If we said that Auto Race was an obscure form of motorcycle racing, it would be the understatement of the decade. Based in Japan, Auto Race competitions primarily function as a gambling sport, but the contests are entertaining whether you have a wager on the table or not. To the casual viewer, the brightly colored jerseys, absurdly oversized shoulder pads, and quirky race machines may provide some comic relief, but the racers are seriously skilled.
Auto Racer motorcycles are brakeless affairs that zip around a tarmac racetrack at 90 mph. The frame is a true hardtail with no suspension in the rear and simple springs in the forks. Heavily regulated by the Japanese Keirin Autorace Foundation, the 599cc dedicated race engines typically generate 59 horsepower and 45 lb-ft of torque. To reduce weight, the bikes have no starter, no gauges, and a puny half-gallon gas tank. The oddly shaped handlebars and triangular tire profile are specifically suited for sustaining a 45-degree lean angle.
Auto Race heats usually include eight riders vying for the checkered flag over the course of six laps. Race organizers rigorously inspect the machines to weed out any unfair advantages or attempts at race-fixing, but some competitions are more for fun than betting. One such match included pitting a pair of sportbikes and two supermotos against a lone Auto Race bike.
Yes, the sportbikes can outpower the Auto Racer. Yes, the supermotos can outhandle the antiquated rig. Despite those shortcomings, the Auto Race bike is on its own turf. You don’t race a dirt biker off-road with your adventure bike, you don’t beat a cheetah in a footrace, and sure as hell don’t challenge an Auto Race on the 500-meter asphalt oval.
Even with the favorable starting position, the contenders were no match for the Auto Racer. After one lap, he quickly disposed of the supermoto pretenders and set his sights on the two sportbikers. By carrying speed through the turns and holding superior lines, the Auto Race rider was able to make up more than enough ground in the first two go-arounds. With four laps to go, he was already harassing the leading riders.
Like a game of cat and mouse, the Auto Racer pulled ahead with three laps to go only to lose traction and leave the door open for sportbike #2 to regain the lead. Undeterred, racer #5 fought back throughout the penultimate lap and led with a defensive line before capturing the checkered flag. While sportbikes and supermotos are lauded for their acceleration and nimbleness, they now know better than to mess with this obscure but highly-skilled form of racing.