse-de-Lisieux. In response to pleas from many fans and competitors for an asphalt track, local race team owner Omar Briére borrowed some money and oversaw construction of the new 1/3-mile asphalt oval in just eight weeks. Under Briére’s ownership, the track raced three days a week – oval racing on Wednesdays and Saturdays followed by Figure-8 racing on Sunday. Innovative features such as covered grandstands and seat warmers also allowed him to extend racing season all the way to the end of October.
In 1967, a group that included Réné Bussières, Claude Rodrigue, Roland Bernier, and Serge Lapointe purchased the speedway. (Bernier and Lapointe would leave the ownership group in 1969, though Lapointe would go on to serve as the track’s General Manager.) Under their guidance, the track added regular stunt shows that featured noted daredevils such as Jose Canuc’s Hell Drivers motorcycle group. Bussiéres also solved an ongoing rivalry with the Ste-Thérèse-de-Lisieux track in one of the most ingenious ways ever: after several failed attempts to form a cooperative partnership, he bought the track himself in 1970, then sold it to a trucking company that used the land for parking vehicles.
Montreal auto racing promoter André Beaudry bought the track in 1973 and changed the name to Autodrome du Quebec. After leaving the business for unknown reasons following the 1977 season, Michel Samson assumed ownership. At some point during this time (exact date unknown, the track’s name was changed again to Autodrome de Val Bélair to reflect the municipality it was physically located in. (Val Bélair would be officially annexed by Quebec City in 2002.) All the while, the track continued to host the outstanding racing it had become known for, with fans getting to watch local stars such as Denis Giroux, Langis Caron, Félix Bélanger, Jean-Paul Cabana, and Gaston Deblois compete on a regular basis. Fans were also introduced to Americans such as Robbie Crouch, Beaver Dragon, Dick McCabe, and Mike Barry when the track became part of the Northern NASCAR Circuit.
However, the track’s success would soon come to an abrupt halt. Faced with a rapidly growing population and mounting pressure from those citizens to repurpose the area, the track was closed following the 1987 season to make way for real estate development. Today, 188 residential houses cover the site where Autodrome de Val Bélair once thrived.
Random Track Fact: A fictionalized version of the track appears in Quebec author Jacques Côté’s 2000 crime novel Nébulosité croissante en fin de journée (It Gets Cloudier Late in the Day). Set in 1976, the book’s villain watches and takes part in demolition races at Autodrome Val-St-Michel (the real-life speedway was located in the then-municipality of Val-St-Michel, which merged with Bélair in 1974 to form Val Bélair). In one chapter, it specifically mentions him watching Langis Caron take on Jean-Paul Cabana.
ACT at Autodrome Val Bélair
Val Bélair was always where the biggest stars in the region came to race, and the names got even bigger when the track was added to the inaugural NASCAR North Tour schedule in 1979. The fledgling tour made its first visit to the future Quebec City neighborhood on August 11, 1979 in a race won by Robbie Crouch; local hero Langis Caron took the rematch on September 9 of the same year.
NASCAR North would race a total of 16 times at the track between 1979 and 1985, usually holding two or three events a year at the speedway. When ACT was officially formed in 1986, the track retained its prominent role on the schedule with two events that year. The track’s final year saw a single ACT event – the Super Molson 200 on July 18, 1987. Crouch would win that event, giving him three total wins at the track and putting a fitting bookend on ACT/NASCAR North’s history there.
In between, racers from both sides of the border would become household names. St. Constant, QC’s Jean-Paul Cabana quickly established himself as the man to beat on his home turf with six wins, taking two each in 1981, 1982, and 1984. But Kennebunkport, ME’s Dick McCabe wasn’t fare behind with five wins on the 1/3-mile oval. Barry, Dragon, and Jamie Aube also took home winner’s trophies.
Random ACT Fact: With the exception of the Super Molson 200, every other ACT/NASCAR North event at Autodrome Val Bélair was 100 laps – and no event was ever shortened due to rain, meaning exactly 2,000 laps were run at the speedway.
ACT’s Future at Autodrome Val Bélair
With the track now having been closed for 31 years, Val Bélair now only exists in the memories, photos, and stories of the people who were there. Fittingly, the track closed the same year as Vermont’s Catamount Stadium and for many of the same reasons. In both cases, those who raced and attended are the ones who will keep the memories alive for future generations.
(Note: Much of the historical information in this article was found at http://www.stockcarquebec.com/pistes/valbelairhistorique.htm. We thank them for their efforts in recording the history of Autodrome Val Belair.)