Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The death of the "Murderdromes"

The first board track opened at the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordome near Playa del Ray, CA, on April 8, 1910. Based on and utilizing the same technology as the French velodromes used for bicycle races, the track and others like it were created with 2" by 4"boards, and banked up to 45°. The banking in the corners of board tracks started at 25° in 1911, like bicycles tracks were. The banking was increased until 60° was common! The effect of the banking was higher cornering speed and higher G-force on drivers.

Fans sat on the top of the track looking down at the racers. When a driver lost control in a corner, he could slip up off the track and into the crowd. An incident often killed a half-dozen competitors and spectators at a time. On September 8, 1912, Eddie Hasha was killed at the New Jersey Motodrome. The accident killed 4 boys and injured 10 more people. The deaths made the front page of the New York Times. The press started calling the short 1/4 and 1/3 mile circuits "murderdromes".

The 1913 motorcycle championship races were moved to a dirt track because dirt was safer. The national organization overseeing motorcycle racing on board tracks banned all competitions on board tracks shorter than 1-mile in 1919. Board tracks slowly faded away by the 1920s and 1930s. A damn shame....

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