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Washington State Loves It's Flat Track Racing
A flurry of snow splattered the windshield as we made our way to Elma, Washington and the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds to race motorcycles. Specifically, flattrack racing - on an indoor track in an arena more accustomed to horses than horsepower.
racing takes place on a hard-packed dirt oval or, ideally, a clay track.
The bikes are often custom built from production dirt bikes and feature
engines mounted on specially designed chassis with lightweight street bike front
forks, special shocks in the rear and what’s known as a ‘spool’ wheel up
front. Similar to a bicycle wheel,
the spool wheel has one unique feature – no brakes!
On a flattrack bike, there are no front brakes.
What sets the flattrack rider apart from a road racer is the fact that he
or she wears a steel (or ‘hot’) shoe on the left boot (at
Used as an ‘outrigger’ or balance point, the left foot is put down in
the corner and skims along the surface of the racetrack helping the rider remain
on the board tracks (yes, they were made out of wood) in the early 1900s,
flattrack racing soon moved to the state fairs of the midwest and enjoyed great
popularity up through the 1970s. While
the sport still survives, there are fewer tracks to run on and racing at the
local level is sporadic at best. It’s
the purest form of motorcycle racing and one that enjoys a passionate, devoted
following. Most events in this area
are sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association and promoted by the
Catywampus Caveman Motorcycle Club of AMA District 27.
The Elma indoor season starts in November and runs through March with the
next event on Saturday, March 23rd.
an arena smelling of corndogs, caramel corn, and, of course, coffee, the pit
area and grandstand are littered with plenty of pimples, purple, electric green
leather, some vanilla hair and tattoos, a cowboy hat or two, a few piercings,
and several beards and ponytails. Regardless of the makeup of the crowd, the
atmosphere is friendly and family. Racers
range in age from 6 to 60-something, male and female.
On the track or in the grandstand, there’s something for everybody at
flattracking isn’t just for motorcycles, either. The race day program also includes speedway-style racers,
quads, and occasionally riding lawn mowers (no blades, please).
The riding lawn mowers come in a variety of shapes, age, and designs.
Painted in strange colors like industrial blue and bearing titles like
"Mad Dog”, it’s not clear whether the moniker is that of the lawnmower or
the rider! With a helmet to match
the mower, a ring of keys jangling against the seat, and a pair of red
suspenders standing between himself and embarrassment, the rider’s out for a
night of four-wheel fun with no lawn in sight!
unique form of competition is Speedway racing.
Hugely popular in Europe, teams represent various countries throughout
the region and compete in the Speedway Grand Prix series.
Structured much like soccer leagues, teams often represent cities and
compete in a national series, as well. The
bikes resemble large-wheeled bicycles and also operate without brakes – front
AND rear! In addition, the bikes are built low to the ground and
feature only one gear – riders just climb aboard and grab a handful of
throttle! Check out www.speedwaybike.com
for more information on this exciting form of racing.
the snow turns to an icy, sleety rain the racing gets underway.
A smoky haze rises to the ceiling of the arena while the air is scented
with the aroma of race fuel. Engines
begin to rev in a wa-wa rhythm as each class lines up at the pit entrance for
their heat race. From the heat
races, riders prepare for their next run and depending on how many riders are
competing, there could be a semi-main to further narrow the field.
truly is a family sport. It’s not
uncommon to see a 6-year-old competing in the Beginner 50cc class while Dad (or
Mom!) competes in one of the larger displacement fields.
While classes are based on engine size and rider experience, there are
also classes based on age, with Over 30, Over 40 and Over 50 year old groups
having a run on the demanding track.
to success in this form of racing is a quick, fast start - especially on a short
track. Getting out in front quickly
makes it difficult (but not impossible!) to pass.
Although the quads have a propensity for driving over top of one another,
crashes are mostly of the ‘whoops!-I-fell-down’ variety and minor fuel
spills are handled with a quick flame and stamp of the foot.
Brooms and shovels are kept readily at hand for more serious divots.
this particular evening, one of the riders that attracted attention was wearing
a conspicuous cowboy hat and an ear-to-ear grin. Aaron "Hayseed” Weston (at
started racing in 1995 at Oakwood Arena and last year was ranked 69th
in the nation with Formula USA. This
year, Aaron hopes to achieve his national number with the AMA sanctioning body.
Hayseed runs a 1999 Wood Rotax 665 at local events and a 2002 Suzuki
TL1000 for the nationals. His
favorite track is anything ˝ mile (check out Yakima on April 13th
and 14th) or bigger with deep cushion for riding sideways! Hayseed recommends riding often and having fun – but watch
out for those back-40 events – they can be bone-bending!
form of motorcycle racing doesn’t go without rewards, either.
The High Participation award goes to the riders who attend and
participate in most, if not all, of the AMA District 27 sanction races.
The 2001 season recipients for High Participation were Shawn Dewey, 250/2
Stroke Quad Class, for participating in 31 of 34 races and young J. D. Beach
(he’s yet to celebrate his 10th birthday!), 65cc M/C Class, for
participating in 34 of 34 races. The
Bill Fogg Memorial Award is in memory of Bill Fogg and is presented to a rider
who is always willing to help others and shows a great love for the sport.
For 2001, the recipient of the Fogg Memorial was Aaron "Hayseed”
Weston. The High Point Award goes
to the rider who has earned the most points from January to December in a given
year. For 2001, Shawn Dewey was the
250/2 Stroke Quad recipient with 407 points in 31 races and Gary Moore in the
+30 Open M/C class with 494 points in 31 races, as well as the +40 class honors
with 487 points in 30 races. For showing great sportsmanship throughout the season,
Sportsman of the Year went to Dick Wall while Sportswoman of the Year went to
Danielle Marshall. Note:
You don’t have to be a rider to be eligible to receive this award –
just a fan of a great sport!
For more information about this exhilarating sport, visit www.AMADist27.org, or call 425-745-4010 and let them know you read about it on Sound RIDER!
Story and Photos by Nan Darbous
Nan Darbous is a member of SSO Racing and WMRRA. She races various types of motorcycles along with the SSO team.
The Flat Track schedule for the Northwest through the end of 2002
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