This past Friday, my friend Pat and I had a unique opportunity to enjoy some racing on an old track in Detroit. It is known as the Dorais Velodrome, and was built in the 60s right around the same time the race riots and turmoil began to plague the city and eventually demise the track and surrounding area. Even though the track’s usage was short-lived, that didn’t stop some famous olympic racers of the time from building their career here. Anyway, I’d like to move along to the point as being a historian is not my claim to fame, but the article on Bicycling.com [which is very good i might add] goes into further Detail on that aspect.
The opportunity came about in the form of a facebook message from an old cruising buddy: Andy Didorosi. Andy is part of an effort that is cleaning up and restoring the old track, and is raising funds to do so by hosting races on the track itself. And these races may not be what you expect, as there are classes for mopeds and go-karts as well – but its the jankiest backyard bruisers that get the most praise. No suspension? Perfect. Only 8 horsepower? Good, because thats the limit. There was an independent film company on the scene that day, and so my home-made go kart which spends most [all] of its time sitting in the back of our pole barn was therefore in high demand. I donned my home-grown STIG outfit for some extra dramatic effect and I proceeded to do some NASCAR style laps around the track.
Whats so cool about the Dorais Velodrome is that there is more than one great thing going on here that you wouldn’t expect. For one, there are people actually gathering for the specific purpose of having fun here. (thats possible in Detroit??) And fun is being had not only in the form of racing, but also in the efforts to clean up and restore it. The track was originally “discovered” by a group known as Detroit’s Mower Gang. This group, founded by Tom Nardone, looks for neglected parks that the city can no longer maintain and takes matters into their own hands through voluntary use of lawnmowers, weed whackers, shovels, etc. Personally I have to say this is one of the most bad-ass ideas I have ever heard of. Seriously, what an incredibly fun way to give back to the community! I hope I can participate in some cleanup events this summer with my own 1968 Simplicity Serf. Yea, its a 5-horsepower riding mower, so you’d better stand at safe distance. Below we see that even during filming, Tom is hard at work.
If manual labor isn’t your style, you can still have fun and participate in the rebirth of this track by just bringing down the race vehicle of your choice and just racing. All the proceeds raised from Thunderdrome events are going directly into the restoration of the velodrome. Isn’t amazing how fun things are even more fun when they support a good cause? For more details, pictures, videos, and otherwise further evidence of the craziness, head on over to the thunderdrome’s website, which is cleverly: http://thunderdrome.com/ And with that, I’ll leave you with some more pictures of the action on friday: