Photos by Scott Hoffman
You may wonder why speedway is showing up on Dirt Rider, right? Well, we cover just about every other form of two-wheel off-road entertainment, so why not include Speedway? Monster Energy invited us out to Costa Mesa Speedway for a day to answer this question, introduce us to the 2012 bikes from JRM, GM and Hagon, and show us what “the slide” is all about.
What does Monster have to do with Speedway? They are now the presenting sponsor of the FIM Speedway Grand Prix and title sponsor for the FIM Monster Energy Speedway World Cup. They are in for the long haul and they plan on bringing a round to the states in the near future. This calls for some exposure, and definitely sparked my interest in a sport that I know little about.
We started the day off in the classroom of Brad Oxley’s School of Skid. He gave us a quick rundown of the dos and don’ts of Speedway and basically told us moto guys to forget everything we know about riding motorcycles. Fair enough, oh, and the end result of every stupid mistake is hitting the wall. That calmed us all down pretty quick. Before I get down to the thrill of riding these amazing machines, I have to say that the Speedway community was very friendly and everyone was quick to give you advice. We even had Billy Hamill out there to give us pointers and lay down some laps to show us how it’s done. It wasn’t at all like some other territorial sports, everyone was very welcoming and they were all stoked to see us get a little sideways.
I thought we would be riding small bikes and that’s partly why I talked my Dad into coming along and trying it out. Turns out, they put us right on the big boy bikes. Yep, 500s, they told us these would make it a lot easier to get sideways. That’s about the time my Dad looked at me and said, “What the hell did you get me into? You told me we were riding 140s or 250s! No, straight to 500s! And with NO BRAKES!” Yeah, I might have also told him they would put brakes on for us too. How was I supposed to know? No turning back now, besides, they said 500s are easier. Makes sense, after all, everything is opposite in speedway land. Gas it to slow down… let off to go fast… turn right to go left… and 500s are easier to ride. Check… check… aaaaand check.
It took some time to get comfortable on the oddly shaped machines, but after some laps and a lot of instruction from Oxley, it started to come together and the design of the bike made it very easy to slide. The thrill you get when getting just a little sideways on these bikes is like nothing else! It’s a rush! And the more laps I did, the more laps I wanted to do. I didn’t want to get off the bike at the end of the day. Once I got a taste of sliding, I wanted to keep going. I wanted to get sideways sooner and sooner, but it wasn’t a ride day just for me, so I couldn’t spend all day on it even though I wanted to. And yes, they did have to pry my hands off the bars to get their bike back.
After spending a day on these machines, I can say with enthusiasm that Speedway is an awesome sport! It’s amazing watching the pros do it and remarkable seeing the kids out there doing the same. This sport is huge in Europe, but is somehow overlooked in the States (Or at least on a national level in the media’s eyes). The local scene is massive – there is racing three to four nights every week at several venues here in So Cal. And there are a lot of riding schools; Oxleys School of Skid, which we had the privilege of experiencing; Billy Hamill also has a Junior Academy to introduce new young riders to the sport. It’s a great community and believe it or not, even with no brakes, I feel it’s safer and easier on your body than Moto.
Is Speedway an amazing rush? Yes. Is it something that I would like to see grow in the U.S.? Heck yeah! This is one of those things that you HAVE to try! It’s a rush like no other and, man, is it a crazy cool feeling! Anyone that enjoys anything two wheels will have a blast riding speedway. And once you try it, it’s hard to get it out of your head. Make it a point to go check it out and support this awesome form of racing.