Midday on a cold autumn afternoon I was faced with an intriguing dilemma. Attend my lecture on Romanticism in the C19th or watch my recently purchased DVD of round seven of this year's Speedway GP from Mallia. Of course the latter option prevailed and I spent the next three hours reminding myself of how magnificent our sport really is, it's not until you take a closed season step away from the Speedway GP you realise how far the series has actually come. Ok, so the high capacity Swedish stadiums weren't successful and Australia 2002 was ill fated but otherwise everything appears to be heading in the right direction. BSI have reluctantly realised permanent speedway venues provide superior racing to those which are laid with superficial shale.
Take the serenely located Malila track for instance; home of the successful Luxo stars in the Swedish elite league, the final race of the night is the most wonderful example of top quality speedway. Jason Crump courageously rides the deepest and highest line physically possible whilst Andreas Johnson tries with all his might to defend his lead, simply fantastic. The most encouraging aspect of staging a GP at a permanent venue such as Malila is that Benfield Sports International are starting to invest cash into stadium facilities and grandstands. John Posstlewaite's company has previously been accused of conducting a smash and grab raid on speedway, therefore the enhancement of club facilities is a positive and revolutionary leap in the right direction.
The main man enthusiastically commented "We are looking forward to continue working with the domestic clubs and federations to grow speedway internationally and ensure the sport reaps the benefits at all levels."
Bearing this in mind it will be interesting to monitor the progress of Russel Paine's Spanish track. This venue, after its completion, must be in the running for staging a GP. Will BSI realise the immense potential of speedway in Spain and help nurture this simmering speedway hot bed?
So enthused by the quality of the Malila racing I watched intently until Tony Millard's voice had flung me into a frenzy, particularly the final race of the night was four laps of beautifully crafted speedway bliss.
My delirium was abruptly halted as I showed the magnificent heat to a speedway virgin, a likeable chap whose sporting mind is dominated by football.
His actual response was 'Man, that must be so exciting to watch live, I never knew Speedway was like that' Frustrated, annoyed, confused but strangely content I began to wonder why didn't he know speedway was like that? What stereotype had he constructed? There are millions like my friend who are oblivious to the power of our sport, the Speedway GP has the ability to smash these stereotypes that is why it's crucial for the series to maintain progression.
It seems speedway continually aspires to follow in the footsteps of Moto Gp, when the progression of our sport is discussed regular references to Rossi and his chums are made. The relationship between the two disciplines is similar to the affiliation between speedway and grass track. Grass track is generally considered to be the poorer relation and aspires to gain the same sort of media attention as speedway.
Our sport can learn an awful lot from Moto GP in terms of sponsorship, presentation and merchandising. There are a multitude of Moto GP computer games available in the shops and most motorsport fans are familiar with the names Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggo because they are so regularly exposed to the public eye. Speedway once enjoyed a good relationship with the popular Motorcycle News paper (MCN), however that association has become jaded which therefore shelters speedway from the majority of the motorcycle community. BSI should seek to build bridges with publications like this in an effort to rekindle the once vibrant connection between the asphalt and shale community.
Latvia is the latest nation to be added to the Grand Prix calendar taking the total of rounds to 10. Russian venue Togliatti is rumoured to be added in 2007 with Hungary and Croatia also possibilities. Whilst it is encouraging to discover new venues in Europe the series is really screaming out for a GP down under. Start small, don't take to many risks, hold the GP at a permanent speedway venue maybe in Mildura or Adelaide. Sydney 2002 left a sour taste in many peoples mouths but it is time to let the problems of the past lie and repair the neglected Australian speedway scene whilst simultaneously extending SGP's horizons.
This article was first published on 24rd December 2005
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