7 July 2020

Speedway - The Curious Motorsport with No Brakes

Four riders line up at the start line where a set of white tapes stretch across the track to block them from moving forwards. Each of them wears a different coloured helmet, one red, one blue, one yellow and one green/white. As they await the order to start, they rev their engines and turn their heads to watch the mechanism that lifts the white tapes up.

As it triggers, they drop their clutches and rocket forwards, accelerating to breakneck speeds in just a couple of seconds before sliding their bike around the shale-covered hairpin bend, showering the spectators with dust and dirt in the process.

This sport, known as speedway, was once one of the most popular in the United Kingdom. In fact, online bookmaker and casino brand, Coral, first built its business off the back of it. Today, though, Coral makes much more of its money from sports like football and horse racing, as well as its online casino that’s been rated 4.5/5 by oddschecker.

Unlike Coral, which has gone from strength to strength, speedway has almost died out in the UK. It’s grown in popularity throughout eastern, central and northern Europe though. With large numbers of supporters in Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Russia.

In Poland, speedway is one of the most popular sports with the Polish Extraleague boasting the highest average event attendances of any sport in the country.

No Brakes
One of the biggest factors that distinguishes speedway from other forms of motorcycle racing is the fact that riders have no brakes to stop their bike. To go around a corner, the rider will lean in and accelerate, forcing the back wheel to step out and allow the rider to slide the bike around the curve.

This creates some exciting racing as riders will navigate each bend with different arcs, either taking the shortest route around the inside or sacrificing this to get a faster exit speed to attack their opponent at the next corner.

Races are a sprint, lasting just four laps. A single event will see more than a dozen races take place, with riders scoring points depending on how they finish in each heat. 

Another curiosity of the sport is that bikes must be fuelled with methanol, a form of alcohol used in industrial settings. This creates a unique smell at speedway races that many fans say adds to the atmosphere.

Using methanol instead of more traditional fuels allows riders to reach speeds as high as 80 mph as they navigate the bends, something that wouldn’t normally be possible on such short tracks.

Speedway may not be appreciated by many, but it’s a unique sport that’s the product of its strange rules, odd fuel choice, and very brave riders.