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Memorial Olds flat track motorbike race offers lots of thrills

Presented by Alberta Flat Track, J.R.MacRae memorial races will be held Sept. 23 and 24 in front of the Olds Regional Exhibition grandstand

OLDS — Organizers are celebrating the 45th anniversary of a major flat track motor race event in Olds by holding another one later this month. 

The J.R.MacRae memorial flat track motorbike races, presented by Alberta Flat Track, will be held Sept. 23 and 24 in front of the Olds Regional Exhibition grandstand. 

"John Ross was a 23-year-old boy from Calgary. He's actually my nephew and he passed away on in September 2013,” Darrell MacRae, one of the organizers, said during an interview with the Albertan.  

The races will feature vintage bikes and modern bikes as well as quads/ATCs.  

Registration begins at 8 a.m. and practice at 11 a.m. Racing runs from 12:30 to 5 p.m.  

There’s free admission for spectators. Pit passes are $10 per person. Classes $45, youth class, $20. Cash or etransfer will be accepted. 

Organizers also plan to stage a wall of fire in which riders jump through a wall set on fire.

Speaking of danger and excitement, MacRae says attendees are in for some very spectacular action. Some of the bikes in the competition are specially designed, with no front brakes.  

“They have a brake that also won't stop you like a street bike. It'll slow you down because there's an accident or you have to leave the track,” he said. 

And many of these bikes will be going really fast. 

MacRae said one competitor’s dads had a radar gun and clocked some guys going 122.8 kilometres an hour, which is more than 76 miles an hour. 

The quads that will be competing create lots of excitement too. 

“These four wheelers, these guys go three or four wide throughout the corner, so there's some good action -- and good photos,” he said. 

The show could also include bikes in the Honda ATC 70 class, otherwise known as Hillbillies.

"They are from the Rocky Mountain House and Olds area. They are a very entertaining crew," MacRae wrote in a text. "Adults on mini trikes. We had them last year; a real crowd pleaser."

Other plans include 200-mile-an-hour miniature (four--foot-scale) radio-controlled airplane fly-by circuits.

The competition will feature a wide range of age groups, from five or six-year-olds all the way to guys 60 years of age or older. 

Vintage bikes will be ridden by some vintage riders in some cases. 

MacRae says some riders who raced in the Olds event 45 years ago will be coming from as far away as Montana and Vancouver. 

Sadly, some of the great competitors from that time have passed away, he noted. 

A concession and beer garden will be hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Olds on-site. 

All riders must hold a Flat Track Canada licence, which can be purchased at Flattrack 

George Wells, also in attendance during the interview, said if this event goes well, the dream is to host the nationals again. 

MacRae and Wells said the idea to hold these races was spurred around the time of the Calgary Stampede. He said several of the guys who rode in the Olds event all those years ago really liked the idea. 

“We've gotten more interest with the old guys all of a sudden, so we're going to go back to the history of it,” he said. 

Normally big anniversary celebrations tend to be held at certain milestones, like the 25th 50th, 75th or 100th anniversary. 

MacRae said they decided to hold theirs this year for a very practical reason.  

He said if they waited another five years, some of those guys who competed in the event 45 years ago “might be alive but might not be able to ride.” 

As it is, several have already passed away, he said, as he flipped through a photo album of the original event, which included a photo of himself, looking a lot younger.