Competitions take place on tracks which are defined by the FIM as being of the following:
Speedway - a track with a top surface in granite, shale, brick granules or similar unbound material rolled in on the base ground
Long track - sand, shale or similar unbound material rolled in on the base ground
Grass track - firm, level turf with minor undulations
Ice Racing - ice with a minimum thickness of 10 cm
Variants of the sport
Main article: Motorcycle speedway
A typical Speedway motorcycle
Speedway racing takes place on a flat oval track measuring between 260 and 425 metres long, usually consisting of dirt or loosely packed shale. Competitors use this loose surface to slide their machines sideways into the bends using the rear wheel to scrub-off speed while still providing the drive to power the bike forward and around the bend.
FIM regulations state that the motorcycles used must have no brakes, run on pure methanol, use only one gear and weigh a minimum of 78 kg. Races consist of between four and six riders competing over four to six laps.
Originating in New South Wales, Australia in the 1920s, there are now both domestic and international competitions in a number of countries including the Speedway World Cup whilst the highest overall scoring individual in the Speedway Grand Prix events is pronounced the Speedway world champion.
Main article: A.M.A. Grand National Championship
Flat track racing, also known as dirt track racing, looks similar to Speedway racing but is quite different. Flat track motorcycles can have either two-stroke or four-stroke engines in amateur competition. Flat track bikes have front and rear suspension, and rear brakes. The brakes are what make it completely distinct from speedway, as the brakes allow for a different cornering technique. Four-stroke motorcycles dominate professional competition and depending on the venue, can be single or multi-cylinder. Racetracks vary in length from 1/4 mile (400 metres) to 1 mile (1600 metres).
Successful riders will often move to road racing, which is considerably more lucrative. Many top American riders
in Grand Prix motorcycle racing began their racing careers as flat track racers.
Flattrackers entering a corner.
Main article: Grasstrack
Grasstrack (also known as Grasbahn) racing takes place on a flat oval track usually constructed in a field. The motorcycles have two gears, rear suspension, no brakes, and are larger in length overall than speedway bikes.
Races usually take place over four laps from a standing start. Unlike Speedway, which has four riders per race, Grasstrack racing can have many riders in each heat and the circuit is normally longer, allowing higher speeds.
Main article: Long track motorcycle racing
Stadion Haunstetten, a Sandbahn track
Longtrack (also known as Sandbahn) is a variant of Grasstrack held on tracks up to 1000 – 1200 meters in length and with speeds reaching 90–100 mph (140–160 km/h). The machinery and rules used are the same as for Grasstrack.
The sport is popular in Germany, possibly more so than Speedway. This means that the majority of tracks are to be found in that country, although tracks can also be found in the Czech Republic, Finland and Norway. Occasionally, Longtrack meetings are held in Australia and the United States, but these generally take place around horse trotting arenas during their off-seasons (such as the California State Fairgrounds Race Track, often known as the Sacramento Mile in motorcycle racing).