If you’ve seen the movie Ben Hur, you already have seen some pretty intense chariot racing. It is thought that Romulus, Rome’s founder, is the father of the sport. And, it was the most popular form of entertainment in ancient Rome. Chariot Races were held on each of the over 100 holidays per Roman year.
Many chariot races were held at the famous Circus Maximus. Charioteers would race around an oval track more than 1,000 feet long. In the center of the track was a long narrow divider, and chariots raced the wall’s length making sharp turns at each end.
With many chariots and sharp turns, crashes occur quite often. Some suggest that the stadium’s design purposely maximizes the danger and collisions were often fatal. Many charioteers initially survive the wrecks. But the charioteers often tied the horse’s reins around their arms and as a result, the horses often dragged the charioteers to their deaths.
Chariot racing makes a comeback
With all this danger, it seems a bit odd that chariot racing would make a comeback in the 1920s and 1930s. But it did just that. So, this edition of Oddities Uncovered is about motorcycle chariot racing.
This time around, horses would not be part of the equation. In their place, motorcycles would become the means to race. Pictures taken around the time in countries like Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and parts of Europe, show people racing motorcycle-powered chariots instead of horses as in the Roman Era.
At first, a person rode a motorcycle in front pulling the chariot and its rider behind. But later, the motorcycle riders would disappear. The charioteer would control the chariot.
According to a September 1922 Popular Mechanics article, the chariots were made from wine barrels cut obliquely in half. Then the builders would attach automobile wheels to complete the chariot. Often, the charioteers dressed in Roman-era clothing.
Solo charioteers in control
As motorcycle chariot racing evolves, more than one motorcycle pulls the chariot. To control it, racers attached leather reins to the motorcycle’s throttle. This allows the charioteer to control both motorcycles at various speeds.
As if two motorcycles are not enough, racing chariots could have up to four motorcycles. Unfortunately, the passage of time has taken its toll. Not much more information is readily available about the sport.