16-05-2018 - 10:38
What is Flat Track Racing? (Brief History)

The essence of Flat Track racing is a form of motorcycle racing where teams or individuals race opponents around an unpaved oval track. There are differing variants, with each variant racing on a different surface type. The most common variant is Speedway which has many professional domestic and international competitions in a number of countries.

Administered internationally by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), the sport became popular in the 1920s and remains so today.

The America Motorcycle Association (AMA) took on the great duty of making flat racing legit in the early 20th century, known to have been connected to events as far back as 1924. In 1932, AMA first created Class A for AMA Pro Flat Track Racing. (This was shortly after the formation of the AMA itself.)

Flat track racing has been dominated throughout the years by the bar and shield, Harley Davidson, for three-quarters of a century—they've been the only consistent manufacturer to have supported the discipline from the beginning. The early years of competition were heavy in the infancy of the sport among only Indian and Harley-Davidson. Japanese brands like Yamaha weren't imported to the US until the 1950s and brands like Indian fell away after the Great Depression.

In the early years of the second World War, the AMA Championship stayed in its course. It wasn't until the US sprang to the aide of the Allies in 1942 that the ovals laid quiet. The men that would normally be pushing their bodies and machines to their limits were now engrossed in the war effort. Upon the close of World War II, returning GIs once again took to the tracks and the championships returned in 1945. However, it did not return in full form until several years after the war.

By the early 1960's, motorcycling culture was beginning to take hold in the hearts and minds of the US people. On the back of several successful movies including, The Wild One (1953), Rebel without a Cause (1955), The Great Escape (1963). Motorcycling was becoming more pervasive than ever before. This led to foreign motorcycle manufacturers looking to cash in on the new obsession.

British companies, BSA and Triumph, quickly jumped on the series. Triumph, looking to further their dominance as the "World's Fastest Motorcycle Brand," fielded several bikes in the AMA Championship and was able to twist out several titles in the twilight of the 1960's. What once was a fight between Indian and H-D, was now a fight of Triumph vs. H-D.

The late 1960's to the early 70's are considered, by some, to be the golden years of competition for the series as there were several continents being represented in the series. British and Japanese competitors were giving the domestic Harley-Davidson a run for the title. In the mid-1970's, the competition, coupled with tough economic times, proved to be too much for the British motorcycle industry. It collapsed leaving Harley-Davidson to fight off the Japanese Yamaha factory efforts single handedly.

During the late 70's and early 80's, there was an evolution in the road racing side of the sport as engines got much more powerful. Dirt track racers that were used to tail-happy cornering proved to be well suited for the new-found power. Racers that were accustomed to the rear tire being out of line with the bike and using the front tire to steer around the corner as they had on the dirt began to rise to the top of the podiums of the pavement-based races. Unfortunately, many of the great dirt riders were lured to the pavement as there was more money available due to the larger budgets and manufacturer support.

Now, there is a resurgence in the attention paid to dirt track racing. The collective motorcycling conciseness seems to have turned it's attention to the past in an effort to honor the heritage of motorcycling. Many manufacturers are paying homage to the models that helped them sustain their success in tough times and in good ones. Kawasaki and Yamaha have entered into the fray, and classic names in flat track and motorcycle racing are tipping their caps as well. Triumph has signed on to be the presenting sponsor for the Calistoga Half-Mile, and Ducati is fielding a take on their new Scrambler in the mile events.

The racing has evolved since the early days of the sport. As basic machines were once modified to be competitive on the track, we are seeing purpose-built, specialist bikes on the starting grid. Lining up on the grid to any number of the AMA events, you will see dirt bikes, street bikes, and variants that blur the line between the two, called "motards." It's exciting to see the evolution of the sport, and flat track might just be the next big wave of motorcycle racing to break over the US. There are rumblings in the industry that there could be any number of trackers coming from the top manufacturers. Time will tell.

Source: rideapart.com (read more)


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