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45 Years a Racer
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Trackin' Down 3

After successful sales of his first two books of interviews with ex-Long Eaton Speedway riders, long-time fan Ian Gill is back with another issue which he will launch at the 4th Annual Long Eaton Speedway Reunion on June 17th.

Issue 3 - the biggest yet - features Long Eaton icon Geoff Bouchard (a Station Road regular from 1970 to 1974), Phil Whittaker (1971 and 1972) and Paul Evitts (1982 and 1983).

The 110 page A4 book features in-depth stories from the riders' careers (in their own words) with many stories receiving an airing for the first time and features photographs and items from the riders' personal memorabilia collections

"Once again," says Ian "I am indebted to the wonderful support and enthusiasm I have received from the three riders concerned, all of whom gave up around three hours of their time to answer the many questions which formed the basis of the interviews."

Sales of the first two issues saw a total of £300 handed over to the Long Eaton Speedway Reunion Group which was distributed to three ex-riders who are not currently in the best of health and Ian is hopeful of a similar success with this new issue. The proceeds of the sales from Issue 3 will be donated to the local branch of The St John's Ambulance Brigade, who were stalwart supporters of Long Eaton speedway over many, many years.

Here's an extract from issue 3. We'll bring you more in the weeks ahead.

 

GEOFF BOUCHARD - on starting out

"I paid to watch my first meeting at Leicester when they came back in 1968, simply because it was my local track. However, as a kid, I'd actually been along to Blackbird Road in their Provincial League days, but not to watch the racing! I was then a young Cadet in the St John's Ambulance Brigade and we used to be on duty at Leicester City Football Club, the speedway and other major events in the area. The bonus was that we could be involved with the event and we used to get paid a little bit of money as well. I'd be about 11 or 12 at that time, so we are talking about 1959/1960. Ken McKinlay was riding for the Leicester Hunters at that time and, as the First Aid room was next to the pits, we were constantly rubbing shoulders with the riders, which was a great thrill.

"I used to love the character of the bikes simply because they didn't look like any other bikes I'd seen. The chrome, the massive handlebars and the knobbly tyres entranced me! I used to collect the "gas goggles" that the riders wore. There was one night when Briggo was there riding for Southampton and of course, he was a big name even then. At the end of the meeting, he was walking out of the pits and I went up to him to ask him for his goggles, but sadly, he just brushed me aside. I always remembered that little incident so, when I was riding against him when I was at Swindon, on the couple of occasions that I beat him, I was quite chuffed. That was "pay-back" for the goggles incident! I know Briggo to speak to these days of course, and I must remember to mention it to him one day!

"At the other end of the young fan/rider scale, I remember a night when Peter Craven was at Leicester with Belle Vue. A friend and I approached him saying, "Have you got any goggles we can have, mister?" Straightaway, he gave his goggles to my mate and I was so disappointed. Peter could see this and he said, "Come with me, lad" and he actually took me back to where his car was parked and gave me a pair out of the boot. I was absolutely "made up" and, 50 years on, I can still remember the occasion vividly. Even though I can't recall seeing him ride that night, I've got my fond memories of personally meeting the man.

"When Leicester re-opened in 1968, I went along with a gang of mates to the first meeting against Kings Lynn. We were all extremely keen on bikes at that time, so it was an obvious thing to do. I think there were about eight of us crammed into one of my mate's vans that night! The speedway opened with a crowd of 10,000 plus and you could hardly move on the terraces.

"Watching the racing, I thought "This is alright" even though I didn't really understand what was going on in terms of the technicalities of the scoring and rules. (Editor: And the rules were actually quite simple back then compared to today´┐Ż!). Over the next few weeks, I found out that quite a few mates at work were regular supporters, and I followed the trend and went along to watch most of the meetings.

"It was while I was watching the juniors and kids after the main match that I began to think; "I could do better than that!" I felt that some of them really weren't very good and just the way they went about things made me think I could beat them. After all, I did have a bit of history at riding bikes and so I knew a fair bit about throttle control and balance.

"In fact I knew I could do better as, round about the time that Leicester was re-opening, a crowd of us used to make our own speedway-type bikes based around a little Villiers 197cc engine, with a set of moped forks and a skinny, moped front wheel. For my bike, I found a worn speedway tyre on Ken McKinlay's scrap-heap at Leicester Stadium and then bent some cow-horn handlebars to shape at work. We found an area of land to ride this 'bike' on which was some open ground where the showground people used to store all their equipment on during the winter. Of course, in the summer they were all away touring, so it left this great expanse of land, reasonably near to us, which was the basis for our 'track'.

 

This article was first published on 16th June 2011


 

  • Ivan Blacka:

    "This book is a must read along with the Alan Carter book. Forget about all them other books that we have all read a million times. Read something new for a change instead of the same old stuff that we all know about.."

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