History of Motorcycle Speedway Racing

Written by john yargo
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History of Motorcycle Speedway Racing
A motorcycle that conforms to FIM regulations. (motorcycle 2 image by Vitezslav Halamka from Fotolia.com)

Motorcycle speedway racing has grown in popularity, particularly in Australia and America, since its creation in the 1920s. This contact sport has developed governing bodies, international competitions and a few celebrity athletes. In countries such as Poland and the United Kingdom, motorcycle speedway racing is one of the most popular sports.

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Early Meetings

In December 1923, the first motorcycle speedway race took place in Maitland, in New South Wales, Australia. The race was reported in the local Mainland Mercury. The first introduction of motorcycle speedway racing to the Northern Hemisphere was in the 1928 High Beech race, when Australians Billy Galloway and Keith McKay introduced it to British audiences. International interest in motorcycle speed racing was piqued, and soon championships were established.

Early Championships

In 1929, the first world championship, the Star Riders' Championship, was held in Australia. In this competition, Australians and Americans performed in the main competition, but British racers were disqualified, as some believed they were not adequate yet. A native of Lismore, Frank Arthur (1908-1972) won the first championship. The next year, the championship would be held at Wimbledon Stadium, and the English racer Roger Frogley won.

Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme

The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (or FIM) was established on December 21, 1904. In 2000, the organisation was given full status as a regulatory body by the International Olympic Committee. FIM originally regulated competitions in road racing and enduro (off-road) motorcycle racing, but expanded its scope to also regulate speedway racing and motorcross. Its headquarters is in Mies, Switzerland.

World Championships

Starting in the 1960s, FIM held the Speedway World Team Cup every year, at revolving venues. In 2001, the Team Cup was replaced by the Speedway World Cup. Since then, Poland has won three times, most recently in 2009. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden and Denmark, operate their own FIM-certified motorcycle speedway leagues, sometimes three or more, as is the case with the UK.

Regulations

Since the 1930s, the FIM has continued to develop rules for motorcycle speedway competitions. Each track is between 260 and 450 meters long, with a minimum width of 10 meters on straight lengths and 14 meters on bends. All motorcycles are to weigh more than 77 kilograms, be fuelled by pure methanol, and have a four-stroke single cylinder engine. The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme requires that all competition tracks have a pit area and garage, press facilities and medical facilities.

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