Welland County Speedway took a few minutes to pay homage to the past when motorcycle racing returned after a two-week hiatus.
Race bikes waited in the pits as vintage bikes made their way to the quarter-mile dirt oval for two laps. None of the bikes shown at Night of the Legends on Saturday were race machines, and all were made before 1970.
A 1915 Triumph used by the British Army as an “expedition bicycle” during World War I was among three fully restored British-made motorcycles that Michael Roberts hauled on a trailer from Fort Erie. The 77-year-old retired general machinist also showed off a 1944 Norton used by the Canadian Army in World War II and a Norton, also a 1944 model, fitted with a sidebar that was used by the British army.
In 1980 Roberts bought the Triumph from someone in England. The bike has been “partially restored”. Roberts completed the restoration.
“I bought this bike because an uncle of mine was a dispatch rider in World War I,” he said. “According to the numbers on the engine, it was a military bike.”
Expedition motorcycles were used by the British Army in Belgium and France, “everywhere, wherever”.
Roberts acquired one of the Nortons in 1978 and the other in 1985. He recalls that the one used by the Canadian Army was shipped to them in six-quart baskets and cardboard boxes “from all over Ontario.”
How many baskets and boxes in all?
“Oh, I don’t know, two or three dozen I guess,” he replied with a chuckle.
It took Roberts “about a year” to put this bike together.
He never raced motorcycles, but he did drive them.
“But not much anymore. My arthritis got too bad,” said Roberts, who quit riding a few years ago.
About two dozen motorcycle enthusiasts from as far north as Muskoka and as far west as London, Ontario answered the speedway’s call to showcase their vintage motorcycles.
“It’s amazing how far they’ll go with gas prices these days,” said Wes Pierce, who organized the event on behalf of the Welland County Motorcycle Club, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the highway on Netherby Road east of the highway. 140 in Welland.
It was the track’s first Night of the Legends tribute since 2019. The pandemic closed the speedway in 2020 and only a limited schedule was run the following year.
“We used to do it every year. It was a bit bigger event in the last few years,” Pierce said. “I think we’ll have to put more planning into this.
“To be honest, we didn’t have the numbers I expected. I don’t know if the word hasn’t passed enough.
The Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee and life member of the Welland County Motorcycle Club was nonetheless pleased with how the evening went.
“We had a few notable people, and they enjoyed the camaraderie, and that’s what’s important,” Pierce said.
set the pace
Here are the top three finishers of Saturday night’s motorcycle racing schedule at Welland County Speedway:
Open expert 1. Doug Lawrence, 2. Boyd Deadman, 3. Tyler Seguin.
450 experts 1. Doug Lawrence, 2. Boyd Deadman, 3. Brandon Seguin.
Open Intermediate 1. Roderick Scott, 2. Jeff Orosz, 3. Logan Wilson
450 Intermediate 1. Roderick Scott, 2. Adrian St. Amand, 3. Jeff Orosz.
open beginner 1. Liam Caskie, 2. Seth Little, 3. Eric Orosz.
450 Novice 1. Liam Caskie, 2. Seth Little, 3. Connor Bekker-Thompson
Veterans, 40 years and over 1. Brent Thompson, 2. Bentley Thistlethwaite, 3. Rick Gunby.
Vintage Open 1. Justin Crumb, 2. Clayton Isherwood, 3. Boyd Deadman.
old lights 1. Rick Gunby, 2. Glen Brown, 3. Bill Bak.
Trolleys 1. Sid Scott, 2. Brian Kadwell, 3. Andy Van Dyk.
50cc, air cooled 1. As Simiana, 2. Connor Ruhe, 3. Tye Marceau.