Australia’s Contribution to the Rapid Growth of an International Sport

Speedway: A Thrilling History and Exciting Sport

Imagine the adrenaline rush of four competitors on light-weight motorcycles skidding around an oval track, kicking dirt at each other, all racing to be the first to cross the finish line. This is the thrilling world of speedway. While the sport is now particularly popular in Europe, it all began in Maitland, New South Wales, Australia.

The Birthplace of Speedway

Exactly 100 years ago, on December 15, 1923, Maitland Showground hosted the first official speedway race meet. Although not the first motorcycle race of its kind, this event played a significant role in transforming speedway into the international sport we know today.

In the early 1920s, Johnnie Hoskins, a New Zealand man who would later become a prominent speedway promoter, moved to Maitland from Sydney. His arrival in Maitland was a turning point for the sport. “He was broke in Sydney, he had a few bob in his pocket, he plunked it on the counter at Central Station and said something like ‘give me a ticket to wherever this will take me’,” said Jennifer Buffier from the Maitland and District Historical Society.

By chance, Hoskins was given a ticket to West Maitland. He soon became the secretary of the West Maitland Agriculture Society and proposed motorcycle racing at the showground. Initially rejected by the committee, Hoskins organized an impromptu race on the sacred trotting track, which drew a large crowd. This success led to the committee agreeing to host regular race events at the showground.

Maitland Speedway’s Impact

On that historic day in December 1923, Maitland Showground witnessed the birth of speedway racing. The event attracted a huge crowd, and due to popular demand, weekly race meets became a regular occurrence at the showground.

“What we had was the consistency of weekly races, and we paid regular prize money so the guys could actually turn professional,” explained Buffier. Hoskins continued to promote speedway in Maitland for two seasons before taking the sport overseas.

In 1928, Hoskins and 13 Australian riders sailed from Perth to England on the passenger ship Oronsay to introduce speedway solo motorcycle racing to the UK. His efforts put speedway on the world stage.

Speedway Today: A Thrilling Sport

Motorcycle speedway has evolved into a hugely popular sport in central and northern Europe, as well as in America and Australia. The sport now has clear rules and guidelines, including compulsory protective wear. Speedway bikes have specific features such as no brakes, just one gear, a clutch, and 500cc engines running on methanol fuel that can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour (97kph) in just three seconds.

Professional international speedway rider Joshua Pickering, originally from Heddon Greta in the Hunter region, expressed his admiration for Maitland’s contribution to the sport. “Considering [the sport] started right here in Maitland and it’s now one of the biggest sports in Europe, it’s amazing,” he said.

With its short, fast, and intimate races that last only one minute, speedway provides an exhilarating experience for both riders and spectators. As Pickering explained, “You’ve got 75 horsepower engines on a 77-kilogram bike, so the power-to-weight ratio is just as quick as a Formula One car, which is pretty crazy.”

To celebrate the centenary of speedway in Maitland, a two-day event will be held, featuring the Founders Cup race at Kurri Kurri Speedway. Additionally, Maitland Showground will host a community event to celebrate the history of motorcycle and car speedway in Australia.

Website Author’s Quote: “Speedway: A Century of Thrills”

“The history of speedway in Maitland is truly remarkable. From its humble beginnings at Maitland Showground to becoming one of the biggest sports in Europe, speedway has provided endless thrills and excitement for fans around the world. Join us as we celebrate a century of speedway and the incredible impact it has had on the world of motorsports.”

Website Author’s Conclusion: Speedway: A Legacy of Speed and Passion

As we reflect on the 100-year history of speedway in Maitland, it is clear that this sport has left an indelible mark on the world of motorsports. From its origins in Australia to its global popularity today, speedway continues to captivate audiences with its high-speed races and intense competition. Whether you’re a rider or a fan, speedway offers an exhilarating experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Here’s to another century of speed, passion, and unforgettable moments on the track.

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