Not far off the I-215 freeway lies Perris Raceway, a race track that’s bringing back a traditional form of racing that has been overshadowed by motocross and its enthusiasts over the past few decades.
Flat track racing may not be the first thing to come to people’s minds when they consider the world of competitive action sports, but it’s the first kind of racing that involved motorcycles, according to Track Manager Vince Graves.
“It proceeded motocross by years and years and years,” Graves said. “In some parts of the country it’s still really popular, but it started to really die in Southern California and that’s why my partners and I decided to revive it.”
Unlike with motocross, there are no jumps or obstacles to overcome in flat track racing. The motorcycles never leave the ground in tremendous displays of aerial courage or acrobatic fineness.
Instead, flat track racing is a competition whose elements are suggested by its namesake.
Motorcycle riders travel along an oval-shaped track that is devoid of any sort of incline.
The flat track is what provides the challenge in the sport, as participants are faced with sharp left turns around the corners of the track. There are also times when riders are practically going sideways on the track as they gain momentum; that’s another very challenging aspect of the competition, according to officials associated with the sport.
In the years since the raceway first opened, more and more people have been coming out to try their hand at riding the track, according to Graves. He said that some of the individuals who have come out are those who competed in flat track races in their youth and others are people who have never tried flat track racing at all.
But Graves said that regardless of whether the entrants are experienced or completely new to the sport, an upward trend has emerged. When Perris Raceway first began flat track races, there would usually be 30 to 40 participants per race. These days, he said, it’s not uncommon to see 150 entrants per race.
“We’re definitely growing, and we’re growing all the time,” he said.
The resurgent interest in the flat track is reflected in the number of different competitions that riders can be a part of. There are competitions for novices as well as competitions for young children and adolescents.
Self-proclaimed professionals as well as those individuals who competed in their youth can also find competitions to participate in such as the “Pro” and “Senior +50 Vets Experts” competitions, respectively.
20-year-old A.J. Hateley was one of the individuals who participated in the “Pro” heat as well as an actual pro competition that took place at the end of a raceway event on Saturday, April 5.
During the final two races of the night – the amateur and professional competition – Hateley finished first in the professional competition and Rich Hanson took the lead in the amateur race.
Hateley got into flat track racing because his father had been a professional flat track racer himself in the ’70s and he said he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Hateley said he’s been loving every minute of the flat track racing since making the switch over from motocross several years ago.
“I lowered my bike about three years ago and have been hooked ever since,” he said.
Graves said he’s trying to support the increasing number of children and adolescents who take an interest in the sport and he said that one of the ways he does that is by making sure all the children participants win some sort of award for their participation because he wants them to maintain an interest in that form of racing.
“A lot of us guys are going to get too old to continue,” he said. “We need people to keep this going.”