Motorcycle: Sports Two Wheels - Speedway, Long Track And Ice Racing
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 17:46:33 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
Speedway, Long Track And Ice Racing
Speedway bikes have little in common with other motorcycles, being purpose-built for short, four-lap races on quarter-mile (400 metre) dirt ovals. Their engines are 500cc, single-cylinder four-strokes that run on methanol and have just one gear. Their chassis have minimal front suspension and none at the rear, no front brake, and a right footrest set low to take the rider's weight as the bike power-slides through the left-hand bends.
The sport became popular in Australia in the 1920s and took off in Europe after the first British meeting was staged in Essex in 1928. Speedway is essentially a team sport, with meetings consisting of heats between four riders from two rival teams. But the year's biggest event has traditionally been the individual World Final. Sweden's Ove Fundin and New Zealander Barry Briggs each won five times in the 1950s and 1960s. Ivan Mauger, another New Zealander, won a record sixth title in 1979.
Several other types of racing share speedway's basic format of competing on a tight, anti-clockwise oval. The closest to speedway is long track, a German-dominated sport, also run on shale, whose longer straights and higher speeds demand engines with two gears. Ivan Mauger won three world titles in the 1970s but the most successful rider is Britain's Simon Wigg, who won his fifth in 1994. Grass-track and sand racing are related but less high-profile sports that require tyre-sliding skills on different surfaces.
The maddest form of bike sport is ice racing on bikes whose tyres bristle with scores of sharp steel spikes. These give excellent grip on the ice, allowing near-horizontal cornering angles, but they can turn a crash into an even nastier experience despite protective wheel-guards that extend part-way around the tyre. Ice racing has generally been dominated by Russians, but is also popular in parts of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.
Japan has its own brand of speedway called autorace. Held solely to allow the large crowds to bet on the outcome, this takes place on concrete ovals. Eight riders contest each race, on 600cc single or twin-cylinder bikes, which are capable of 120mph (193kph). Prize money levels are high, and leading riders can earn as much as top Grand Prix stars. Nevertheless the temptation to fix results necessitates the imposition of strict rules to ensure that riders are kept away from the crowd before racing.
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