Victoria developer inducted into racing hall of fame

Stan Sipos had another life.

A much faster one.

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The Victoria developer and president of Cielo Properties, who is about to change the face of Government Street with his latest project, used to strap himself into top-fuelled vehicles primed to race a quarter-mile at speeds about 500 kilometres an hour.

And he did it well.

So well, in fact, he was included in the inaugural class of 40 drivers, crew members, officials, sponsors and builders inducted into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Montreal. “It’s my previous life,” said Sipos.

Sipos’s $40-million, seven-storey commercial/office project to replace the Canada Customs building on Government Street downtown was recently approved by Victoria city council.

Sipos started in construction as a labourer and went on to own companies that have developed many properties on Vancouver Island. They include the 12-storey Metropolitan building on View Street, the first in Victoria to see the market demand for smaller-sized condos; the Vogue building on Government, with condos on top of the Mountain Equipment Co-Op; Vicino in James Bay; the Fiori building on Oak Bay Avenue as well as Saanich’s Gateway Village, Foxborough Hills in Broadmead and the Bayside business park in Victoria.

But top-fuel drag racing was always a burning passion for Sipos. “If I had a great passion in my life it was cars, it was like an addiction. I loved the sound of the motor.”

It started with a 1968 Chevelle which he rebuilt as a teenager and sometimes raced on abandoned roads on the Saanich Peninsula, before he got his first taste of the racing strip at Mission.

He said as time progressed he got more sophisticated and, in the 1980s, he established his own team. Based out of Calgary, it raced all over North America and won four national events, including the Summer Nationals in New York and the World Finals in Los Angeles.

The cost, both time and money, played a big role in who Sipos is now.

“It was extremely costly, we’re talking crazy money,” he said. “It’s no dough-no go, so you have to be successful, you can’t put a million-dollar team together unless you have the resources.”

And he was intent on competing at the highest level.

“That desire fuelled and formed who I am today. When you are competing and trying to get somewhere and competing with the best in the world it’s difficult. It’s hard to climb that mountain,” he said.

But having done it for more than 20 years and having been successful, Sipos said it was his desire for a family and to stay in Victoria — he emigrated from the former Yugoslavia in 1961 with his parents — that led him to give it up.

“I really just wanted to win one race and it turned out way better than that,” he said. “And with a family, you have to realize you’re away a lot I’d be gone 90 days of the year.”

The newly formed Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame held its inaugural gala last night at the Hotel Universel in Montreal.

Thirty of the inductees are still living, though 10 were inducted posthumously.

The inductees were given a custom-tailored blue blazer with the hall’s logo on it and a personalized Hall of Fame ring.

To be nominated, candidates must have been engaged at the top level of their categories for more than 25 years and made a tremendous contribution to the sport.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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