YouTube Tuesday: Tribute Film of Boardtrack Racing

Vintage film of boardtrack racing with motorcycles — teens to 1920’s. Boardtracks were wooden tracks built in the early 1900’s that were abondoned or dismantled after serious weathering caused the death of riders and even spectators. Cars also raced on the boardtracks.

Most probably filmed at Sheepshead Bay, New York 2 mile board track on October 11th, 1919. The first board track opened at the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordome near Playa del Rey, California, on April 8, 1910. The track used the same technology as the French velodromes used for bicycle races.

The tracks were created with 2 inch x 4 inch boards. Tracks were banked up to 45 degrees. Around a half dozen tracks up to two miles long had opened by 1915. By 1931 there were 24 operating board tracks, including tracks in Beverly Hills, California, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York. The board tracks popped up because of the ease to construct a track and the low cost of lumber. Cars and motorcycles were both raced on board tracks.

The End of the Line
Very high speeds and a complete lack of safety precautions lead to spectacular wrecks on the board tracks in the 1910s, often killing a half-dozen competitors and spectators at a time. The 1913 motorcycle championship races were moved to a dirt track because dirt was safer. Board tracks slowly faded away by the early 1920s Famous racers to die on board tracks included Gaston Chevrolet.

Another contributor to the demise of board tracks was the expensive upkeep. Tracks needed new 2×4 boards every five years. During the last decade of board tracks, carpenters would repair the track from below after the cars raced down the straightaways at 120 miles per hour.


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