DirtQuake was launched purely to demystify flat track racing. I began racing after a chance encounter with Dave Skooter Farm, at one of the first ever short track races in the UK. That was back in 2005, not long after Peter Boast launched the sport in the UK. Within weeks I’d attended Boastie’s Powerslide Training School at Sheffield and not long after I’d bought my own Rotax race bike, also from Boastie. Dave’s naïve enthusiasm encouraged me to do something I didn’t think I had the skills to try (turned out I was right, but that’s another story).
Sideburn magazine grew out of that early UK race scene, and, in turn, spawned DirtQuake. My opinion was, if my friends and I could race, so could anyone. So we organised the first DirtQuake at Coventry, in May 2012. We chose classes we thought would be as inclusive as possible, and threw in choppers because, well, chopper flat track…
The weather before that first race was hideous. Roads leading to the track were flooded. We considered cancelling, but people had driven from Italy and France for it, so we ploughed on, in front of a sparse crowd. People had fun slithering around a frankly borderline unrideable track and we got good feedback. I told anyone who would listen I’d never organise another event. I continued to tell them that for the next four DirtQuakes.
We hadn’t invented participation bike sport, or chopper flat track, but we’d portrayed it in such a way that it caught people’s imagination. And it really caught people’s imagination.
For 2013 DirtQuake moved to King’s Lynn, mainly because the Coventry track management were having problems and couldn’t commit to a date. Here’s the news, bike sport in the UK isn’t a licence to print money, Coventry’s Brandon Arena no longer hosts speedway races.
We introduced a Ladies class. Thor came all the way from America to race. More people had more fun. The next year DirtQuake introduced a Harley class, because one of our sponsors, W&W Cycles, thought it would be a good idea and I agreed. Guy Martin came to DQIII and hasn’t missed one since.
With our friends at See See Motorcycles we exported the idea to Washington state to make DirtQuake USA, then we collaborated with Deus Ex Machina and Di Traverso to make SnowQuake. All along sponsors helped us make things happen.
Right from the start DirtQuake has mutated, changed, grown, been ambitious, worked with sponsors and, crucially, turned tons of people on to flat track racing and motorcycle competition in general. For so long motorcycle racing was what other people did, it isn’t any more, and a lot of that is down to DirtQuake.
Right from the start people around the world have been inspired by DirtQuake and organised their own events in the same vein, with the same classes, structure and poster design, but with varying degrees of rider and crowd safety (something we take very seriously – except for that time with Colin Firth’s jet bicycle. I still have waking nightmares about that, but we got away with it. Just.).
We embraced the other events because all we ever wanted to do was encourage people to participate in the sport we love, and have some fun.
Last year North One Television acquired DirtQuake from my company. I was in the process of organising my sixth UK DirtQuake, that, plus the US events and SnowQuakes, meant I was running out of steam. Sideburn magazine and other freelance writing has always been my main business. If I didn’t have to think about health and safety statements and turnstile staff for a while it would suit me.
The first DirtQuake of the new regime changed some elements. North One decided to run the event over two days, to ensure they got enough action to make a good TV show. It didn’t hurt that making it two days would mean that lots more people would get to race. For 2018, they have announced they’re returning to a one-day format, to be a more punchy, packed schedule.
For 2018 the race has moved to Arena Essex, another pro class speedway track. People complained that King’s Lynn was too far away, now another set of people are complaining that Essex is too far away. People complain. North One thinks Arena Essex will be a great venue for a number of reasons and while it might be further for some people to travel, it’ll be a closer for others. That’s the way it goes, but this is DirtQuake’s third track and probably time to try something new. If events don’t change, they go stale.
North One continue to work with the DTRA and the MCF, the two UK race organisations that help make the event as safe and well run as it is practical and possible to make a chopper flat track race. I’m still involved as a consultant too. The TV company’s involvement has put this niche sport in front of hundreds of thousands of new sets of eyes and continues to demystify motorcycle racing and inspire new events.
North One aren’t trying to own flat track or tell anyone they’re the guardians of the sport, they’re developing the race and if that makes room for other events that’s great. It’s a bit galling to hear supporters of other events sniping at DirtQuake, especially with false accusations and holier than thou statements. What’s the point? North One will make their event, others can make their events. Hopefully both will succeed and service different areas of the British motorcycle scene. If DirtQuake isn’t for you, no problem, but keep the negativity out of the sport. It doesn’t benefit anyone.