Wait… What Is Flat Track Racing, This Return to Del Mar?
I Am About to Have a Big Revelation About Flat Track Racing
I’ve heard of flat track racing, of course, but I didn’t know anything about it when I heard the buzz about the upcoming IV League Flat Track races at Del Mar. Something about Roland Sands, something about a Return to Del Mar kerfuffle. I’d seen old pictures (well, 1970s old) of motorbikes basically drift-racing sideways around a round track. Race day sounded noisy and fun, and aside from that, I had no clue.
Housed in the Del Mar Fairgrounds Arena, the track was 1/8th of a mile of groomed dirt, with pits in the back and pop-up tents covering all kinds of cool bikes both in the pits and in the parkway. I have a Scrambler, a 1970 Honda cl350. I was expecting to see bikes like that, and maybe some bona-fide flat trackers (narrow motorcycles with no brakes, teensy gas tanks, exhaust pipes high and on the right so they don’t scrape the ground on the steep left turns, and a total lunatic rider on top).
However, what I saw were full-size Harleys, some fabulous custom-built bikes, dirt bikes, vintage bikes, pull-start mini-bikes.. and is that an early Honda trail bike? All in all, there were a couple of dozen classes, all different ride styles, all different rider types.
Gorgeous helmets, beautiful jackets, and just about everything had a cool-kid 1970s vibe, perfectly evocative of my childhood. The noise was deafening, a deep roar that made the heart catch in the throat.
With each race being only a few laps long, the packs of riders were tight and passing was tricky. There were a startling number of accidents on the track. Race after race had to be re-started, as when one rider went down, he would take out the whole pack.
And then there were the riders themselves. Intent serious racers, thrill-seekers, and goofballs, largely divided by the bikes they were riding and the class in which they were entered. However, they were all pretty cool.
…Some of them super-cool. (…What? Oh, c’mon there, Evel. You know you’re awesome.)
The Hooligan Class was especially fun to watch. The riders seemed to be largely from Roland Sands, Deus ex Machina, and Suicide Machine Company, and it was clear that this was a friendly, intense competition amongst friends. They, in particular, seemed like a close-knit group of enthusiasts, and watching them fling around their heavy, rather unwieldy machines was a pleasure to watch.
Then came out the original race bikes, the bikes I was expecting to see all day, with amazing riders from the glory days of flat track racing! These guys took my breath away.
The biggest treat of the day, though, was unexpectedly seeing Mikey Ratt of Pack Ratt Records on the pull-start mini bikes. It was a thrill to see someone I knew racing something amazing and silly, and he took his fall like a champ.
Suddenly after seeing Mikey (and also Christian from Trophy Motorcycles), a few things started to click into place… Like, that’s a woman in the vintage race. not a girl on a dirt bike, but a woman who looked like she might not have grown up in a motorcycle family. She looked nervous and stylish, and amazing and inspiring.
Then it all came together: I watched the quad race. Fast, slidey riders, slipping sideways across the corners, looking a lot like, well, a lot like me out in the desert. Except these guys are in a spectator arena, willing to push themselves in front of people, competing, racing. The idea was terrifying. And thrilling. And totally outside of anything I’d ever considered. Which means…
I’m going to race my quad on the next race day. This is now happening.
So what do you think? Please let me know in the comments below!