Speedway, or 'Motorcycle Speedway' is an exciting, fast and sometimes dangerous motorsport that is growing in popularity all over the world. The unique and purpose built motorcycles are powerful single-geared machines with no brakes. Four riders must power their way, anti-clockwise, four times around an oval shaped track as fast as possible. Races are fast and furious, usually completed within four minutes.
A Brief History
The sport has been around since the early 1900s in the USA and Australia, and has now become a celebrated sport in Europe. The purpose built race courses have to be between 260 and 425 meters long and regulated by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM).
The surface will be dirt or shale, this enables the riders to skid for extended periods, known and powersliding or broadsliding. One of the most important skills the rider must have is the ability to corner effectively, maintaining speed whilst not losing trajectory. The art of doing this is one of the major components contributing to the popularity of Speedway. Riders have to pick their lines extremely carefully, the shortest route may often be the most worn, and therefore has the worst traction. Riders can sometimes gain an advantage by taking a wider route and using the firmer ground to achieve greater speeds. The extremely close proximity of the racers often leads to bumps and crashes, protective gear is worn at all time and there are strong partitions between the riders and spectators.
The motorbikes are strictly regulated to ensure there is no unfair advantage given. All bikes must weigh in at no less than 77kg, must include the necessary safety features. The engines run on 100% pure methanol to make around 85 break horsepower (BHP). The incredible power to weight ratio enables the machines to accelerate from zero to 60mph in less than three seconds.
The United Kingdom has perhaps developed the biggest culture of Speedway, with three domestic leagues and a strong line of excellent riders. In Europe, Sweden, Denmark and Poland also have thriving scenes with their own leagues. Worldwide there are also scenes to be found in Argentina, Australia and the USA. The biggest event on the calendar is undoubtedly the FIM Speedway World Championships. 18 of the world's best riders are invited to compete over three exciting rounds to determine the world champion. Thousands of spectators come from all over the world to enjoy watching the elite racers go head to head.
Although Motorcycle Speedway is not as rich and glamorous as Moto-GP, for sheer spectacle, atmosphere and excitement it is hard to beat.