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!