Pist6: a model, a partner, or a rival to DerbyWheel?

DerbyWheel is not the only initiative seeking to reinvent, and expand the audience for, keirin racing.

Operating from the new indoor facility in Chiba, 40km east of central Tokyo, Pist6 – pronounced, as an English speaker would expect, ‘pist six’ – looks much more like UCI style racing.

The track at the Tipstar Dome, opened in 2021 and named after a Japanese betting app, is an international-standard 250 metres in length, with 42 degree banking.

Riders compete on familiar carbon fibre frames, typically with 5-spoke carbon front wheels, and rear discs. Collaboration in ‘lines’ is not permitted.

Unlike conventional Japanese and Korean keirin, with its monochrome jerseys, Pist6 competitors wear their choice of skinsuit design, with colourful helmet and shoe covers. The base colours match the traditional race numbers, but riders line up in random order.

As befits a brand new venue, the spectator experience is very different to traditional Japanese tracks. ‘If you’ve ever been to a JKA racing track,’ writes one tour guide, ‘Tipstar Dome will come as quite a shock to the system.

‘Food from their signature restaurant Orange & Pizza that’s been curated for Instagram, Airstream food trucks, a dedicated craft beer bar, designer PIST6 merchandise, free wifi (still rather unusual for Japan), cash-free transactions only and completely non-smoking.’

Riders are introduced one by one, with fancy on-screen graphics, sound effects and flashing lights. Racing takes place to the sound of thumping techno and a very enthusiastic commentator.

The Chiba track was mentioned by James Pope in his Piste Take podcast appearance, as a possible venue for Japanese DerbyWheel meetings. DerbyWheel organisers visited Chiba in June 2022, and ‘agreed to utilize the venue for 250m DerbyWheel Races in Japan’ – although it’s worth noting, several similar agreements were announced, but have not yet led to events being scheduled.

With the two operations sharing such a similar vision, it’s highly likely that some collaboration or crossover will take place. It’s been reported that a number of notable Pist6 competitors attended DerbyWheel induction in January 2024.

Race meetings are streamed in full on Pist6’s YouTube channel. Its website is in Japanese only; but the homepage features a calendar of forthcoming meetings, and links to video streams.

Pictures from @pist6_official on Instagram