Rick’s Gentleman’s Express Blog

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Archive for August, 2011

Niagara Motorcycle Raceway

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My wife and I recently attended the Dirt Track Nationals at Niagara Motorcycle Raceway just outside Welland, Ontario on the grounds of the Welland County Motorcycle Club. I had spent many years in the Niagara area and used to be a regular at the track. I hadn’t attended a race there in well over ten years and had built it up a bit with my wife based on my rose-coloured rear view.

We took a meandering country roads route from Paris to Welland following the Welland River. In its heyday Welland was a busy factory town. The downtown area used to be bustling, even if all the traffic was really just backups caused by raised lift bridges on the old Welland Canal. After all these years and all the bad news I had heard, I was still shocked at how hard the times Welland has fallen on really are. The old Union Carbide plant and Atlas Steel where schoolmates of mine ended up working are now just brown-fields. You could shoot a cannon off from the old Stelco pipe mill to the abandoned John Deere plant in Dain City without anyone noticing, never mind getting hit.

I had imagined relaxing before the races over an ethnic dinner of some kind in the largely eastern European south end area of town known as Crowland. (We used to call it “Hunky Heaven” in less politically correct times.) We ended up with takeout from a Tim Horton’s consumed alongside an abandoned section of the old canal.

The race track is a lot more business-like than the old days. Back then you could back a pickup up to the east fence and relax with a few cold ones from the comfort of a lawn chair set up in the bed. Now there is security and when I took my backpack in it was checked for bottles. After all these years, the boys at the club in Welland have this race thing down to a science and things run like a well-oiled machine. The washrooms are concrete block construction with running water and flush toilets, not porta-potties. The concessions are permanent structures run by the club. Lighting, fencing and the sound system are top-notch.

I was initially disappointed with the races themselves – no 750’s, seemingly interminable kiddie class races with 3 or 4 PW50s to a heat, very few non-local racers – until I realized that this is just the way things are now. The days of guys driving all the way from Ohio or eastern Quebec to race here are gone the way of high gas prices and high equipment costs. Welland County MC has kept the flickering dirt track flame alive with little support from the CMA or anyone else for that matter. Not really a “national” anymore, the racing was nevertheless quite entertaining once it got to the top classes and lived up to its billing on the ticket stubs as “Balls to the Wall Motorcycle Racing”.

It was great to see some old friends again and to re-visit some of my misspent early adulthood. I now have a truer, re-adjusted picture of the dirt track scene in Canada and will go again next season with different expectations.

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August 26th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized