Sports

New track returns sport to its roots

Logan Prachnau, 14, tests out the new motocross track under construction at Heritage Park on Tuesday.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Logan Prachnau, 14, tests out the new motocross track under construction at Heritage Park on Tuesday.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

It’s not much to look at, right now.

Wet weather has left it looking like a field of mud, with two or three dirt piles dotting the landscape.

But John Hellam sees far more than that as he surveys the scene behind Heritage Park. He sees a project 10 years in the making, one that is taking local motocross racing back where he thinks it ought to be.

Outside.

“It’s where the sport started, and over the last 20 years we’ve just moved indoors in this part of the world because of the climate,” he explains.

This new track that’s just been built won’t be a muddy mess for long. In fact, Hellam hopes it’s rideable in time for a scheduled Sunday event.

On Tuesday morning, Hellam, his son Jamie and the rest of the crew are figuring out where the soggy spots are and plotting to fix them.

“With what we call a green, or brand-new track, we’ve got to figure out where it drains, or doesn’t drain,” Hellam says. “It’s built on top of sand and clay, so if we put a little indentation here and there to help the water run off, it’ll be fine. Once we get some sunshine, it will bake and harden up.”

The track occupies roughly 10 acres adjacent to the horse-racing track.

The layout is basic.

Riders prefer left-hand turns so they can use their rear-breaks. The track has one of those.

It has the usual assortment of whoop-de-dos, devil jumps and table top jumps.

“The neat part is people will be able to part their motorhomes and vehicles right along the track, pull out the deck chairs to watch the racing, and visit a whole bunch of amenities with 10 minutes of the track,” Hellam adds.

Hellam’s larger vision is to see outdoor motocross thrive in this province.

He describes the current scene as fragmented, with too many sanctioning bodies and licenses required.

Families and young riders are being chased away.

This year, Future West Promotions — owned by John and operated by Jamie — has launched the 2013 BC Motocross Championship.

“What we’ve done is gone to the sponsors who’ve been with us for a long time in arenacross, and they’ve kicked in financial support for us to run a no-license-fee series,” Hellam explains.

The series started March 17 at the Eagle Motorplex in Ashcroft, carrying on to Victoria (Mar. 24) and then Mission (April 7).

“We had 183 riders in Victoria and 150 in Ashcroft, and even in pouring rain in Mission two weeks ago we managed 130,” Hellam says. “The emphasis on making it easy for new people to enter without a big financial burden seems to be working.”

Sunday would be the fourth stop.

If the track is ready, it will be held in Chilliwack. If not, the Lower Mainland Motocross Club will host again at the Mission Raceway.

Before the end of the season, in late June, the series will make stops in Pemberton, Kelowna and Kamloops.

Chilliwack hosts the final series stop, June 23.

“We’re going to have a TV production for that one, and it looks like we may be going on TSN,” Hellam smiles. “We know there’s enough people with bikes who want to race, and the point of this is to bring them all under one umbrella.”

Hellam keeps mentioning the financial burden of racing, with good reason.

“Families often have more than one rider, a dad with two boys or girls for instance,” Hellam says. “In the old CMRC series, you had to pay $140 for a license before you even turned a wheel, plus $30 per class, with some riders racing in more than one class. You can see where it would add up to a lot of money.”

By taking that $140 license fee out of the picture, Hellam has already seen some old faces re-surface, people who’d been driven out of the sport by rising costs.

And he’s seeing new faces.

“The track and the series is something we would have liked to have done years ago, but for a lack of time,” he said. “It’s taken a heckuva lot of work to get to this point, and it’s good to see us having success attracting riders.”

The track will stay in place until the end of summer, at which point it will be re-assessed to see if it worked the way it was supposed to.

Future West is paying rent for the space.

In turn, they’re being creative with how they use it.

“If a group wants to rent it for a party or something, and we’ll have drop-in practice sessions,” Hellam says. “We’ve been talking to Yamaha, who’s very enthusiastic to supply bikes for brand new riders to learn how to ride. There will be lots going on, and it’s very exciting.”

Get motocross info online at bcmotocross.ca and get arenacross info online at arenacross.ca

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