Dynamic simulations of homogeneous and bi-material fault rupture are modeled using different loading approaches. We demonstrate that a numerical method of quasi-static loading is capable of immediately loading bi-material interfaces to rupture without the iteration over multiple time steps. We show that our method is a computationally inexpensive approach to tectonic loading and is capable of loading a fault to failure. We observe earthquake rupture speed, slip distances and slip rates for homogeneous and bi-material faults for various applied stresses, friction properties and material contrasts across the bi-material interface. We comment on causes for unilateral rupture growth. The results are consistent with experimental results and highlight the importance of material heterogeneity in determining the rupture characteristics of earthquake faults. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.