Shorttrack: Busting the jargon
Saturday’s annual Silkolene Shorttrack UK Christmas Cracker meeting at Scunthorpe Speedway is unique in bringing together top BSB stars Steve Plater, Guy Martin and Karl Harris against the top men from speedway, grasstrack and shorttrack.
Every sport has its own terminology and jargon and shorttrack racing, which has its roots in AMA flattrack, certainly has some curious terminology.
Shorttrack UK promoter and top rider Peter Boast explains all.
Shorttrack, flattrack, dirttrack are all basically the same American-inspired sport of motorcycle racing on dirt ovals. Shorttrack is, what it says, on shorter tracks of usually 500metres or less. Flattrack (or dirttrack as it’s also known) is on half-mile and mile ovals. The only half mile on the British schedule is at Amman Valley in Wales and is part of the Shorttrrack UK series.
This is where the dirt surface (usually clay-based) is so hard that the spinning rear tyres deposit rubber onto the track, thus creating a ‘blue goove’ of rubber. It can be anything from four feet to eight feet wide and gives incredible traction. Get off the groove and there’s no traction.
This is a deep dirt track surface that gives good grip across the full width of the race track. The majority of British tracks are cushion tracks.
Slipstreaming is a huge part of Stateside flattrack racing thanks to racing on half-mile and mile racetracks but it only happens in the UK at Amman Valley. The slipstreaming effect at speed means it’s possible to pull up to three bikes lengths on a rival by tucking in behind the motorcycle in front and then pulling out to pass at the end of a straight.
Pure-bred dirt-track bikes have specially-built frames which are designed with short wheelbases (normally around 23”) that give a good compromise between allowing the bikes to slide in the corners, getting good traction off the corners whilst retaining high-speed stability down the straights.
When the American sport looked like it was set for a decline in the Eighties the sport’s governing body came up with the idea of cheaper bikes – using converted motocross bikes for dirttrack racing, based on readily available motocross machinery, called DTX (dirttrack motocrossers). The major change is lowering the suspension – and fitting a 19” front wheel demanded by the rules.
Shorttrack UK has a class for single cylinder bikes. There’s also a big-bike class but with no readily available source of pure flattrack bikes, Thunderbikes was conceived and is for converted road bikes or pure-bred American 750cc twin-cylinder flattrackers.
Nothing to do with the Isle of Man. TT Steeplechase races feature in the American series (a throwback to days when there was no supercross) and is basically a shorttrack race with a right hand turn and at least one jump. The British series has one TT meeting each year, held at Kings Lynn. The only major difference in bike set-up for a TT race is the addition of a front brake. The bikes don’t have front brakes for oval track races.