ATVs and racing are a natural fit. They are popular on motocross-style tracks, woodland trial courses, and flat-out desert runs-but ATVs on a tight asphalt oval is still a rare sight. It's also unusual for the riders, too. The Mid-Atlantic ATV Association put on this show on the quarter-mile oval in the infield of Lowe's Motor Speedway as an exhibition race to support the speedway's weekly racing bill. This was just the third time the association had raced on asphalt and the first for many of the riders more accustomed to spitting dust after a race than tar.
"It's a good show unlike anything that most people have seen before," says Randy Dinkins, founder and president of the three-year-old Mid-Atlantic ATV Association, "but our first concern, as always, is safety." Dinkins (or "Dink," as his racers call him) has made this an invitation-only race and hand-picked 18 riders to compete from among the 600 members of the association. "We normally race on dirt tracks, which are a lot more forgiving than asphalt. Out here we can't afford for two guys to clip tires and go for a spill-these guys are approaching 85 mph at the end of the straights."
Although this is an amateur racing series, you wouldn't know it from looking at the machines, some of which cost more than $12,000 after extensive engine and suspension work. They are tricked out and spit-shined. They've been lowered, widened, and lightened to handle the g-forces around the turns. Some sport soft rubber slicks to get as much traction as possible and fight tipping in the corners. Other riders mount knobbies on the rear tires to let the back slide through the turns but suffer during hard braking and acceleration.
The king of this class seems to be Yamaha's Banshee. It's a two-stroke, twin-cylinder, 350cc monster. It has tons of top-end power but lacks the lower-rpm grunt of the big four strokes. John Porterfield, the '99 TT Series (mostly flat dirt tracks) champion, likes the challenge of taking the machines to the asphalt.
"It's a lot different than dirt," he says. "We are used to racing on dirt, and this puts a little bit of a different spin on it. You have to worry more about tipping over, and you can't really slide the bike around the turns when you are on asphalt."
Despite the threat of a serious road rash, the racers took to the track with vigor. Passing took place all over the track as the riders pushed themselves and their machines to the limits. There were no spills, but there was plenty of wheel-to-wheel action and a few close calls. And the reward for winning a race that paid no points for the series championship? $500. No, it's not much; but when real racers get together, it's never about the money anyway.
Want to Race?The Mid-Atlantic ATV Association offers 14 different classes to accommodate all skill levels of ATV riders for both motorcross- and TT-style racing. The racing season consists of 10 races between March and August in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. For more information, contact Randy Dinkins at 336/725-1234, or write to Mid-Atlantic ATV at Dept. CT11, 163 Statford Ct., Ste. 215, Winston-Salem, NC 27103.