Velocity Street Racing will be closing the north-east’s Tyne Tunnel to traffic overnight on 13 September, to host a keirin-style drag strip bicycle race just two days before the Tour of Britain starts in Peebles, less than 100 miles away. The organisers have also secured space inside the tunnel for 1,000 spectators to enjoy the action, which will begin at 9pm.
Organiser Phil Gray told BikeRadar, “It’s all focused on the end result, and it’s drag strip racing – a quarter-mile, 400m drag strip race between the riders.”
An Aston Martin and a Ferrari 458 Italia will take the place of the usual derny, the motorised bike that sets the pace during a keirin. “[We were] looking at the success at the Olympics on the track, but we haven’t got many velodromes,” said Gray. “So we thought, ‘How can we bring cycling to the kids in the street, making it a bit cooler? Instead of the guy on the derny or the motorbike, what about cool cars?’”
During each heat, small pelotons will jostle for position through the tunnel before completing a hairpin turn at one end and racing back the way they came. With about 400m to go the supercar will speed off, signalling the start of the sprint. The finish line will be a laser curtain brought in by Swiss lighting experts.
Winners of the men’s and women’s races will each win £1,000. A junior event is being planned, too. Riders interesting in taking part need to pass through qualifying events, which Gray said said he is considering holding in the north-west and London if there is demand.
“We’re putting on something which we think is going to be unbelievably cool,” Gray added. “There’s a lot of people who, when they see it, will go, ‘Wow!’” While the event is currently causing a stir in the north-east, he hopes he will be able to coax riders from all over the country to compete. It’s not the first subterranean tunnel bike race to take place – the Mersey Tunnel has hosted the Ten Minutes of Hell time trial in the past.