Flat Out

This is from 1969—49 years ago.

Back when I lived in Austin there was a lot of motorcycle activity going on. Near Manor, Texas, a horse race track named Manor Downs doubled as a flat track venue. One of the good things about flat track racing, for photographers, was you could get down close to the action. Here are a bunch of photos from April 1969.

One thing fans like about the sport is the racing is typically very close. The races are short, not giving riders much opportunity to get spread out. Wheel-to-wheel is the norm.

What some may not have noticed is these bikes do not have brakes. Brakes were considered a liability in those days. Somebody applying the brakes in the middle of such close racing would likely result in a pile-up. The way you stop one of these bikes is to throw it sideways on the loose dirt track and scrub off speed.

Manor Downs was a 1/2-mile track. The next size up for flat track is the one-mile course. On the longer track race speeds peaked over 120 miler per hour. As Bruce Brown noted in his documentary film On Any Sunday, it took some kind of balls to charge into a turn at 120 mph and throw the bike sideways.

With flat track it’s all about dirt. The surface is may be hard but always loose enough to allow riders to corner in a controlled slide.

And of course it was dusty. I would have been thankful if the promoters had seen fit to roll out the watering truck, but that seldom was the case.

During those days the national championship season included numerous flat track events. To have a chance at the championship a rider had to compete in these events. Many of our flat-trackers were also good road racers and went on to successful careers on the national circuit.

About John Blanton

I'm a retired engineer living in San Antonio, Texas. I have served in the Navy, raced motorcycles, taken scads of photos and am usually a nice guy. I have political and religious opinions, and these opinions tend to be driven by an excess of observed stupidity. Gross stupidity is the supposed target of many of my posts.
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