Speedway Betting and Sports Guide

speedway rider in race close up
Wisniowy [CC BY-SA]
Motorcycle speedway, to give the sport its full title, is actually a relatively simple sport to understand when compared to other motorsports. It involves a number of drivers, usually four but sometimes up to six, competing around an oval course for four laps, driven anti-clockwise. What makes the sport more interesting that just standard motorsports is that the riders use specialist bikes that don’t have any breaks and only use one gear.

The excitement of speedway comes from the fact that the racing is done on flat surfaces made up of dirt, allowing the drivers to throw their bikes sideways around the course. This form of powersliding and broadsiding on the bends of the course is what makes it such a spectacle, beloved of the crowds that turn up to watch the events. When the competitors hit the straights they can reach speeds of as much as 70 miles per hour.

Leading Speedway Betting Site

888 Sport

888 sport

It’s a fact that not many people bet on Speedway and therefore to find good bookies you often need to look at the colossus companies that have the resources available and traders price markets such as this.

888 Sport are a great example of this and provide outright markets year round with good depth closer to events and in-play, including heat, handicap, place, position and specials betting.

Unibet use the same system as 888 and are a good alternative option to 888 if you like.  Other big bookies such as bet365, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power are also worth a look for odds comparisons nearer to events.

Betting On Speedway

chequered flagThe more obscure a sport is that you’re hoping to bet on, the trickier it is to find suitable markets from the mainstream bookmakers. That is the case with speedway, with most of the biggest industry names simply offering outright markets ahead of the biggest events.

If you can find a bookie that does offer markets on speedway then you’ll likely find that there are three main things you’ll be able to bet on:

  • Meeting Winner – This is an outright bet on who you think will end up as the overall winner of a given meeting
  • Heat Winner – This is also an outright bet, but is on the winner of each individual race rather than the overall competition
  • Handicap Betting – If you can find a bookie that’s covering a meeting in detail then they might offer you Handicap Betting in a similar manner to handicap betting in any other sport

The History Of Speedway

speedway race circa 1920
Marvin Dement Boland [Public domain]
As with many sports that have been developed over the years, the exact origins of speedway aren’t exactly crystal clear. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the first meetings that looked similar to speedway in both America and Australia before the outbreak of the First World War. As an example, there was a motorcycle race held at Newcastle NSW Rugby Ground in New South Wales in November of 1905.

There was also an American called Don Johns who developed the method of broadsiding before 1914, throwing dirt into the air every time he turned a corner. It soon earned the name of ‘short track racing’ and by the 1920s was one of the main methods of racing in the US. Riders such as Albert ‘Shrimp’ Burns, Maldwyn Jones and Eddie Brinck followed in the footsteps of Johns by using broadsiding in their racing.

The Origins Of Motorcycle Speedway

Roland Stobbart International Speedway Rider circa 1930
my own collection [Public domain]
The actual sport of motorcycle speedway as we understand it today began to come to the fore at the start of the 1920s. The course at the West Maitland Showground was first used to stage a speedway meeting on the 15th of December 1923, with the track’s Secretary being a motorcycle enthusiast and inviting his friends over to use the track for fun.

The story goes that the noise made by the racing attracted over the rest of the Showground committee and they gave approval for the event to take place during the Electric Light Festival.The success of this new event that took place under the lights saw it move elsewhere, with the Newcastle Speedway venue being the first purpose built one for the sport when it opened on the 14th of November 1925. More than 40,000 people turned up to watch, which was around a third of the population of the area at the time.

The success was enough to prompt the initiation of the Australian Motorcycle Speedway Championship at the Newcastle Showground in 1926, with locals somewhat disappointed to see an American named Cec Brown win it.

Speedway Moves To England

Tspeedway race 1949The presence of English and American riders in Australia for the speedway races was not unusual, with the majority of them being showmen who realised that they could earn themselves the equivalent of a year’s worth of wages with just one win. Later that year Johnnie Hoskins took a speedway show to Sydney, but poor weather there at the time meant that racing was difficult and it was decided to move it to the sunnier climbs of Perth. It went so well that news of this burgeoning sport soon began to spread to England, where he and his riders decided to travel to in  April of 1928.

High Beech near Epping was the location for the first British speedway meeting, despite the fact that there was evidence to suggest meetings had been held the year before in both Surrey and Lancashire. Those meetings saw the riders go clockwise, however, which is why they’re mostly ignored by people talking about speedway in the UK. Even the first meeting at High Beech is often thought of as not being part of speedway by the people who look at such things, given that the bikes with no brakes and the use of broadsiding didn’t occur until the third meeting there laster in 1928.

Competitions Develop

speedway race start 1953Speedway soon began to gain traction in England as it had done in Australia and the United States, so an idea began to develop that some sort of championship should be created. The first one of any worth was the Star Riders’ Championship, which took place in the UK in 1929. Organisers felt that the British riders weren’t yet at the level of their Australian and American counterparts, so the championship was split into two halves: an overseas section and a British one.

Roger Frogley won the adulation of the home crowd be being the top British rider, whilst Frank Arthur won the overseas half of the tournament. By 1930 it was felt that British riders had improved enough to be put into the same category as their overseas rivals and so the two halves were put together. It proved to be something of an error, however, with Australian Vic Huxley winning the event. He went on to win the British Match Race in 1931 after finishing as runner-up in the Star Riders’ Championship 3 times.

Rules and How Speedway Works

The Basics

speedway race
Daniel78 [CC BY-SA]
Speedway races are usually called heats and require four riders to race each other anti-clockwise around an oval circuit. They begin the race from a standing start and have to race four laps, with their difference from each other denoted by different coloured jerseys. Typically speaking, home teams will wear red and blue and the away riders will have white and yellow and black, if it’s a team event.

If it’s an individual event then the colours worn by the riders denote their starting positions on the grid, with red taking the inside gate, blue gate number 2, white number 3 and yellow or black number 4. Riders have to be able to get their bikes to the starting line under their own power without pushing them, with riders that don’t manage it within a given amount of time liable to be disqualified from the race. In the United Kingdom, however, league matches allow teams to elect that their rider starts 15 metres back from the line rather than be disqualified.

speedway race start
Stiopa [CC BY-SA]
The starting gate at a speedway event is made up of two or more pieces of tape that the riders can be no more than 10 centimetres from, but are also not allowed to touch one the light turns green. They also have to keep themselves stationary until the tape is lifted, with riders that fail to do so at risk of being disqualified. Once the race has started the riders need to traverse the track anti-clockwise and ensure that they don’t have both wheels legally off the track boundaries at the same time. Sometimes there can be up to six riders, but this isn’t usual as the tracks are often too narrow to accommodate them.

How Speedway Is Scored

speedway race finish and chequered flag
Stiopa [CC BY-SA]
There is a sliding scale employed in the scoring of speedway races, which is commonly referred to as the 3-2-1-0 method. As you might well be able to figure out, the rider that comes first is awarded 3 points, second gets 2, third 1 and a rider coming fourth gets zero points. The points then either count towards a rider’s individual points haul or their team’s points if they’re in a team competition.It’s not unusual for speedway races to end in a tie and be declared a dead heat.

Both first-place riders will get 2 points apiece, or 1 point each if they finish joint second. Riders can opt to go for double points if they’re ten or more points behind the leader. They’ll need to remain unbeaten by their opponents in the remaining matches and if they succeed then they’ll get double points.Riders are given Calculated Match Averages, or CMAs, which are calculated according to their total points divided by their total rides and multiplied by four. They can range from 3.00 to 12.00 and if a rider gets either below or above those two extremes then they’ll simply be awarded the maximum or minimum accordingly. The CMAs are then used to calculate which riders will lead the heats etc.

The Motorcycles

oxford speedway team 1974
Stiopa [CC BY-SA]
Obviously the most crucial part of speedway is the bikes that are used for the events. It is a unique motorcycle, the construct of which is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme’s ‘Track Racing Technical Rules’. The rules state that the machines must beet the following criteria:

  • Weigh more than 77 kilograms when unfuelled
  • Use a single-cylinder engine that is four-stroke and and has one spark plug, one carburettor and boast a maximum displacement capacity of 500cc
  • Have moving engine parts covered by guards where possible
  • Use a chain guard
  • Have a Dutch peg fitted in order to prevent a broken primary chain from flailing and injuring riders
  • Ensure that plastics are shatterproof when possible
  • Have a dirt deflector
  • Be fuelled only by methanol with no additives
  • Have an approved silencer fitted
  • Have a handlebar that measures between 650 and 850 millimetres in width
  • Have a safety cut out device, controlled by a switch attached to a lanyard attached to the rider’s wrist

Rudge Speedway 500cc 1928
Peprovira [CC BY-SA]
There are also a number of rules in place for what a speedway motorcycle cannot use when it comes to the parts. It must have no:

  • Titanium parts
  • Uncoated ceramic parts
  • Telemetry on board apart from for timing
  • Have anything electronic to control the engine
  • Have any sort of breaks
  • Have a supercharger or turbocharger

The Track

speedway track at sunset
MATSUOKA Kohei [CC BY]
If the bikes are the most important part of speedway as a sport then the tracks that events take place on are a close second. The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme regulates the tracks that the events take place on, provided rules and regulations regarding the size and construction of the tracks as well as the safety requirements that must be in place.

The track has two straight runs joined up by two semicircles that together make it into an oval shape. They have to be somewhere between 260 and 425 metres in length, measured from 1 metre away from the boundary. The tracks can have a bank to them but they can’t be more than 5% on the straight and 10% on the bends.The start line is marked in white mid-way along one of the straight and then decided in to four equal sections, which are known as gates. There are numerous warning systems that have to be in place throughout the track, which needs to be at least 10 metres wide at the straight sections and 14 metres wide on the bends.

speedway riders drifting around a bend
kallerna [CC BY-SA]
When it comes to the surface of the track, there are four layers of grading that are made up of shale, granite, brick granule or some other loose material at the top, of which no individual piece can be more than 7 millimetres in size. That’s what allows the riders to slide their bikes around corners and so on. It’s also where the major test comes in for speedway riders, having to find the ability to corner successfully without losing major pace.

belle view speedway advert
KGGucwa [CC BY-SA]
None of the layers can be made up of asphalt, tarmac or concrete. During live events tractors with  rakes need to go on the course intermittently to ensure the grading of the top layer. The track can also be watered if needed in order to ensure that it’s not too dry.

The safety of both the riders and the watching public is paramount, which is why suspended wire fences, air fences and wooden fences are required on courses. The air fences involve inflated panels on the bends so that if the riders crash into them they’ll dissipate energy to ensure their safety. The majority of tracks used for speedway racing are dedicated to the sport, ensuring that the meet the necessary safety standard.

Major Speedway Meetings

Meeting Details
Speedway Of Nations This event was founded in 2018 as a replacement for the Speedway World Cup, which itself had been created in 2001 to replace the World Team Cup. Each meeting involves several national teams being represented by two riders as well as a reserve rider who must be under 21. 15 national teams take part with three teams progressing from two semi-finals into the final
Speedway Grand Prix This involves a series of speedway events throughout the course of a season to crown the Speedway World Champion. It has been taking place since 1995 and involves 15 invited riders and 1 wild card. The 16 riders take each other on over 20 heats and the top 8 riders progress to the semi-final before the top 2 riders move into the final

Speedway is a global sport so every country that boasts an interest in it has its own leagues and events. When it comes to the major speedway meetings, though, the above are the ones to look out for.