Mythman's picture

In speedway it is often said that the start is one of the most important things and if you can be the man in front heading into that first bend then you are in a position to dictate that corner and put yourself in the best position possible moving forward for the next four laps.

I am almost certain that every rider out there wishes they could drop that clutch and hit that corner in front every time they head out on to the track, but as we know some riders are better from the tapes than others.

In truth those who are perhaps deemed poorer from the start tend to be more entertaining riders, making passes by weaving inside and outside trying to find a way through.

Guys like Mark Loram, Joe Screen and Chris Harris are classic examples of that, while here at Berwick we have been treated to some amazing moves from the likes of Paul Clews and Lee Complin, neither of whom could gate for toffee, but they sure made up for it over the course of four laps.

On the other side of the coin were guys like Todd Wiltshire and Hans Nielsen, both of whom made starting an art form and a huge part of their arsenal during their careers. Again here at Berwick the likes of Josef Franc and Paul Bentley tended to do all the hard work from the start to great effect, yet you never heard much about it. They were simply good away from the tapes and that gave them an advantage over their rivals.

However these days the topic of starts in speedway rears its head almost every meeting, with riders twitching at the start or moving before the tapes go up and getting a “roller” and gaining a subsequent advantage. Nowadays riders are warned for this kind of thing and delays at the start and reruns are par for the course it seems.

But why?

Well some argue that with the way the modern speedway bikes are, making a good start is more important than ever and some riders just roll the dice, take the gamble and hope they get away with it. There are of course serial offenders with this and in truth, some of these offenders actually get away with it more often than not.

Another argument is that certain referees in charge of the meetings are purposely holding the tapes in order to catch out the riders and in turn leaving the fans talking about their performances rather than the on track action, which is the very thing people should be talking about.

Whatever side of the fence you sit on, it is frustrating for fans and riders alike when a meeting is delayed because someone is moving at the start, and a few folks have waded in on the debate, either on social media or on televised meetings.

BT Sport commentator Kelvin Tatum shared his opinions during the Kings Lynn vs. Poole meeting stating that the problem is easily sorted. His idea was to simply exclude the riders who move at the start instead of giving them a warning and the riders would be forced to sit still at the start and within one meeting the problem would be eradicated.

To be fair, he probably isn't far wrong, as the simplest ideas are often the most effective.

His BT Sport colleague and statistician extraordinaire Steve Brandon took to the argument a little further on Twitter, stating that the time had maybe come to do away with traditional elastic starting tapes and have transponders on the bikes to detect movement. This would allow referees the benefit of technology in order to make the right call and thus prevent as many restarts.

Would it work? Well if this theory could be tested at open meetings then perhaps it might have legs depending upon its success or otherwise, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest he might be on to something.

Of course the purists and traditionalists amongst us will argue that the tapes have been in use since 1932 and are an integral part of the sport and to a certain extent I agree. That moment when the bikes roar, the green light comes on and the riders look to the side in anticipation of the tapes rising is something rather magical and part of the aura of the whole thing.

That is without question part of speedway and its roots and whether losing that would improve things is certainly up for debate.
But then again there is certainly an argument to be made for bringing the sport into the 21st century and modernising it and moving forward as a result, however I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel and make it hexagonal here.

Yes the starting issues and the number of restarts does need addressing, and with the wealth of knowledge that Kelvin Tatum and Steve Brandon have between them, I would say that any suggestions these guys have should at least be considered.

Is there any harm in trying out these ideas? Absolutely not! I would like to see both of these ideas trialled to see what impact they have on the sport.

At Grand Prix level the bikes have transponders on them for getting accurate lap times for qualifying and the likes, and whether you are a fan of the qualifying system or not you can’t argue it brings about a modern aspect to the sport.

What I would like to see is transponders on the bikes introduced at all levels, this allows accurate timing of the races as well as detecting movement at the start. However, what I would also like to see would be an app introduced for fans so they can sign into the meetings they are attending and allow them to see live times and speeds etc of their favourite rider as it happens in real time.

Steve Brandon and engine tuner Peter Johns actually briefly touched on this on Twitter too and I have to say it is an idea I really like the sound of. Of course you could add to this and have all sorts of endless possibilities as a result and it would in turn bring the sport into the 21st century and possibly attract a younger audience by keeping interest up over the course of an evening.

I do realise that the introduction of transponders and a supporting app isn’t going to happen overnight nor is it going to solve any of the problems with jump starts and the subsequent restarts and delays...but if we don’t at least try, then we won’t ever know.

If the technology is there then why not use it? Whether or not it would work is another argument but if you don’t throw ideas against the wall how do you know if they are going to stick?

Of course if you wish to agree, or disagree with the Mythman, have an idea for a feature, or you simply want to chew the fat over all things speedway, you can email me jbspeedwaymedia@hotmail.com or get in touch via the JB Speedway Media Facebook page. If your compliments, or indeed gripes can be contained to limited characters, you can send me a tweet @Mythman666.

Until next time...and there will be a next time.
Right I’ll hae’tae gan