Motorcycle Speedway is a unique form of motorsport that has been around since the early 1900s. It can be seen all over the world although it is more popular in the UK, Australia and several European countries. It continues to maintain a dedicated although smaller following in the US with California being the biggest host of events in the country
What is Motorcycle Speedway?
Motorcycle speedway includes four and up to six riders on a track that ride on four anticlockwise laps of an oval circuit. Riders move on shale and dirt track that is between 260 and 425 metres long which takes about one minute to complete four laps.
There is a small margin for error for Motorcycle speedway riders as they speed around an anticlockwise track without brakes and one gear. This makes riders skilled and attentive as any loss of traction on the shale and dirt course can be disastrous. Motorcycles travel at a speed of about 70mph. Motorcycles are usually four-stroke engines with a capacity of 500cc.
The start of the race can be a deciding factor for the riders race status as it can take a few seconds for riders to make traction off their initial acceleration off the line. While less acceleration is safer, it can also disadvantage a rider’s position for the rest of the race. It takes around two or three seconds for riders to reach 62 mph.
Riders must go around the track in an anticlockwise direction without their wheels leaving the track boundaries. Points are given to riders depending on their place at the end of the race. A rider does not score outside of 1st, 2nd or third or an exclusion.
It can be difficult to avoid touching other riders, especially at the start of the race when traction has not been established well. A rider can be excluded if they do foul, unfair or dangerous riding which can prevent another rider from racing effectively.
Races usually have four riders racing over four laps from a standing start. Riders wear different colours helmets. The starting area is divided into four equal parts. The beginning of a race from the start line takes considerable skill as riders can not touch the tape on the green light and must remain stationary until the tape is raised. A tape penalty, as well as a false start or disqualification, may apply off the line depending on the race.
Motorcycle speedway probably started before WWI in Australia or the US, and one of the first races recorded was in 1905 at the Newcastle NSW Rugby Grounds. Early speedway was also evident in the 1920s at the West Maitland Showground and Newcastle in Australia attracting thousands of people. The first Australian Motorcycle Speedway Championship was at Newcastle Showground in 1926. In 1928, 13 Australian Riders introduced Speedway motorcycle racing to England. Destinations in England included High Beech as well as Camberley, Surrey and Droylsden, Lancashire in 1927-28. Glasgow and Cardiff were also featured at this time.
International speedway championship began in the 1930s, and the official World Championship was first held in 1936. The present FIM Speedway Grand Prix (SGP) championship has taken place since 1995. Domestic races are plentiful in all of the most popular countries for racing including the US
The expertise of motorcycle racing must not be overstated as the speeds of riders and steering requires strength and determination. The sport is not one of the biggest in the US, but it maintains an important following and an integral part of motorsport, particularly in some regions where it is more popular than others.