Friday 11th February 2014 – The day my speedway dreams came true

Since I’m home for Easter my Dad thought it would be good to take the drive down to watch speedway since we won’t get to very often any more. Now last summer whilst I was away, my Dad’s company did a corporate evening at my local speedway track and got to meet the riders and team and watch from the centre green. I was absolutely gutted that I couldn’t be there and both of my parents have been bragging about it since!

So on Friday we arrived at the track and my Dad turned to me and said did I want to watch from the centre green. At first I was confused because this privilege is usually only for mascots or corporate events. However, my Dad had emailed the organiser and asked if it was possible to let me go on the centre green as I had missed out last year.

This is probably a good time to explain that speedway is like a massive family. All of the management, organisers and even riders are so friendly, helpful and always willing to talk. So when my Dad emailed the guy just said sure come and meet me before hand and we will sort it. That’s just the sort of people they are. They want to please their fans, it’s such a good ethic to have.

So I spent the first four races of the meeting watching from the centre green. It was insane. To see some of my favourite racers riding up that close and see how close their bikes get on the first corner is just mad. I spent the whole time just grinning from ear to ear. Just gutted I didn’t take my camera!

 

I can’t ever thank Mark Sexton and the Lakeside Hammers enough for that oppurtunity. I am so grateful to be part of the best speedway family there is! 

Tai Woffinden – proud to be British

Tai Woffinden is a 23 year old British speedway rider, currently in first position of the world championship.

Tai began his Grand Prix/international speedway career in the 2011 season, unfortunately his father passed away and this affected his season. He did not perform up to scratch of making the top 8 to get a place back into the championships for the following year. Using this as inspiration, he turned his career around in the winter off-season and has come back into the 2013 Grand Prix season and taken it by storm! He trained ridiculously hard over the winter, changing his diet and getting a fitness regime and his hard work seems to have paid off.

The 2013 season started well for Tai as he made the semi final in New Zealand, the final in Bydgoszcz and the semi final in Gothenburg. He then won his first Grand Prix in Prague and the sights of a top 3 world championship place seemed within his grasp. Tai then crashed in Cardiff – round 5, breaking his collarbone. After the decision to have surgery to plate the break he battled through the pain and achieved 3rd place in the Gorzow Grand Prix just two weeks later!! He then made another semi final and three more finals, putting himself at the top of the leader board and becoming the man everyone wanted to beat. Disaster then struck again in his first ride of the Stockholm Grand Prix when Tai crashed, re-breaking his collarbone and bending the plate the surgeons had put in. He battled the pain yet again, completing all of his rides on the night but unfortunately not managing to make the semi finals.

Tai now sits at the top of the world championship table, 16 points ahead of second place rider Jaroslaw Hampel and 22 points ahead of third place Niels-Kristian Iversen. Hopefully Tai will be able to make the final Grand Prix in Torun and show the competition how its done, once again riding through the pain and securing the world championship. He only needs to gain 6 points in Torun to win the championship title.

Good luck Tai! You truly make me proud to be British and a speedway supporter.

The wonderful world of speedway!

As the speedway season is upon us once again, I thought what better to write a blog post about than one of the sports I have a huge passion for.

Many people have never heard of speedway, or know what it is, for those of you that have no idea I’ll give a quick introduction.

Speedway is a motorbike sport, in which either teams of 7 riders (in leagues) or individuals (in the grand prix) race around a track over 4 laps. The bikes have 500cc engines (at the top level, beginners ride much less powerful bikes), one gear and no brakes.

There are three leagues in Britain, the national, premier and elite. Teams of 7 riders travel the country to earn the prize of top of the table at the end of the season. The grand prix involves 15 regular riders who gain points at each round in the competition, of which there are 12 in the 2013 season. There are also other competitions such as the KO cup (like the FA cup in football) and a world cup team championships.

The way a speedway race is scored is: 1st place = 3 points, 2nd = 2, 3rd = 1 and 4th = 0. In league matches there are 15 races and 2 riders from each team ride in each race. In the grand prix there are 20 heats, 2 semi-finals and a final (in which the points are doubled) and each rider races against every rider once to gain individual points.

 

My Dad begun taking me to speedway at the age of 10 and I have loved it and carried on going ever since. When my Dad was a teenager and growing up he supported the Hackney Hawks, a team which do not race any more. Now, we both support the Lakeside Hammers, who race in the elite league. Our captain for the 2013 season is Davey Watt, an Australian rider who rode very well for us last year. I look forward to seeing him racing this season. However, my favourite rider in our team is Robert Mear, a relatively young (for speedway) rider who rode for the Hammers in the 2010 season relatively unsuccessfully but was convinced to return to the shale by our manager John Cook for the 2012 season and rode spectacularly well at the reserve position. He is a bright hope for the future of the team.

In individual racing I have a few personal favourites. Firstly I have to mention Darcy Ward. A 20 year old Australian at the top level of racing. He has been picked to compete in the 2013 grand prix season and I will be keeping a very close watch on his progress as he wows his way into international racing. Next is last years World Champion – Chris Holder. Another Australian rider who started rather shakily in the 2012 grand prix season as the first round of racing was interrupted by the birth of his first child, Max. After the first round however, he performed consistently well and went on to become World Champion in incredible style. The last international rider that I must mention is Andreas Jonsson. A massive favourite when he rode for the Lakeside Hammers a number of years ago and an all around nice guy, on and off the speedway track.

 

Now you may think what attracts me to watching speedway? To be honest if you’re asking that question you obviously have never seen it before because it has to be the most exciting sport when you get a good match. The thrill of not knowing who will make the start best, who will go into the first corner hardest, whether the riders will all stay on their bikes, who will take the outside or inside line, the deliberation if a racer is excluded and the fact that the riders can interact with their fans. But most of all, the passion of the fans. I have never been to a speedway match that there has been anything other than friendliness between fans of rival teams. It’s inspiring for speedway lovers and riders alike and one of the many reasons I go back and watch every week, why my father and I travel round the country following the Hammers and why we make our annual ‘pilgrimage’ to Cardiff to watch the British Grand Prix.

 

I could ramble on forever about my love of speedway, but it truly is a brilliant spectator sport. If you don’t believe me why don’t you try it for yourself!