Once a racer, always a racer.

Speedway world champion Karl Maier and the R nineT Scrambler at Wheels and Waves.

Karl Maier hasn't raced for 20 years. Then, the four-time speedway world champion showed up at the Wheels and Waves flat track race. With his own R nineT Scrambler, which he converted himself, he quickly makes it clear to the competition: he has forgotten nothing.

With his colourful eighties racing suit covered with sponsoring logos and the Bavarian helmet hood, all eyes are on Karl Maier. When he then unpacks the brand-new R nineT Scrambler in the driver's paddock, a crowd of people gather round the prominent figurehead of the speedway scene. "I feel like the John Travolta of Wheels and Waves. Crazy how they all know me", Karl says and smiles proudly to the group.

Gaudi with the Scrambler

New territory.

During his long career as a speedway racer, Karl has already experienced a lot, but the colourful scenery inside a horse racetrack in San Sebastián, Spain, is new territory for him. A whole host of classic US flat trackers and outdated British off-road bikes meet the latest Scrambler models here.
At the El Rollo flat track, there are only a few racing classes. These have been put together by Gary Inman aka Mr Sideburn magazine and Dirt-Quake-Organiser along with the Wheels and Waves event organisers. The riders come from all over the world, some with little flat track experience, but all with the desire to be the fastest. The sun was shining and the conditions were ideal for both the riders and the audience.
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Number 48, as always.

Karl adapted the brand-new R nineT Scrambler himself over the past few weeks in his workshop in Neufinsing, near Erding. Repainted it and decorated it with Bavarian diamonds. "I haven't actually modified much, I've just replaced the right footrest with a bracket that I got used to using on the Speedway," he explains. The Scrambler, donned with his old race number 48, was otherwise relatively original.
The 48 refers to his titles: four-time world champion, eight-time German champion. This off-the-rack motorbike is a great way to have some off-the-road fun. However, there was brief excitement upon technical inspection, because the round Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres with road approval have too rough a profile for the organisers. After several discussions on the contents of the technical tendering, they are finally approved for the start.
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Amongst the competitors were the renowned greats of the British DTRA series, a flat track scene that only draws a few followers in Germany, hardly has any riders, and offers very few training opportunities. In Europe, flat track riders are not particularly welcome on professional tracks, as the more popular Speedway track racing usually dominates.

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The origins and heart of flat track racing are in the USA, where it became a popular and affordable racing sport in the late fifties. The general motorcycle revival of the past few years has led to largely unregulated amateur races getting a bit of a makeover as well. El Rollo was the natural next step in establishing a flat race track in continental Europe near the Wheels & Waves event.

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The first lap proved that Karl had lost none of his abilities over the past 20 years. Although the clay soil of Spain is completely different to the classic Speedway tracks, he handled the Scrambler like a pro. You could sense the emotion Karl brought to the track with 110 horsepower, drifting round corners with very little air in the tyres – in an attempt to gain as much grip as possible. With an unladen weight of 220 kilos, the bike is not exactly easy to control. Added to this is the fact that these are his first ever training laps on the Scrambler.
But he would not be the great Maier Karl if he didn't have the machine and the entire situation fully under control. As a four-time long course world champion, eight-time German champion and five-time finalist in the Speedway World Championships, he is a living legend. He is both a racing driver and affable storyteller, casting everyone under the spell of his outgoing and charming demeanour. The competitors at El Rollo knew of the 59-year-old Bavarian, and were honoured to be able to compete and lose against him, as one competitor respectfully admitted.
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I feel like John Travolta from Wheels and Waves. It's incredible that they know me!

Karl Maier

Right there.

Karl Maier with BMW Motorrad head designer Edgar Heinrich.

Right there.

His former motto "I came, I saw, I conquered" might not quite hold true; nevertheless, Karl Maier rides together with the leaders all the way until the final race, where he ultimately came in fifth. Will he return next year? "Of course," he said sprightly before adding, "I just have to ride around in circles a little faster than I did today, and I'll win here, too."

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