All-Bike Drags at Grand Bend Motorplex

Story by Colin Ashford// Photos by Roger Parsons and
October 1 2009

Minutes from the beautiful beaches of Lake Huron lies Grand Bend Motorplex, one of Canada’s top quarter-mile drag racing facilities and host to the annual Rocky’s Harleys By The Beach race on Father’s Day.

While the quaint resort town of Grand Bend is a popular weekend destination for many riders and day trippers, June 21 lured motorcyclists from all walks of life to the dragstrip for a day of tire smoking, full throttle racing. Nearly 120 different racers in 10 classes of competition entertained a record crowd of nearly 4000 fans on hand at ‘The Bend’.

Torrential rains postponed Saturday’s action during the weekend’s CMDRA Eastern Round at Grand Bend, sponsored by Deeley Harley-Davidson and Parts Canada, turning Sunday into one of the biggest all-motorcycle drag racing events ever held in Canada. The scheduled Rocky’s Harleys By The Beach race became three-races-in-one with the Hully Gully Summer Sizzler and Suzuki Canadian Fastest Streetbike Shootout rescheduled from Saturday.

This gave fans the opportunity to see everything from 190 MPH Pro Street bikes to factory-bred Harley-Davidson V-Rod Destroyers to an eclectic mix of V-Twin and metric street rides. Many people who rode their bikes to the event actually raced and rode home on the very same bike.

Like many forms of racing, motorcycle drag racing is a welcoming sport for first time racers. Newbies can come out and learn the ropes without any expense outside of your entry fee. After you pass a routine safety inspection, you can take to the starting line and see just how fast your bike will go.

Drag racing is considered to be an addictive sport to those who have ventured into the realm of the quarter-mile. The speed and acceleration that made your first trips down the strip so thrilling soon make way for a desire to go faster, which keeps racers coming back to the track. Those that get hooked are soon finding ways to improve performance, either upgrading their existing ride with aftermarket goodies or moving on to faster, track-focused machines.

Peter Thomson chose the latter. Currently a frontrunner in the CMDRA Screamin’ Eagle V-Rod Destroyer Series, Thompson raced streetbikes on the strip before stepping up to a nine-second, 140 MPH factory-built Harley-Davidson V-Rod Destroyer three years ago.

“I like the challenge,” admits Thomson about why he continues to drag race some thirty years after he first tried it. “A lot of people think it’s a simple sport, but it’s both mentally and physically challenging. And it’s addicting.”

Thomson, who is also a Canadian Motorcycle Drag Racing Association Director, always urges interested riders to give drag racing a try. His advice is simple: “Don’t be intimidated. Take it slow. Learn from others and talk to the racers at the track.” After a few hours of track time you’ll be itching to get back on the blacktop to improve your elapsed times and even test your mettle against fellow riders.

“The challenge, the competition, the camaraderie, the friendships, the people you meet – they’re the reasons I like this sport so much,” Thomson summarizes.

Thomson went all the way to the final round on this weekend, only to be denied victory by defending CMDRA West champion Nick Allen in the final round. Regardless, the father/son team had a successful day (Thomson’s son is his crew guy) in one of the top classes at an event that gets better every year.

There was a healthy mix of classes for every type of motorcycle at Grand Bend. The street legal crowd was strong in Harley E.T., Big Twin and Streetfighter while the majority of the Super Bike class featured seasoned veterans going round after round in head-to-head competition. There was truly a class for everyone at this event regardless of make, model or performance capabilities.

The quickest bikes on the premises were in the Canadian Fastest Streetbike Shootout and the Kevin Blackmore Memorial Quick 16 classes. ‘The Shootout’ is the domain of highly modified Pro Street sportbikes running wickedly fast on street tires. Shootout winner Bud Yoder, at 189.47 miles per hour, set the high MPH mark of the entire event.

The Quick 16 class was won by Canadian legend Mike Konopacki, who currently sits in the top three in three different classes of AMA Dragbike competition in the U.S. He beat out fellow Ontario bracket racing veteran Ted Glinny in the finals for the win in a class that honours the late Kevin Blackmore, who himself was a legend and a pioneer on the Ontario motorcycle drag racing scene.

The ground shook and the crowd covered their ears as Ontario’s Rob Brown and Alberta’s Kevin Boyer made exhibition passes on a pair of Nitro Harleys, much to the crowd’s delight. Brown’s nitro methane breathing V-Twin engine kaboomed at the twist of the throttle on his only attempt, shooting three-foot flashes of flame from the injectors and making for a killer photo op! Boyer was still getting acquainted with a brand new bike but managed to wow the crowd with the sheer power of his 900 horsepower machine.

Drag racing is a facet of motorcycling that stimulates your senses like no other. From the ground-shaking rumble of a Nitro Harley to the smell of burning rubber to the sights of massive wheelies and astounding speeds, a day at the drags is a unique and addicting sensorial experience for fans and racers alike. MMM


Wanna go Racing?

So you’ve got the itch to hit the strip, do ya? Well you’ll be happy to find out that whether you ride a cruiser or a sport bike, drag racing is very easy to try out and will satisfy your need for speed without risking your life and your pocketbook on the road.

Every dragstrip features Friday night street legal drag racing, where any rider with a motorcycle license can feel the thrill of quarter-mile racing for only twenty bucks! Once you pass a general safety inspection, you’re free to make as many laps as you and your motorcycle can handle in a night. These events are low key – no competition classes, just open test & tune – so your first venture down the track is fun and relaxed. Bring a few buddies and go head-to-head for bragging rights!

The Canadian Motorcycle Drag Racing Association (CMDRA) hosts a Race School before every event, where racers and staff guide you through the steps to a successful lap and a great day of racing. Everything from a proper burnout to reading the Christmas tree (the starting lights) to launching your bike is covered. After that you can start to hone your performance, improve your elapsed times and enter the fray of competition.

Now go out there and give it a try!


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