Murderdrome Racers

Board Track racing had such a brief existence in the overall picture of Motorcycle Racing. Many of your BT Racers were killed or had career ending injuries. These men were daredevils; riding essentially 1000cc Bicycles with no brakes on high banked board tracks with minimal head and body protection. After the N.J. Carnage which also killed spectators, The Tracks all across America were torn down and BT Racing just faded away. One racer who escaped Death and serious injury in his career and went on to live 100+ years was Jim Davis. He is honored at the Racers Wall at the Daytona International Speedway.They entertained 1000's of spectators doing something that could end their life every time out. BTW: Interesting bit of trivia; the racer shown in the Video name Ray Weisshar who had the little Pigglet on his Gastank is credited for giving Harley Davidson the term "Harley Hog" Ray use to bring his little pet Pig to the Races as both a Mascot and Good Luck Charm.

Fans sat above the top of the track, looking down at the racers. When a rider lost control, he could slip up off the track and into the crowd. Many fatalities occurred, often involving spectators. The velodrome at Nutley, New Jersey, a 1⁄8 mi (200 m) oval banked at 45 degrees (generating lap times of 8 seconds or less) and built from 1 in × 12 in (25 mm × 305 mm) lumber on edge, was "unquestionably the deadliest". On September 8, 1912, "Texas Cyclone" Eddie Hasha was killed at a motordrome in Newark, New Jersey in an accident which also killed, another racer, 4 spectators and injured 10 more. The deaths made the front page of The New York Times, and 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 banned all competitions on board tracks shorter than 1-mile (1.6 km) in 1919. One by one, the manufacturers withdrew their support due to the negative publicity.

The Perils of Board Track Racing
However, anytime speed increases, so does the potential danger, and board track racing proved to be an especially perilous sport. For one thing, the breakneck speed was enough to do just that – break necks. The safety equipment of the day was far below the requirements of today’s standards, and a single mistake could quickly be a racer’s last. It didn’t help that the intense rivalries sparked at the time often led to competitors racing side by side, refusing to let each other gain on them.

The design of the motordromes themselves – while brilliant in their function and inexpensive to erect – eventually proved to be a dangerous flaw. Since the bleachers were built adjacent to the track, front-row spectators could literally stick their heads out onto the track to watch the action. An out-of-control bike could rip right through the wooden railing and into the midst of fans. Furthermore, the planks deteriorated rather quickly, and it wasn’t unusual for bikes to tear them up and launch wooden splinters sailing into mechanics, spectators or other racers.

One high-profile incident involved a rivalry match in California between Excelsior racer extraordinaire Jake DeRosier and his teammate Charles Balke on identical bikes. It was a thrilling race with both competitors neck and neck, but at one point, Balke lost control of his motorcycle. He managed to escape relatively unscathed, but DeRosier’s bike was hit by Balke’s, and he suffered through a horrific crash and ended up unconscious. He endured a number of surgeries over the following months, but eventually he died within a year of the accident.

Another high-profile crash occurred with Eddie Hasha, a star rider who started breaking records and annihilating his competition at every event. While racing in New Jersey, Hasha lost control of his machine, which launched up the track and into the railing. He rode the railing for about 100 feet, killing four boys who had their heads stuck over it. Then he hit a post which effectively catapulted him to his own death. The bike continued into the stands where it injured numerous spectators.

Unfortunately, these accidents were not unusual. It wasn’t long before the press began referring to motordromes as murderdromes. Grand Rapids Press went so far as to use “Thrills and Funerals” as the headline for an article about them.


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By: aristocracker (849.60)

Tags: Motordrome - Board Track Motorcycle Racing,