A Bandits' Dozen
How many riders do you need for a four-team tournament side? Four? Perhaps five if you want to have a reserve?
Sometimes you need a few more, let us tell you the remarkable story of the Berwick Bandits in the Northern Section of the Premier League Fours in 1998.
The series kicked off on 16th May on a misty night at the Bandits' own home at Shielfield Park. The Bandits managed only 21 points from the sixteen heats, some 13 points behind the Edinburgh Monarchs. Kenny McKinna (in his final season) was the star of the show for the Monarchs with a maximum and a new track record. The four Bandits on duty that night were Scott Lamb, David Meldrum, Peter Scully and Craig Taylor. Jorg Pingel and Rene Madsen would have been in the quartet but were missing due to foreign commitments.
Just eight days later the tournament carried on down the A1 at Brough Park in Newcastle. Pingel and Madsen were available this time while Scott Lamb, Peter Scully and Craig Taylor ensured some continuity from the first round. Taylor's night came to an abrupt end in heat four when he crashed out with a broken ankle. Jorg Pingel scored 6 of the Bandits 13 points, while Rene Madsen failed to trouble the scorers from the three rides he took to replace the unfortunate Taylor. Edinburgh again won the round, despite a 12 point maximum from home youngster Nicki Pedersen, surely the highlight of the lad's career?
Shawfield in Glasgow was the next stopping off point on 21st June. The Bandits had been juggling their resources as the averages allowed and had slipped Scott Robson into their line-up. He joined Messrs Lamb, Meldrum, Scully and Madsen as they collectively scored 19 points. The Bandits were again unlucky on the night as they lost Peter Scully in a collision with Sean Courtney, referee Will Hunter was alone in holding Scully responsible and excluded him from the re-run.
The fourth round was abandoned at Armadale on 17th July and lasted just 8 heats. In those races the Bandits managed to give debuts in the competition to another three riders - Martin Dixon, David McAllan and Wesley Waite. Wesley is the son of promoter Peter Waite and reputedly named after Peter's old Weslake.
The Armadale meeting was not restaged until 12th August, some three months after the opening round and in marked contrast to the years in which this Northern group would be staged over a single weekend.
The long gap between rounds had offered the Bandits further opportunity to strengthen their team. Scott Robson, Martin Dixon and Peter Scully were now joined by James Grieves and David Walsh. Both had recently been released by Elite League sides Wolverhampton and Coventry respectively.
The new look side picked up a respectable 26 points as the Bandits ended up with a total of 79 points. This placed them in fourth behind Edinburgh (118), Newcastle (103) and Glasgow (84).
If you've been keeping count you'll have noticed that the Bandits used an astonishing 12 riders in the series. Surely a roll call of sufficient length to pique the interest of Norris McWhirter?
The Bandits' individual contributions in each round were as follows:
This article was first published on 22nd April 2018
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