The gate drops and 24 twin-engine motorcycles leap forward in screaming unison. The elbow-to-elbow pack surges, speeding ahead on the flat track at more than 100 miles per hour. In seconds, they’ve reached the first turn; riders lean sharply in a horse-powered ballet. As one steel-toed booted foot skims the packed soil, each jockeys for position.
The crowd roars, thirsty for more.
Welcome to the world of Flat-Track Racing.
Like what you saw at X Games? Austin fans are in luck; we’ve got another chance to watch Flat-Track Racing this coming weekend. And Austin riders, you can go to school with X Games athlete and American Motorcyclist Association Pro champion Brad “The Bullet” Baker.
Flat-Track Racing Comes to Circuit of The Americas
One of motorsport’s oldest forms, Flat-Track Racing has been taking to the dirt since 1914. However, the sport lacked mainstream recognition for a long time. According to Kris Schoonover, head of Harley-Davidson’s U.S. racing and events (“the fun stuff”), the company met with ESPN to brainstorm: “How do we make this sport big?”
X Games, with its energetic vibe and engaged crowd, was a natural showcase.
So Circuit of The Americas trucked in clay-based dirt from Waco to construct a semi-permanent “short half-mile” track and in 2015 X Games Austin debuted Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing.
Taking X Games Austin by Twin-Cylinder Storm
With four close turns and a starting gate (Flat Track riders typically start in rows with a light), the opening night race was electrifying. Add in a dramatic finish for a surprise medal winner…No wonder Harley-Davidson Flat Track returned to kick off X Games Austin 2016.
Here’s a video recap of the June 2 race:
Future of Flat-Track Racing in Austin
Between X Games races, the American Motorcyclist Association “grabbed the bull by the horns” to host AMA Pro Flat Track at COTA in April 2016, and many of those participating riders were back for X Games.
However, no regular Flat Track event has taken root at COTA. What’s required for this to happen, said Schoonover, is a dedicated local promoter, “someone who lives here and cares [about the sport].” He suggested pairing Flat Track with a music festival or another motorsport event, such as MotoGP.
Fans will have to wait and see what’s in store for the X Games Austin course. According to an official from COTA, “Plans for future uses of the flat track venue are still in the works.”
Riding Flat Track at ROT Rally
As X Games exits Austin, the Republic of Texas Biker Rally arrives with a rumble. And good news for fans: the annual ROT Rally is debuting its first ever ROT Flat Track Races, in partnership with IV League Flat Track.
Indian Motorcycle and Roland Sands Design have partnered with IV League Flat Track to construct a one-fifth mile dirt venue at Travis County Expo Center. In addition to watching some of the nation’s top racers on Thursday and Saturday, amateur riders of all levels can take part in “run what you brung” events. IVLFT President Brian Bell was excited that fans 18 and older who are comfortable on a bike can participate in Friday’s Ride Academy, taught by Brandon Bates and 2013 AMA Pro Racing Expert Grand National Champion Brad “The Bullet” Baker.
Bell explained that the track is shorter to make sure it isn’t “too big and too fast” for those learning riders and amateurs participating in Hooligan races. He also pointed out ROT Flat Track Races are a good opportunity to see many Texas pros who weren’t on the field at X Games Austin.
Getting Started in Flat-Track Racing
Schoonover and Bell offered advice for Austin riders inspired by X Games and ROT Rally who want to give Flat-Track Racing a try.
- Find a convenient track. At this time, they’re all located outside Austin (hint, hint, COTA).
- Choose an appropriate bike, one based on your size and age (anywhere from 50cc to 450s).
- Check out local dealers for support and information. Several H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) Chapters, for example, organized rides that ended at COTA’s parking lot for last Thursday’s X Games Flat-Track Racing.
- Watch races for inspiration and to learn the sport. AMA Pro Racing and IVLFT have events around the country. And, of course, the ROT Rally is at Travis County Expo this weekend.
- Sign up for amateur events and take classes to increase comfort on the bike.
- Just get out there and ride!
leahruns100 wants to know:
What’s one word that describes how riding a motorcycle feels like to you?