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2012-01-16 12:29

SPEEDWAY DREAM: Sakai (left) was training on Sunday when she crashed. With her iin the image is teen partner Maya Sato.

TOKYO, Japan - A woman speedway rider whose glamorous presence in the motorcycle speedway pits has revitalised the sport has been killed in a high-speed crash.

Her death came only months after her debut, Auto Race's official website said.

Hiromi Sakai, 27, took part in her first full race in July, 2011. She and her 19-year-old colleague Maya Sato were the first women to compete in the sport for more than 40 years.


Auto Race, or Oto Resu, is a Japanese version of speedway racing but on tarmac instead of gravel and using powerful, stripped-down machines with no brakes and special handlebars modified to make cornering easier.

Gambling is allowed and top riders can make millions of dollars a year.

Sakai was training with other racers on Sunday at a circuit in Funabashi, east of Tokyo, when the accident happened. She was travelling at about 150km/h. Its cause was not clear but Sakai flew off her bike and slammed into fencing. No other rider was involved.


"A medical team was brought in immediately. She had fractured her skull," Auto Race said on its website.

Auto Race recently re-opened its doors to women for the first time since the 1960's. Sakai quit her job at a tourist agency to join a riders' boot camp which takes only about one in every 50 applicants.

She won her first race a month after her debut.

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