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Missoula distiller wins approval for motorcycle racing at summer fair

Posted at 2:43 PM, Nov 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-29 16:43:12-05

Shortly after returning from the Bonneville Salt Flats and setting a new land speed record for a Vodka-powered motorcycle, Ryan Montgomery had an idea.

Why not race motorcycles during the Western Montana Fair?

“The idea would be to bring flat-track motorcycle racing back to the fair,” Montgomery said. “It was prevalent in the 1920s – 100 years ago next summer – to race motorcycles at the fairgrounds.”

Missoula County commissioners, impressed by both the land speed record and the crowd pleasing proposal for flat-track racing at the fair, approved the event.

The Super Hooligan flat track motorcycle racing series will make its debut during next summer’s event. It could mark the first time the annual fair has featured motorcycle racing since the vehicles were novel and appeared at the fair in the 1910s and 20s.

“We found a professional motorcycle racing circuit from California dubbed the Hooligans, which race across the county,” Montgomery said. “They have their own nationwide fan base they bring. We’ll also bring in amateur racers from Missoula and the region to race during the day as well.”

According to Montgomery, the racing series has riders circle an oval track on bikes ranging from Harley Davidsons to Indians. The event will also feature Keith Sayers, of Butte fame, and his freestyle motocross team.

“We know motorsports are an important part of the fair,” said fairgrounds director Emily Brock. “Having a local twist to it would be even more impressive to folks.”

Montgomery, owner of the Montgomery Distillery in downtown Missoula, headed to the Bonneville Salt Flats over the summer to try his hand at setting a new land speed record. He achieved 114 miles per hour on a bike fueled by alcohol.

It was, he admits, a bit of a publicity stunt.

“The alcohol we used to fuel the motorcycle was distilled by us from grain we grew at our distillery,” he said. “We did end up getting the land speed record, briefly, and scaring the living daylights out of ourselves in the process.”

Montgomery has hosted motorcycle shows at the distillery in past years, though the event outgrew the location. He approached the fairgrounds about moving the show to the new Commercial Building.

Along the way, the idea of racing motorcycles during the fair was born.

“That’s how I got in touch with them initially,” Montgomery said. “I’d been thinking about trying to do a motorcycle race up there anyway.”

The event will replace the monster truck series of years past on Sunday.