Grand Bend Motorplex the ultimate fan destination
Nitro Jam Media
Jul 8, 2011
Race fans looking for the ultimate drag racing getaway need look no further than the Grand Bend Motorplex in Grand Bend, Ontario.
Located just a few miles from the picturesque resort town on the shores of Lake Huron, the Grand Bend Motorplex offers all the amenities race fans could ever want – from good food to great racing – all on display during one of Canada’s premier motorsports events July 16-17 at the IHRA Mopar Nitro Jam Nationals.
Grand Bend always features one of the biggest drag racing shows in all of Canada, bringing thousands of fans from across North America to the campgrounds and grandstands at the Motorplex.
This year’s event will feature a record four nitro classes – from 320 mph Top Fuel Dragsters to Prostalgia Nitro Funny Cars, Nitro Harleys and Nostalgia Fuel Altereds – along with a huge show featuring a showdown between the Grave Digger monster truck and the 30,000 horsepower Super Shockwave jet semi, wheelstanders, a huge sportsman race and more.
And it will all take place on the grand stage set by Grand Bend.
During the Second World War the sound of powerful piston engines often reverberated through Grand Bend, Ontario.
Located nearby was Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Detachment Grand Bend, which was built in 1942 as a relief, or emergency, aerodrome for student pilots training with No. 9 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Station Centralia. The base later served several other RCAF functions before closing in 1963.
The sound of high-powered machinery was not absent from the landscape for long, however, as the former airfield with its wide paved runways went the way of so many other redundant military airfields and was transformed into a drag strip.
“The track was operated as Grand Bend Raceway during the mid-1960s, and many of the big name racers of the day were regular visitors,” said track manager Ron Biekx. “Connie Kalitta, ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits, and many others came up here, and a number of local racers who went on to have life-long careers in the sport also ran here, including Frank Hawley and Bob Atchison.”
The Grand Bend area fell silent again when Grand Bend Raceway ceased operation in the late ‘60s, however, and the facility remained dormant for nearly 30 years until an ownership group purchased the property and began working towards the track’s resurrection. Now owned by the Spriet family, Grand Bend Motorplex roared back to life in the spring of 1995.
“When they first started running here again in ’95 it was more on the order of an experiment,” said Biekx. “They had a homemade Christmas tree, there were no permanent grandstands, and the tower, if you can call it that, was just a little trailer.”
The experiment soon gained a full head of steam, however, and by 2000 GBM had landed a prestigious IHRA national event, thanks to an aggressive and forward-looking building and expansion program.
The addition of a three-story tower, grandstands with a capacity of over 14,000, acres of paved pit parking, and much more, transformed Grand Bend Motorplex into a state-of-the-art quarter-mile speed palace.
Now, twelve years later, the work goes on unabated.
“We really try to concentrate on racer and fan comforts here,” said Biekx.”We pay particular attention to our washrooms, showers, and concessions, which are clean, bright, and conveniently located throughout the facility. We want to provide a superior level of cleanliness and comfort for racers, fans, and their families when they come to Grand Bend.
“Every year we focus on something that we can add or improve at our track,” said Biekx. “A couple of years ago, for example, we extended our paved pit area, and last year we ground the racing surface. This year we have built a road course at the track, which served to pave the remainder of our return roads. Now, instead of one return road we have four. Something else we’re doing is expanding the PA system so that there are no gaps in the coverage as the pit area grows in size. We have over a hundred speakers now, and the 3,200-watt power supply has been boosted to 8,000 watts. Our racers need to know what’s going on and it’s our job to tell them.”
In addition to everything Biekx mentioned, the track is equipped with a Compulink II timing system and the track, pits, and return roads are illuminated by over 100 metal halide light fixtures. There are 700 pit sites available, as well as 400 campsites and 70 trackside motorhome sites.
And there’s no chance of going hungry at GBM, either. There’s hand-tossed pizza at Armando’s, as well as a specialty ice cream concession, a kettle corn vendor and a “pop shop” that purveys all sorts of cold drinks. In fact, just about anything in the traditional track food line-up is available at Grand Bend, including a breakfast that IHRA President Aaron Polburn recently voted the best at any race track.
In addition to hosting the annual MOPAR Nitro Jam Nationals, Grand Bend Motorplex has a wide variety of racing programs on its schedule throughout the year.
But none is bigger than the annual summer tradition that will take place July 16-17 at the now famous facility on the beaches of Lake Huron.
“We concentrate week after week on having the fastest and safest facility we can possibly have,” Biekx said. “We are in the people business, after all, and we want everyone who comes to Grand Bend, be it racer or spectator, to have the most enjoyable and exciting experience possible.”