One man was killed and a second critically injured Wednesday night in Southeast Washington when their motorcycles, speeding towards one another at a combined speed of about 120 miles per hour, collided in the darkness of a rutted road parallel to I-285 during an impromptu racing session.

D.C. police said two motorcyclists were racing east on Fairlawn Avenue when they suddenly saw the headlights of two other cycles coming at them.

Although two of the cyclists managed to avoid each other, the handlebars of the other two became entangled in a near head-on crash, whose impact threw the riders to the ground, police said.

Police said one man, identified as Michael DeVore, 33, of 728 Audrey La., Oxon Hill, was declared dead on arrival at D.C. General Hospital. Police said he had been racing a Honda 500.

The critically injured man, identified as Winston Cannaday, 27, of 1615 17th St. SE, was riding a Kawasaki 900. He suffered multiple fractures and internal injuries, and his condition remained very critical at D.C. General Hospital last night.

Police said the men on the other two motorcycles and a third man standing at one end of the avenue left the scene the moment they saw the accident. Police are trying to find them but have been unable to do so principally, they say, because Cannaday's condition is so critical that police have not been able to talk to him.

After interviewing several witnesses yesterday police have concluded that the men were not playing "chicken," that is, trying to see how close they could come to each other before veering off to avoid a collision.

Police said three men came onto Fairlawn Avenue fromNaylor Road at about 10:40 Wednesday night. One of them rode down the length of the pothole filled avenue - about 4 1/2 blocks - to act as judge in a race between the other two men, police said.

The two men then raced west down the avenue, but the race was inconclusive, police said, and they decided to race back. At this moment, two more men on motorcycles came off Naylor Road and onto Fairlawn. The two groups, apparently unaware of one another's presence, then sped towards each other, causing the collision. Police said witnesses estimated each motorcycle was going about 60 miles an hour.

Police say they have no evidence indicating the two men who crashed knew each other. The investigation is continuing, with police concentrating on trying to find the other three men involved.