While reading this Wikipedia article, I noticed some photos of racers, all from the early 20th century, riding bikes with the forks installed backwards. I count at least 3 of them, so it wasn't just a single weirdo doing that. What is the purpose of this configuration? The downside is obvious (it makes the bike harder to control) but they must have had a reason.
As already said in the title of the Wikipedia page, these bikes are intended for motorpaced racing on track. The backwards fork allows the rider to stay closer to the derny motorcycle for more efficient drafting. Since the races take place on track, with single riders drafting motorcycles, the handling is not that much a problem, but people have indeed died in accidents in this form of racing.