George Dodds's picture

So who will it be?
Who is destined to join Roy Williams and David Blackburn in the record books?
Who will become the first track record holder around Shielfield Mark III?
One of the major talking points of the close season has been the successful negotiations between the Bandits and Berwick Rangers which has allowed some major reshaping work to be undertaken on England’s most northerly racetrack.
Despite some pretty ordinary weather the crack team assembled under the keen eye of bossman Jamie Courtney and track curator Ian Rae has trimmed turf, bladed berms, built bases, devoured dips, blended tons of new shale and generally overhauled the Shielfield track.
Opening night in 1968 was raced on a 402 metres (440 yards) track and Williams was the fastest around it on the night, 80.2 seconds in heat one since you ask.
By the time we were evicted in 1980 Wayne Brown – who was also the first rider to record four laps at an average of 50 mph – had reduced it to 71.8 seconds.
After 14 years out of town at the legendary Lough it was a very different Shielfield Park that launched its second era in 1996.
Having, literally, gone to the dogs during the period the track now also reflected a new era of health and safety. No longer could a flimsy chain link fence be tied to concrete posts and whitewashed tarpaulin from the floodlight pylons. No longer could spectators hang over the fence to get a better view of the racing with sterile zones keeping a watchful distance between bikes and fans.
A lap was now 368 metres, the starting gate had been moved ten metres nearer the first bend and speedway bikes were getting more and more powerful.
Even so Blackburn’s heat one time on Re-opening night was 73.2 seconds, Anthony Barlow twice going faster on the night as the new track settled before Blackburn eventually set the official standard at 71.3 seconds.
Over the years our legendary banking – built during that first close season back – and the rocket ships that modern riders are now mounted on saw times drop until a certain C Cook roared around in 62.8 seconds in 2015. We didn’t know at the time but it would be the fastest four laps of Shielfield Mark II.
Now as it happens when Shielfield Mark III opens for official business on April 4 Mr Cook is slated to line up in heat one so he’ll get a good view of Aaron Summers or whichever Bandit our management brains’ trust pairs the new skipper with on opening night writes their place in the record books.
Pictures posted on the Bandits’ Facebook page last weekend have whetted the appetite because it looks like we can use the phrase “Shielfield’s wide open spaces” with impunity from here on forward.
Press and Practice night on March 28 will be the first opportunity for most of us to see the new raceway. By that time an official measurement will have been made.
Time is ticking down until tapes-up with the latest in the vital to-do list that accompanies the run-in to a new season coming with the annual staff meeting.
The 2020 version takes place at the Black and Gold on Sunday from 4pm with the usual mixture of the existing, the potential and staff-curious is attendance … after arriving a few minutes early and attempting to get a sneak peak at our magnificent new shaleway no doubt.
See you at the pits’ gate!!