SAN BERNARDINO, California — Fast-paced, exciting Speedway Motorcycle racing will return to the Inland Empire when the new Inland Motorsport Speedway holds its grand opening at 8 p.m. Friday, June 19.
The streamlined, lightweight motorcycles have one gear and no brakes and are powered by methanol-burning, 500cc motors that enable them to reach speeds of up to 70 miles an hour on the short straightaways. The races consist of 4 laps of a dirt track between 800 and 1,500 feet in length, with four or five riders spending most of their time sliding through the turns, and the top-level Division I riders need less than a minute to determine a winner.
Speedway has been called the original Extreme sport and drag racing in a circle, and it’s been absent from the Inland Empire since 2003. It’s return is due to the persistence of former professional hockey player Jason Bonsignore and veteran speedway rider Shawn McConnell, of Brea, who in early April signed a five-year lease agreement with the National Orange Show and began building a track and finalizing a schedule.
Bonsignore has revived and operates Speedway Motorcycle tracks in New York and has been laying the groundwork for the new IMS for the past five years.
The track has been designed as a replica of the famed Inland Motorcycle Speedway and sits on land approximately 300 feet from the site of that facility. The new Inland Motorsport Speedway is on Arrowhead Avenue, adjacent to the NOS Sports Center, with entry through Gate 9.
Admission is $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and juniors (13-16) and $5 for children 6-12. Children 5 and under are free. Parking also is free.
Gates will open at 6:30 p.m. with racing getting under way at 8 o’ clock and concluding around 11 p.m. There is a midnight curfew. The end of racing is just the start of a party, however, with a live band performing in the Sports Center.
The opening night feature is the John LaDouceur Championship, named in honor of the man who built the original Inland speedway track in 1975 and made it one of the top venues in the nation, and most of the top First Division riders are expected to be in the 24-rider field.
That will include McConnell, a movie stuntman who last season won the U.S. Open, the King of US Speedway series and the Industry Speedway championship and former Riverside resident Gary Hicks, who has regained his championship form and already won six main events after sitting out last season with physical concerns.
Others who’ve indicated they’ll be on hand are 2006 California state champion Josh Larsen, Dukie Ermolenko, Bobby Schwartz, Tommy Hedden, Mike Faria, who won the final race at the original IMS in September, 1987, and Jim Fishback Jr. whose father, Jim “The Animal” Fishback, was one of the most popular riders ever to compete at the track.
There also will be racing in the Second and Third Divisions and youth classes.
Friday’s event is the first of 16 on the schedule for Inland Motorsport Speedway, which will have racing every Friday night through Oct. 10, with the exception of Sept. 4, the start of Labor Day weekend.