Hurricanes, Poop, and Flat-Tracks

Oval racing and the Coriolis effect

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Contributing Editor Peter Jones shares his wealth of motorcycle knowledge, experiences, insights, history, and much more.Cycle World

Most normal humans prefer left-hand turns. Well, at least most normal American humans share this preference, including me. Maybe especially me. This dislike of turning right is sort of like the loathing of snakes, spiders, and the word "moist," which statistically is the most-hated word in the English language. Turning right feels weird. Some of us get wobbly when doing it. Why? Beats me.

When considering this, one needs to keep from confusing the dislike of turning right with the seemingly contrary desire to stay to the right. We drive on the right, we like to walk with buildings to our right, and we get into the lines on the right. We just plain like being right. I suspect that we like staying to the right because it supplies us with more options of turning left. By staying right, there’s always that comfortable direction to turn when the chance for motion arrives—left.

It seems that most people don’t like right-hand curves, whether they’re walking, running, riding a bicycle, or driving a car. It just plain ain’t right. Every ash-covered track encircling every football field at every high school and college from Florida to Oregon is a one-way track, with its curves going to the left. Even without an instruction manual, we all know which way to go: counterclockwise. I have no memory of my gym teacher explaining this to us; “Kids, go left. If you forget that, you owe me 20 pushups.”

As you know, NASCAR hates right turns. So does IndyCar, but only whenever they race on oval tracks. One has to wonder why not one single oval track in America has ever dared to rebel against this norm. There’s not one.

I once saw a spider on the back of a moist snake. Sorry.

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In Canada they break the counterclockwise oval-track rule and have a clockwise series at the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. But this is because the Canadians love the British, who sometimes run horse races clockwise. Those two countries also like to pal around and remind each other about the day they burned down the White House. Bastards.

In Germany and Australia they also run horse races in either direction, right or left, just not on the same track on the same day.

On American dirt tracks, which are actually borrowed horse tracks, motorcycles go counterclockwise. I used to wonder if horses had insisted on that. “Damn it, Wilber, if you’re going to use our track, you have to ride counterclockwise, the same direction that we run.” But are horse races run counterclockwise because the horses like it or because it’s what the jockeys prefer? So many unanswered questions.

During a difficult season of racing World Superbike, American Superbike champion Ben Bostrom destroyed the competition at the Autodromo Misano Circuit in Italy. After the race, when asked why he did so well he said, "It's all left turns." Bostrom had begun his career as a flat-track racer.

The Misano track has since been modified and renamed World Circuit Misano Marco Simoncelli. Now the races there are run clockwise. Don’t ask me.

Do left-handed people prefer right turns? Are Italians left-handed?

In baseball the bases are run counterclockwise. When I flush my toilet, the water goes counterclockwise. Hurricanes that originate north of the equator go counterclockwise. So do dog races, speed skating, and carousels.

Whatever the reason for this love of lefts, I'm glad it's stayed true. Now for more people to join in on the fun and go flat-track racing. Because lefts.