It used to take true grit to set a record
Long before there was a Daytona International Speedway, races and record attempts were held on the sandy beachfronts of Daytona and neighboring Ormond, Florida.
At low tide the damp, hard-packed sand provided a straight, dead level surface that ran for miles. It was perfect for land-speed record attempts. In 1904, the pioneering aviator Glenn H. Curtiss rode his two-cylinder motorcycle 67.36 mph – a class record that stood for seven years.
In 1907, Curtiss returned to the beach with a motorcycle powered by one of his V-8 airplane engines. That motorcycle made about 40 horsepower – a heck of lot in the day. It reached a speed of 136.27 mph.
Curtiss’ V-8 wasn’t just the world’s fastest motorcycle – it was the fastest thing on wheels, period. The daring young man held the land speed record for twelve years until Ralph dePalma went faster in a Packard car, also on Daytona Beach. That was the last time that the outright land speed record was ever held by a motorcycle.
|Curtiss' V-8 design lacked the streamlining you'd expect in a land-speed-record holder, but it had what ballistics experts call 'sectional density.' So, he-man, feel like pushing a buck forty, on those tires, on sand?|
Bill France Sr., who built Daytona International Speedway (and was the founder of NASCAR) was a mechanic in Virginia and Maryland in the ‘30s. Winters up there made working on cars in poorly heated garages miserable, so he decided to move to Miami. His car broke down at Daytona and he liked it so much he stayed. He joined in the local beach races, then became a race promoter. He built the Speedway in ’59. The AMA moved the 200-mile National Championship from the beach to his track in ’61.