Jefferson Speedway currently holds the Guinness World Record for the Largest Motorcycle Race. Since its opening in 1922, it has been a popular destination for motorcyclists everywhere. With an estimated 220 million visitors per year, it is one of the most visited museums in the world. But how big is this legendary American institution?
The short answer is: It’s huge!
While many cities and venues bid to host the annual race, it is always held at the largest one located in Louisiana. This year, the 88th edition of the famous event will be held on August 25-26, 2020. More than 200 motorcycles are expected to participate, and millions of people around the world will be watching.
You may be wondering: How big is Jefferson Speedway, really? And, more importantly, is it safe to visit? We took a look at the most recent Guinness World Record attempt to get these answers.
Jefferson Speedway: A Brief History
Jefferson Speedway, named after President Thomas Jefferson who commissioned the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini to design the “Fountain of the Horses”, is located in the town of Ruston in south Louisiana. It is the nation’s second-oldest motor racing venue, after Daytona Beach, Florida. Construction began in 1922 and the inaugural race was held that same year. It has been a part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame ever since.
Due to its location in the southern part of the country, much of the action at Jefferson takes place in the summer. The weather is warm and dry, and coupled with the sun and the open road, makes for ideal racing conditions. As a result, many of the attendees at Jefferson are motorcyclists or part-time racers. The fans come from all over the world to see the elite competitors from all aspects of motorcycling battle it out on the track. The annual event lasts for two days, with a night of racing on Friday and another on Saturday.
The Most Recent Guinness World Record Attempt
The most recent Guinness World Record attempt for largest motorbike race was made in 2019 by a Japanese team called the Black Ops Racing. The event, featuring custom motorcycles and a slew of awesome stunts, was held on July 4-5 in Nagoya, Japan. Not only did the team break the existing record by nearly 30 centimeters, which is 3.8 inches, but they also demolished the previous record by more than 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds. That’s 450 percent!
The Black Ops team traveled to Ruston with a 20-member entourage, including journalists, photographers, and stuntmen. They were accompanied by the head of safety for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, who inspected the venue and pronounced it “redistributed” safe to hold a motorbike race. However, this is just the opinion of one individual, and like all venues, Jefferson is not foolproof.
Despite the reassurances of the safety inspectors, nobody is taking any chances this year. The global pandemic has prevented motorsport fans from gathering in large groups, and racers are taking extra precautions to avoid contracts or infections from the virus. Many feel that the fight against COVID-19 takes precedence over the desire to race, and they are proving it by adhering to social distancing guidelines, wearing masks, and disinfecting frequently.
How Big Is Jefferson Speedway?
Jefferson is a truly monumental structure, featuring grandstands that can accommodate up to 25,000 spectators and an outdoor track that is 1.5 miles long. It is considered one of the “super-speeds” track due to its unique configuration. The first 1.5 miles are straights while the final 0.5 mile is a banked curve. This unusual layout creates a natural “fast” part and a “slow” part. The overall capacity of the stadium is around 55,000 spectators.
The overall size of Jefferson makes for easy viewing on Google Maps. If you zoom in, you can clearly see the 220-yard marker, which is the dividing point between the fast and slow parts of the track. (Jefferson)
There are several ways to measure the size of an object. One metric that can be used is the Kroft index, which is a ratio of height to width. If you compare the height and width of Jefferson to an equivalent area on the ground, the structure will appear much larger. (Kroft)
This is because dimensions, including length, height, and width, do not vary significantly from one scale to another. This is why, if you were to use a measuring tape to compare the sizes of various objects, you would obtain the same results regardless of whether you use inches or centimeters.
Another useful comparative tool is the speed ratio between high and low gears. If you compare the low gear ratio of a motorcycle to the high gear ratio, you can calculate how many times as fast the vehicle would go based on universal or metric formulas. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being no shift and 10 being all shift, most dirt bikes would be around an 8 or 9, indicating they are roughly equivalent to a sports car in terms of shifting.
With these tools in mind, you can decide how big Jefferson really is. In the grandstands you can find seats for 25,000 spectators. In comparison, the speedway is equivalent to five football fields, or about 44,000 square feet. This makes it the largest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity. (Nissan)
Is It Safe To Visit?
The most recent Guinness World Record attempt suggests that it is still safe to visit Jefferson. (Black Op’s Facebook page)
This is mainly due to the fact that the event organizers have taken a lot of precautions. They are restricting access to the stadium and mandating that attendees observe social distancing guidelines. This means that apart from a small number of people involved in the event itself, the rest of the visitors will need to stay at home.
In addition to these measures, the organizers have installed plexiglass shields at the entrance to the stadium and positioned trash cans with long handles on the side of the road, inviting visitors to help themselves. This way, nobody will need to touch a trash can while entering or exiting the venue, which should reduce the risk of infection.
Aside from the safety precautions taken by the organizers, it is also imperative to follow the guidelines set out by the government. Being a part of the global pandemic, Louisiana has restricted public gatherings, events, and motorsport to only “essential activities”. This essentially boils down to the need for “essential workers” to continue to work. (Governor’s Office)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website, “[w]hen an activity is not considered essential, people should nonetheless conduct themselves in a way that minimizes the risk of contracting the virus.”
In light of these guidelines, some participants in the sport have chosen to boycott the event or protest its cancellation. Others, however, feel that it is important to continue to fight the good fight against the pandemic, and they will use the opportunity to train for next year’s race.
The Importance Of The Event
The importance of the event cannot be overstated. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region and attracts people from all over the world. (Ruston)
In addition to being a tourist attraction, the event is also a source of pride for the local community. It has helped provide employment for many, and has been a vehicle for economic growth. (Ruston)
In the fight against the pandemic, the event organizers say they want to give back to the community and help in any way they can. They have set up a drive-through testing site for those wanting to get a COVID-19 test. They also set up a volunteer registration page, where anyone can help with tasks such as taking care of the medical tents, manning the food truck, and checking in attendees for the health safety of the spectators. (Ruston)
Where Can I Stay?
If you’re planning on visiting Jefferson in August, you should consider staying at one of its lovely bed and breakfasts. The rooms come with all the necessary amenities, and some even boast breathtaking lake or river views. You can also arrange for some to join you for dinner, should you decide to attend the event. (Ruston)
Another option is to stay in one of the many hotels in the area. You can also bring your vehicle, because there are plenty of parking spaces at the hotel. Another option is to stay in a tent at the campsite, as long as you bring your own sleeping bag and pillow. (Ruston)