Growing up, one of the basic things you learn is to ride a bike. To be able to control a wheeled vehicle while keeping your balance. Once anyone gets the hang of riding a bike, it becomes pretty simple. Yet the riders at Broadford Speedway at the Vic Solo Championship bring riding a bike to a whole new level.
Simply known as Speedway racing in the motorcycle world, these riders race around the unpaved oval on bikes with no gears, no brakes at an average speed of 70km/hr. Centimetres from other riders and moments from disaster, these riders have no fear and unbelievable control of their motorcycles.
So you can ride a bicycle? That's cute!
Although the origins of this sport is up for debate, races are known to have been contested in Australia and the U.S before World War 1. The earliest documented race was in Newcastle NSW in 1905.
Even in Speedway's earliest years, technique to be the fastest around these dirt ovals was evolving. In 1914, American rider Don Johns invented what is known as 'broadsliding', keeping the throttle wide open while spraying showers of dirt as he slid sideways around corners.
In Australia, these events really took off in 1924 at the Newcastle Showgrounds, the second oldest Motorcycle Speedway in the world, and led to the building of the Newcastle Speedway. 1926 would be the first year the Australian Motorcycle Speedway Championship would be held, and from then, the sport would steadily grow around the country and internationally. Many Aussies head to Europe to compete in Motorcycle Speedway, and in 2017, Jason Doyle won the FIM World Speedway Championship.
The bikes used in this form of racing have methanol injected 500cc engines and as previously mentioned, have no gears or brakes. At the rear of the bike, a dirt deflector is fitted to minimise the amount of dirt flown up by the rear wheel. A modern day war horse, and those who choose to ride them are modern day gladiators.
Between races, the track is watered to keep dust at a minimum. For the Vic Solo Speedway Championship, the format of the races would include 16 heat races. Each rider would race each other exactly once, and their finishing positions would be tallied up to determine who would progress into the finals. 4 more heat races would be run to determine the 4-7 positions. Those riders would race in the B Main Semi Final, and the winner of that race would progress into the Grand Final along with the top 3 riders.
In the Grand Final, Justin Sedgmen would lead the 4 lap race from the inside lane, taking a commanding victory over the rest as the dust settled at Broadford Speedway.
I would highly recommend taking a closer look at Motorcycle Speedway if you get the chance. It's like a mixture of motocross and drifting, and those who compete have unbelievable control at such high speeds, on such a loose surface. They could be thrown off at a moments notice, yet they peg it full throttle around the speedway, coming inches from the wall, throwing caution and any fear to the dust.