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George Dodds's picture

He’s a cool one that Harry McGurk.
All that stuff and nonsense about heading down to for the British under-21 semi-final at Somerset to soak up the atmosphere, pick up some experience, learn from his peers.
Well the 15-year-old Bandits' Academy racer only went and finished on the podium at the Oak Tree Arena, earning himself a spot in the British Final at Shielfield on Saturday night in the process.
They’re a canny lot these Yorkshiremen, even at such a tender age.
Having just switched to 500cc machines and about to make his National League debut for Cradley Heath, Harry was, probably one of the surprise qualifiers from the super competitive semis at Isle of Wight and Somerset last week.
And of course that means he lines up alongside Leon Flint to give us Bandits fans two local heroes to cheer on this weekend.
Actually it means that there are two Berwick boys among the 16 (18 including reserves) to cheer on because every rider in the field is an example of why the harbingers of doom who love to pontificate online about the imminent implosion of British speedway have to be proved wrong and deserves to be roared home by a big crowd.
While Rob Lambert – hot favourite to win his third successive British title despite an inconsistent start to the season – and to a lesser extent Dan Bewley have made the step up from promising second/third tier rider to established top leaguer/peripheral international class, the rest of the field is filled with as exciting a pool of up-and-coming talent since the mid-1970s.
Leon pulled on the Belle Vue Colts race colours for the first time on Good Friday. Over the years names such as Peter Collins, Chris Morton, Joe Screen, Carl Stonehewer and the man who was in many ways the 16-year-old’s inspiration, Ricky Ashworth, have worn the colours with distinction.
But I’m fairly sure that none of them marked their debut with a five ride maximum in the way that Flint Junior did against Stoke at the National Speedway Stadium. Mind you Jordan Palin – another in Saturday’s field – managed paid 15 from six rides on his debut. Oh and Kyle Bickley scored 13 the same afternoon.
Later that night Harry battled his way through to the final at Oak Tree Arena and then took advantage of a clutch problem suffered by hitherto unbeatable home man Henry Atkins to join Cradley team-mate Luke Harris and Mildenhall’s Jason Edwards in the Shielfield 16.
Two nights earlier the mechanical misery had been suffered by Berwick asset Luke Ruddick who was leading the semi-final only for his bike to momentarily lose power allowing eventual third placed man Anders Rowe and Alex Spooner to keep him out of the final.
Scunthorpe’s Ryan Kinsey was unbeaten on the night with Palin runner-up.
They join the ten seeded riders for Saturday’s final, among them Bickley who is making his third Shielfield appearance of the season. At this rate he might as well get a caravan at Ord House and take part in the Friday night bingo sessions.
Despite his tender years Zach Wajknecht has not only impressed on the track but given fans the added entertainment of forcing centre green presenters and announcers some tonsil teasing, false teeth threatening oral gymnastics as they attempt to come to terms with his surname.
Ranting Roy took the perfectly acceptable approach of rapidly mumbling random consonants in a broad north east accent.
Messrs McCleary and Hayward are made of sterner stuff and have spent the week in a darkened room taking instructions from the head of the BBC’s enunciation unit. We await the results with bated breath.
Rather like Bickley last season and Leon this, Drew Kemp is the name on many lips this year after a barnstorming debut season with Mildenhall.
He has limited experience of Shielfield but a big reputation while Jack Smith’s old man, Andy, has a proud record in British Finals and will no doubt have passed on some big night tips to the lad.
That’s some line-up – one of the best for an individual meeting you’ll see in Britain this, or many other seasons.
In many ways you have to envy followers of the National League as they get to see this precocious talent week in and week out. Not so easy for those of us in the true north – Leon’s Belle Vue is our closest NL track, a mere 422-mile round trip.
But this weekend the real talent that Britain has got is not on some soporific cringe-making fake sob story focussed ITV programme but banging bars on the Shielfield straights and swooping off the banking.
It’s all happening on our doorstep and the brothers Courtney – who lobbied strongly to stage the meeting at Shielfield for the second successive year – have announced a return to 2018 admission prices for the big night. Season passes are not valid so it's £15 adults, £11 concessions and kids a quid, - the ones that are not racing that is.
Britain’s future deserves to perform in front of a big, appreciative crowd – with, perhaps a little bit of extra volume when Messrs Flint and McGurk are on-track.
It all starts at 7pm and Leon’s in heat one.