Speedway Safety Fence
Here is a photo and a drawing of what a speedway safety fence should be.
[Editors Note: Since this article was written a few years ago, a lot of the tracks have gone to Air Fences which have proved to be successful in preventing injuries and deaths.]
Loose dirt racing within a walled bull ring ensures some contact with the wall every night, for some rider. If that rider is to ride again, he must walk away, not be taken off the track by ambulance.
In Australia, the walls are 8 foot high concrete. Cars are raced on the same tracks, and the concrete walls are necessary for spectator protection.
In the USA and Canada, the tracks are walled with plywood. This provides a fence that will bounce riders back onto the track, or if hit hard enough, break, slowing the bikes, but not stopping them. The flying bike / rider is still traveling fast enough to injure spectators behind the fence.
During 1996, several Canadian and USA riders toured tracks in Sweden. We saw various safe fences that acted more like fishing nets. The riders were not bounced back onto the track, and were not able to go through or over the fence. The fence in Gotenborg impressed us the most. (top photo, lower drawing) It was basically a chain link fence. But instead of hard steel posts anchoring it to the ground, the fence 'floated' almost three feet in front of the posts. It was also covered with burlap / plastic tarp, to keep handlebars from snagging in the fence. This provided a smooth surface for banners and sponsor logos. The 'floating' was due to car tires mounted between the posts and the fencing. The car tires were cut in half for the straight section of the track, and full tires (2 1/2 foot diameter) were used in the corners.
If you watched the 1997 Speedway World Grand Pre, (broadcast in the USA on Speedvision) you saw World Champion Billy Hamill hit a fence like this, and get right back on his bike!
I have also personally tested these fences with some hard get-offs, including a chain break crash!
- Kim Gregory
Speedway Safety Fence Construction