Forget Poncey Brolly Girls, Motorhomes, Corporate Endorsement and Baseball hats that don’t fit. UK Flat Track is quietly going about giving the UK race-goer a proper series based on values less to do with the usual off-track distractions and more to do with awesome, accessible racing! Oh, and you can get in for a Tenner too…
I’d never even been to a Speedway track, so when a good mate of mine Peter Boast (Bike Magazine road tester, long time Racer, Ron Haslam school stalwart and organiser of the UK Flat Track series) told me they had a round of the UK Flat Track series at Coventry in May, I couldn’t wait to pop in to see what going sideways with no brakes was all about.
Now let’s clarify – Flat Track is a US inspired form of racing that really isn’t the same as Speedway. The fundamental difference is in the bikes, which in Flat Track are (mainly) modified dirt bikes which retain a rear brake. A speedway bike is fixed gear, has no brakes and was designed solely for the purpose of negotiating a slippery track which only turns left! The biggest visual difference with the actual racing is that Flat Track races contain 12 not 4 bikes – there’s a lot to be looking at.
Flat track UK splits it’s racing into 2 main classes; Open and Thunder Bike. The Open Class is where the expert riders and machines end up to contest the UK Grand National Championship, the Thunder Bikes class contain a collection of machines which could be best defined as “raw”. As well as the wide variety of bikes, there are riders of all ages and seemingly skill levels.
A full programme of 27 races builds through heats into semi-finals and the Grand final, the cream rises to the top and as the evening rolls on, the speed and quality is distilled towards a gripping finale.
From the first moment I clamped eyes on the track, which is rich in the patina of decades of hard, basic racing, I found I was mesmerised. It was like being dropped back into the 1960′s, in the best possible way. This is one race event that has no time to dwell on glossy presentation and other modern bullshit, it simply delivers by rolling out race after race of jaw dropping excitement. I’m no fan of the crash, but for sure, you’re going to see spills, and hopefully as on the night I visited, you’ll see everyone leave the track with nothing more than the odd tweak.
I found something to love about every race. The Youth race proved physical size is no indicator of the likely result with a couple of small but mega-fast kids bashing up much bigger racers. The Thunder Bikes collect together such a wide variety of bikes and riders that they always prove hugely eventful, as well as running at a pace which you have to be in awe of.
The Open class is the front line for sheer quality at the event. The fight to get 12 bikes under control and to the front on a sopping wet strip of dirt without front brakes is so good to watch! Sometimes it’s all gathered up and made to look easy, other times it’s amazingly wild where the bikes buck and weave and try to dump their jockeys over the side – you just don’t know. MotoGP levels of predictability aren’t to be expected!
I had a thoroughly enjoyable night, and as well as going to more rounds, I’ll be taking on some training at Peter Boast’s Flat Track training School in Scunthorpe – I’m about 1,000,000 miles out of my comfort zone even thinking about getting the wheels out of line on a track with no grip, but having seen it done so well by so many people, I just can’t let it go without having a crack. On my Sofa as I write this it all makes sense, but I can already guess I’ll want to go home for a cuddle the first time I bolt a steel shoe on and sit atop a Flat tracker on a dirt Oval…!
The next round is also £10 to get into and is at Oxford Speedway on Friday 15th June 2012, from 7pm onwards – full details from www.shorttrackuk.com