The Best Pairs Cup
There seems to be more speedway than ever to watch on the telly these days. As well as our regular diet of Elite League and Grand Prix fixtures, we can also now tune into the Swedish League and some new competitions that seem to exist primarily for the benefit of television.
The most recent of these has been the Speedway Best Pairs Cup, staged over three rounds and broadcast live on Eurosport to 71 countries.
The tournament itself is not an FIM competition and in many was just a series of glorified open meetings. Despite this, it does appear to have captured the public's attention. There was certainly considerable interest in Friday's deciding round at Eskilstuna.
The Aussies started the meeting as series leaders having won the two preceding rounds, beating the Danes into second place on both occasions. The Danes had a degree of revenge by winning the third round, though the Aussies were quite content to finish second and claim the series win.
Although it's a pairs event, each team has a reserve rider they can call on to cover for injured or off-form riders. The Aussies benefitted from this in the second round of the series, pulling in Davey Watt (who raced to 17 points) when Jason Doyle was ruled out in the early stages of the meeting.
Other countries opted to share the races a little more equally between their three riders. There's a suspicion that some of that may have been agreed before riders committed to travelling. Unless there's a significant guaranteed payment for all riders, it's difficult to see the incentive for riders to attend in a non-riding reserve capacity.
As has been well documented, there's no British representation in the meeting. The BSPA are sticking to the view that this is an unofficial event and therefore it would be inappropriate for a British team to appear under their banner. This must be frustrating for the riders who are missing out on additional earnings and also for the fans who would like to see Woffy (and two others) in action. The experience of competing in these meetings would undoubtedly be invaluable to some of the younger British lads who are all too often fish out of water on the continental tracks. Hopefully some resolution can be found.
The third round of the series was interrupted by a starting gate failure, leaving the tv team to fill in a considerable amount of live time. While that was painful for us all, it did allow time for Martin Smolinksi to demonstrate the famous "switch" on his bike that has propelled him from Elite League also-ran to Grand Prix winner in little over a year. I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of the mechanical side of the sport, but Martin's passion was marvellous to watch. The anecdote about him reading the FIM rule-book on the toilet was perhaps unnecessary, but it did make me laugh.
While this series lacks the intensity or glamour of the SGP, it's an enjoyable enough contest and if it's back in 2015 then I'll be setting the series link on my Sky Plus.
Here are some pictures from the third and final round of the 2014 series.
This article was first published on 26th May 2014
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