In most kinds of motor racing, there's a pre-race event called "qualifying." Racers are not trying to beat each other around the track, but rather they are trying to post the lowest elapsed time
(or highest average speed
, in some cases) for a single lap
This is to determine starting order for the main event. The racer with the best lap time will be first on the starting grid (this is called the "pole position"). In motorcycle racing (and possibly other types as well) the fastest qualifier gets to pick their spot on the front row.
Qualifying high in the field gives a racer a significant advantage -- significant enough that racing teams build special versions of their car or motorcycle simply to qualify well. These differ from the race versions in that they're set up to only last a few laps (this figures heavily in the choice of tires, for example) rather than an entire race. Such qualifying machines must still conform to the rules for their class.