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The Speedway Bike
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It's All About You... Andy Cox

AshbyAndersson

Tell us about your introduction to speedway

I've had two! I grew up near Salisbury and I was taken along to Swindon by a mate in about 1974/1975 when I was about 15. The days of Martin Ashby, Bob Kilby, Bobby McNeil, Norman Hunter, Geoff Bouchard, Soren Karlsson, David Ashby...and rumours of a young Swedish rider who was going to be very good once he finished his National Service. Jan Andersson duly arrived, and promptly won his first race. An instant hero. Then I lost touch with the sport somewhere around 1982/1983. (Oddly enough my wife and I moved to Swindon in 1986 but I never went back to the speedway!) Then in about 2003 some neighbours took our three kids to Swindon and they were hooked. They used pester power to get me to take them a few times during 2004, and then I was hooked too!

 

Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time

Maybe the 1981 World Final at Wembley. I remember a few great races, but the atmosphere was awesome. On a couple of occasions the entire crowd just stood up as one, from the sheer excitement. Another would be the Elite League Play Off Semi Final 2007, Swindon v Peterborough. A pretty routine win for Swindon in the end, but with Leigh Adams missing with a dislocated shoulder, Andy Moore riding with a crocked knee from the same accident as Adams, Rico struggling with a bad groin injury, Mads Korneliussen missing, the anticipation and wondering how it would go was massive for a Swindon fan. The atmosphere at the match was fantastic, one of the best I've ever experienced. It doesn't have to be the biggest crowd to generate a great atmosphere, you just have to be stood in the right place!

 

Tell us about your favourite rider of all time

Maybe this is unusual, but I just don't have one. Martin Ashby would come close, but I think that's mainly boyhood hero stuff.

 

Tell us about your favourite track/stadium

Everyone says Hyde Road. I went there twice during the late 1970s. Memory is a bit hazy but I do remember the noise up in the stands and the general atmosphere. (I also seem to remember, the first time we went in 1976, you could stand up to the fence along the home straight. We stood right by the start line and there was some nutter wearing thick glasses and ear defenders waving his programme board over the fence as the riders came round on each lap! He seemed to be a Belle Vue regular. Does anyone else remember him?) Plough Lane Wimbledon was an amazing venue for speedway. The Millennium Stadium is a real experience, but I think the old Wembley had something extra, just call it atmosphere I suppose. Last season I went to Somerset for the first time. Only saw 3 and a bit races (Somerset v Birmingham, rained off before heat 4 could be rerun!) but I just loved the track. Will definitely be back there sometime.

 

What are the best things about speedway?

Away trips, the humour of the fans no matter who you support, Jeff Scott's books, the Blunsdon Blog. I seem to have used the word "atmosphere" a lot in all this. But to me the best thing about speedway is the build up to a match. I always get to Swindon about 6.30 with an hour still to go before the match starts. I think my son probably thinks I'm mad, but I love standing in a slowly filling stadium, watching the preparations. Stan Potter setting up the tapes, the riders on their track walks, the ref testing the lights, last minute track preparation, I know I'm an anorak! The gradual arrival of the regular fans who take up their usual places, then about 7.00 the bikes start warming up and the anticipation goes up a notch, if the wind is in the right direction there is THAT SMELL. At Swindon they play the same series of music in the last 20 minutes before the match and for me that just builds the tension more (I must have been one of Pavlov's dogs in a previous life). Then the parade, 2 minutes on, riders out for the first heat, green light, massive noise from the bikes... I think the build up to the first heat of the first match of the season is one of the best things in the world.

 

What are the worst things about speedway?

The usual suspects - rain offs, the closed season, unnecessary rule changes, double points...

 

What one thing would you do to improve speedway?

Invent an all weather dirt track. Win the Euro millions and sponsor every up and coming British rider, then we'll see how they get on. (That's 2 things isn't it, doh!)

 

Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen

There are a few riders I have seen but only briefly and would like to have seen more of them. Barry Briggs. I'm pretty sure I saw him ride a few times during the 1970s, but I would have loved to have seen him at his peak. Tony Rickardsson. I saw him ride when he was doing a few Elite League meetings as GP preparation, so he was basically testing equipment. Another one I would have liked to have seen at his best. Mark Loram. Again I saw him ride a few times, but would have loved to have seen him more.

 

What does the future hold for speedway?

I am cautiously optimistic. I feel there is a generation of promoters coming to the fore who not only have the best interests of the sport at heart, but also know how to run it. I suspect it will never get back to anywhere near it's peak, but as long as there is viable team speedway then I'll be happy.

 

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This article was first published on 25th March 2010

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