Calgarians looking for a weekend of motorsport excitement won’t have to go much further than the downtown core this weekend.
Red Bull is bringing their Outliers series of hard enduro motocross racing to Olympic Plaza on Saturday, Aug. 27. The area has been transformed with more than 500 metres of technically-challenging, wildly-exciting obstacles that even professional motocross riders find difficult.
“It’s basically taking enduro riding with just your typical enthusiast going out in the mountains and playing around on trails, and made it really hard,” said course designer and pro-rider Shane Cuthbertson.
“This has become quite popular actually around the world, and luckily, this year we’ve been included in the World Championship Series.”
Cuthbertson said that this weekend of racing has the potential of making or breaking the season for the riders competing from across Canada, the United States, and Europe.
Racing goes from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and is free for spectators. Throughout the day, amateur, expert and professional motocross racers will be competing in six minute heats.
“It’s going to be chaos,” laughed Cuthbertson.
“It’s going to be kind of coordinated chaos, and that’s what we’re trying to get at.”
He said that fans will be getting something every single lap to take in: From hard racing on the racing line, to overtakes, to crashes and comebacks.
The series will continue on Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Badlands race course in Steveville, Alberta.
What spectators need to know to get the most out of the sport
Starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, nearly 300 riders will be parading from Lot 55 in the East Village to the event paddock.
Practice laps start at 9 a.m. and run to 11 a.m.
Rounds of races start at 11 a.m. 2 p.m, 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. with the order of go starting with experts, amateurs, veterans, and professional riders. Riders will be knocked off the brackets to 56 for the second round, 28 on the third, and then 14 for the fourth.
Races are in knockout brackets, and individual racing results will determine the start positions for races on Sunday.
Races are six-minutes long, in a multi-lap format. The winner will be the rider who completes the most laps first in that time period.
Cuthbertson said that the course has been designed with three separate racing lines in mind, allowing riders to take a more technically challenging but faster inside line, or an easier but slower outside line.
“There’s going to be a battle between the routers trying to figure out what to do inside-outside. So for the first couple of laps, it’s going to be chaotic doing that because as they’re jockeying for positions. Riders are on the outside, but other riders will come inside and take their line away and then vice versa,” he said.
High intensity course for high intensity title fight
The course was designed to wind its way through Olympic Plaza, up on to the seating and steps, and then back into the wading pool area.
From the start on the Olympic Plaza stage, 14 riders per heat will be forced to jump their motorbikes into the wading pool area. From there, they will be racing towards a series of logs and tire risers that Cuthbertson called “mayhem.”
“They’re not too bad if you know what you’re doing, and you’re not afraid to push the throttle. But if you come in something very tentative, the front wheels generally just stick right in and the riders get thrown all over the place, and have a few trips over the handlebars,” he said.
Riders will then have to race towards a tricky set of balancing beams and up over another log. He said that this particular section would be tricky for the amateur riders, and that they were fine tuning it to make it difficult but not race ending for riders.
“We want to have a good show as well, and showcase what the amateurs have to go through versus what the pros look like,” Cuthbertson said.
The bikes will then have to traverse up a section that rises up the steps in Olympic Plaza over a series of logs and beams. Cuthbertson said that this was one of the trickiest parts of the course for any rider, including himself.
Riders then take a corner along the top of Olympic Plaza across additional logs and barriers. Easy to navigate when dry, he said that it would be quite difficult if there is any rain on race day.
“Either way we run, rain or shine,” he said.
Next, riders will breeze over another set of tires, as long as they go as fast as possible. Cuthbertson said this is where having the experts go first in the race series will be of great benefit to the amateur riders, in showing them how to tackle this obstacle.
Next, the riders will be jumping over a pair of ramps. It should prove to be really just one ramp for the pro-riders, and a spectacle for the public.
Finally, the racers will have to tackle a zig-zag course of concrete culverts and logs, before having to traverse a near vertical 3-foot pile of logs to finish the lap.
“You have to be really skilled to try to keep the front wheel in air, otherwise if the front wheel drops, then the rear tires on the backside just spins, and then you’re having to use a lot of leg power to get off.”
Red Bull event important to build the sport
Cuthbertson said that having the free event in the heart of the city was both incredible for the competitors, but also important for the sport.
“That’s why I’m all in on this one, especially here in Canada. It’s near and dear to my heart, and this is just highlighting the whole entire sport in a completely different aspect. Not only for the people that are involved in the sport, but now we get to showcase to many more people,” he said.
Jess Pettis, a Red Bull motocross athlete was present on Friday at the preview of the course. He said that it would be an amazing experience for all of the riders taking part in the event in front of thousands of fans in the heart of downtown Calgary.
“Oh, it’s crazy, It’s an adrenaline rush,” Pettis said.
“It’s such a cool experience to have everyone there, and everyone cheering getting into it. And honestly for Calgary, the city, the mayor is on board, right downtown here—I think it couldn’t be any better, and I think people will be excited and it kind of puts Moto and all that on the map for the future.”
The venue is also in line with Red Bull’s history of putting sporting events in venues that make them both interesting to the public, but also accessible.
They have their Formula 1 races on street circuits in North American cities, and their Crashed Ice series, which has racers take on technically challenging courses often in downtown locations on ice skates.
“The professionalism really is next level, so I think to be a part of that and all those guys—they have such cool ideas, anything they come up with seems to get traction and take off and yeah, happy to be a part of it,” said Pettis.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek was gifted her own Outliers racing jersey and competition medal on Friday. She said that it was an important event that was made possible in part by the efforts of the Downtown Calgary Association and Tourism Calgary.
“This is such an incredible space that gets activated in a lot of different ways, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen it look like this,” she said.
“I really hope Calgarians are going to come out on Saturday, 11 to 5, and take in some incredible racing.”