It's All About You: Mike Redfern
Tell us about your introduction to speedway
Leaning out of my bedroom window in Exeter every Monday night during the season listening to the bikes etc., from age of about 6 (1964). My elder brothers John and Clive would take me occasionally and normally bank holiday Monday's. I loved seeing the boys on the tractor, particularly Jimmy Squibb (when he waved to me) and Jack Geran, who later I became friendly with and enjoyed sharing quite a lot of beer! We used to walk there and back. The tannoy would play 'fire' by the crazy world of Arthur Brown which I found scary! The bikes after an accident were a law unto themselves with the total loss oil and no cut out switch. I remember one going around in circles in front of the pits, revving it's guts out on it's side and nobody could get near it!
Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time
Maybe the Wembley final Bruce Penhall won, but the one which really sticks in my memory box is the BLRC at Belle Vue in 1973. My parents were having some work done to their house. Barry turned up on a nice Bonny most days and there was Bill in one of those 3 wheeled things. Anyway, we chatted and it turned out their friend Dougie was going and they were sure I could go too. And so it happened.......what a trip!
Dougie had, I am sure a Hillman Minx in Falcons livery of green and white with an enormous black falcon on the bonnet. How I would love to see that sort of thing now in these times. The M5 was not finished and we crawled up to Bristol. Stopped for beer. Stopped on the way up for Paul to pee by the roadside. From the Midlands up it was speedway traffic we passed and were passed by all honking their horns and waving to each other. Went by Old Trafford and reached the stadium after walking through the funfair. 25,000. Great meeting. Ray Wilson was good value but Ivan won with 14 I think much to our delight.
Afterwards pub (I was 15). 4/5 pints. Slept in the Hillman. 5 of us. Doug noticed a couple at some in the night shagging in their car and turned on the headlights so we could see better or, at least, shock them into submission. A long drive home in the morning but an unforgettable speedway meeting.
Tell us about your favourite rider of all time
Has to be Ivan Mauger. He was my king well before joining Exeter. Before that happened I was reading the Daily Express on the lounge floor one day when headline.....Mauger signs for Exeter. I couldn't believe it! Like George Best signing for Exeter City. I am and still are a staunch City fan, but the thing is in those days we had a speedway club competing at the highest level with ho usehold names appearing most weeks which was so exciting.
Tell us about your favourite track/stadium
Has to be Poole. Sadly, over the last 40 years the stadium has become somewhat rundown..the stand that used to be on the back straight has been replaced by something which does nothing for the atmosphere or viewing experience.
What are the best things about speedway?
When they get it right there is no better motor sport to match it.
What are the worst things about speedway?
Over the last 50 years a lot of speedway has been very badly run in my opinion. Nothing gets put back into the tracks and, I think, in this day and age reflects on the poor viewing audience. I remember buying speedway star and news over 40 years ago to read the Bees had an opening season meeting with Belle Vue in front of some 18,000. N
What one thing would you do to improve speedway?
I wish I had the answers! Kelvin and Nigel are wonderful campaigners and ambassadors for the sport, but with so much competition from darts, snooker and synchronised swimming how do we get on the front page again. Wish I knew. I honestly think, as far as the UK is concerned the stadia in most cases are way behind expectations in this day and age.
The lay down engine I suppose is here to stay. I didn't like it but cannot say racing suffered. On the other hand, speedway can only survive by putting on a spectacle which means passing. Some of the stuff over the last year has been sensational. Speedway from the Gods to coin a phrase!! But did this get to a wider audience. I think not. Somehow, we have to convince the media what they are missing.
Somebody like Mark Webber who loves it might help to promote it. Cardiff. Has the audience grown over the last few years. I don't know, but as a purist, the noise of music, banging and I can't think how much else annoys me destroys the atmosphere of a speedway meeting. Wembley, I miss you.
Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen
Ove Fundin. PeterCraven. I suppose many others, but I have been lucky to have seen the best of the best over the last 50 plus years. A family friend went to see Fundin at Exeter but he did not ride as he fell off the pits wall and broke his arm instead. Is that true, I don't know!
What does the future hold for speedway?
I am very worried for the future. We had 18 to 20 teams in the top flight and now, is it eight? How can that make a proper league. Can't see it. Let's hope Belle Vue get their act together now. All that work and inspiration seems to have gone badly wrong. What, on earth happened to something which should have been such a massive shot in the arm.
This article was first published on 26th March 2017
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