Dirt track racing in five points

3 minutes

Lots of the riders who race in the Motorcycling World Championship have a go at dirt track in their spare time. Marc Márquez, for instance, is one of those riders. In fact, the number of dirt track fans has been on the rise for some time now. What is the reason for this interest? And, above all, what does it consist of exactly? Here, we clear up any queries you may have with just five questions:

Marc Márquez haciendo dirt track
Dirt track racing in five points

Did you know that on some dirt tracks riders can reach speeds of up to 130 mph?


1. What is dirt track?

Dirt-track is a type of motorcycle racing that began in the US. It normally takes place on clay or dirt surfaced oval tracks with turns that are only slightly banked or not all and races run counter-clockwise. The competition itself has several short qualifying rounds and play-offs that last between 6 and 16 laps or more, depending on the round. Only a small number of riders take part: a minimum of 6, and sometimes more than 12 in some of the rounds. The fastest riders move on to the next round until the final.

2. What technical and specific driving features does it have?

In this type of racing, riders have to make the bikes skid on the turns. In terms of driving, it is crucial to know how to brake, tilt the bike, use the right amount of gas, and take the turns, sliding both wheels. But one of the most important and impressive factors is how riders slide their left feet along the ground to control and prolong the skid. To do that they wear a special steel shoe.


3. What is so special about the bikes they use?

They are bikes with a design that originated in motocross and the main difference compared to bikes from other racing categories is that they don’t have a front brake. The tyres are also designed to have only limited grip. Just like in MotoGP, depending on the category, the bikes have different cylinder capacities and the tracks can have different lengths. In the US, on tracks that are a mile long, speeds of up to 130 mph can be reached!


4. If there is no front brake, how do the riders brake?

By skidding properly, the riders can take the turns at full speed, tilting the bikes and causing the rear wheel to slide. This creates a dragging effect that stops the bike. Some riders prefer to use the rear brake to start the slide.

5. How does practising this type of racing help to prepare for MotoGP?

The main reasons many current riders are training on dirt tracks is to practise skid control and to physically prepare themselves. Marc Márquez admits that it is “one of the best and most fun ways to train and not lose touch with the gas.” The Repsol Honda Team rider has been doing it “since he was a kid”, and started at just five years old on the Rufea track. Just like him, some of the Motorcycling World Championship legends also practised this sport, for instance, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, and Kevin Schwantz.

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