“Are you sure we’re not already on the track?” I call out as we weave up and down ravines and through vegetable fields. It rained the night before and the dirt road is slippery.
“No, but it could be, couldn’t it?” says Alex.
We’ve already left An Duong, the dyke road and the Sofitel Metropole behind us and are weaving our way towards the Red River. I don’t know what I’m expecting. Some sort of stadium? Pre-built fences? An entrance and an exit? ‘How much would entrance cost?’ I remember wondering the night before. Would there be bikes to rent?
We’re close to Central Hanoi, so it’s not unreasonable to expect something built with a fair amount investment ploughed in. But then for all the construction, Central Hanoi is still akin to a village, especially by the Red River where it filters out into vegetable fields and banana plantations. Here we are in the countryside, only a five-minute drive from town.
When we arrive I realise I’d been building this up too much. In typical Hanoi style what greets me is makeshift, very makeshift: a start banner, an empty hut with a reclining chair, a quilt-patched house, three dogs and a brown-earth, sandy motocross dirt track. No embellishments. Just the track, all its humps and bumps, and little else.
“We literally had to carve the track out of the sand,” Alex tells me as we walk the course. “Again, and again, up and down. You need to make the grooves with your tyres.”
As with so many things in Hanoi, I heard about the new motocross track through a series of whispers. A couple of months back someone mentioned that something was being built. Now at the end of April, I’ve been told it’s ready. Two months ready.
“There’s still a lot of improvements to come,” says motorbike enthusiast David Beo the day before. “But yeah, it’s a good start.”
Alex is quick to point out the KTM logo everywhere.
“It’s a clever move,” he says. “They’ve got involved with the track from the start and have helped sponsor it.”
I’ve yet to see the track in action, although a few days before I went drag racing with the guys from KUB Café further down the river on the sand. The bikes were slipping and sliding, the riders, teeth clenched in determination, were falling and climbing back on as they skidded around the makeshift circuit. The earth on the motorcross track is almost the same.
As Alex says, “You should see these guys go. They’re so goddam fast.”
The action generally takes place at the weekends. Expect it to be explosive.
— Nick Ross
To get to the track follow An Duong past Chez Xuan and then go straight, straight and straight