Today, Motordromes, circular board racing tracks to put the popularity, speed, and power of motorcycles on the map, are nearly extinct. There are only about three left in the United States, but their history certainly still intrigues…
Big Cats & Big Thrills
Already putting their lives on the line, some stunt riders in the 1930s upped the ante, adding an additional element of thrill with living, breathing, lions! They called it the “Race For Life,” as these lions were deliberately released to charge after speeding bikes, trying to tackle them and swat at them with their massive paws as if they were prey.
If that wasn’t enough, some riders trained lions to sit in specially built sidecars during their races. These guys were going about 80 miles per hour around an almost perpendicular wall with these big cats by their side!
This additional element of danger proved fatal (or near fatal) on numerous occasions:
- In 1933, a lion escaped from Wildwood New Jersey’s Motordrome Wall of Death and killed an unlucky civilian.
- Seasoned rider in the lion drome circuit, Marjorie Kemp was seriously mauled on at least four separate occasions. Her last attack, in 1940, put her in the hospital for over a year.
- In 1964, a drunken carnival worker stuck his hand into a lion cage and was bitten by a male lion named King, ending the lion drome era for good.