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Southern California’s surf coast is a long way from America’s flat trackin’ heartland
It’s not the first time I’ve been on the outside of the law, but this time I was an outlaw in a gang of a couple of hundred other likeminded souls, and that was a first. Fellow dirt-thirsty slide-fiends, all assembled on the hallowed stage of Del Mar Showgrounds, where up to a decade ago the Del Mar Mile had been a major event on the Pro Flat Track scene.
Today, we are bumping shoulders and eating each others dirt roosts on an 1/8-mile oval track built inside Del Mar’s show jumping arena. It’s a fitting scene for the nostalgia-packed vibe of an IV League Flat Track event. The towering domed roof and concrete stands reverberate and amplify the sound of thunder rising up from the arena floor as if Thor himself was playing a lightning solo through the world’s most humungous Marshal amp stack. Imagine, being in an enclosed concrete auditorium with twenty-odd two-cylinder 750-1200cc race-piped Hooligans, all with the taps turned to wide-open. It was an august din, bringing meaning to life by punching crater sized holes in the warm dry air of a SoCal February night.
The outlaw reference is probably a bit of sensationalism on my part, as I was soon to find out that a hell of lot of racing goes on in this fashion ‘Stateside. But it came as such a cool surprise to me that absolutely anyone can turn up, with whatever bike they are silly enough to want to skid, and join in the jive without even a question of having any sort of licence. Just tell the girls in the office which class you wanna’ race, pay your fifty bucks, and go fill your boots and teeth with Cali’s finest clay. And riding gear? Got a helmet dude? You’re good to go! The only exception here was for the junior classes, all of whom had to have all the kind of riding kit you’d expect a responsible parent to deck out their precious loin-fruit with. Once you come of age, though…give dad the bird, chuck it all the trash, and go race in jeans, a T-shirt, a pair of plimsolls, with an old pudding bowl on your bonce. Or not. You’re old enough to make up your own rules now buddy.
Bike scrutineering consists of simply making sure the mechanic’s not a dick wad. Got any sharp protuberances which may impale your racing pals? Nope? Good to go!
It wasn’t a complete surprise to me that a race meeting would be run without any need of a licence, and organised without being sanctioned by a national motorcycle racing body, like Motorcycling Australia (MA), or as in this case the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). But, it was a surprise that such a meeting would occur on such a grand scale and in such a Grande stadium. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has been a regular haunt for Hollywood ‘A’ listers, it’s founding partners included Bing Crosby and Gary Cooper.