11 May 2021
The Dirt Xtra
It’s Tuesday night…and you know what that means. Speedway with crowds gets…
Speedway has been good to me.
It has allowed and encouraged me to travel. To organise, present, report and just watch speedway in many strange lands.
Usually with a Bandit or two on parade!
In recent years I’ve seen Coty Garcia racing in Argentina, Kyle Bickley, Jye Etheridge and Kevin Doolan in Australian action — and NBJ contesting FIM meetings in both these countries!
In the past, well…..
I was in Gothenburg, Sweden to watch THREE Bandits racing in the 1991 World Championship Final.
Just think on that one for a moment. Is there any other club in the land who can make such a boast? Three team members in the same World Final? Aaaah, the pride I felt that sultry night at Ullevi……….
Another strange adventure was at a place in south-western France called Libourne. This was 1980, and the organisers down there had put out feelers for any British-based riders who might available to bulk out the field at their annual speedway meeting.
It was late in the year, and with the Banditos being in limbo following that terminally-strained relationship with the-then controllers of BRFC, we were just the lads with a free weekend, and available to take their offered big bag of francs!
It was a great wee break. The sun shone relentlessly, wine flowed (Libourne lies on the Dordogne, close to Bordeaux) freely and there was no pressure on the guys to do much more than enjoy themselves.
Davie Fairbairn and I soaked up both sun and vino while watching Steve McDermott lifting an impressively-large trophy, with wee Wayne Brown and Nig Close polishing off most of the locals as well. Thinks: would that be a French polish?
I had a programme from that day once, but it has disappeared into the mists of time. Anyone got the full results?
Nig Close was also in South Africa when I was there, in (I think) 1979. This was for an indoor series at a place called Milner Park in Johannesburg, which was televised by the brand-new SABC.
Staged over four consecutive evenings, I did the commentary for two of them – the other two nights had a chap doing the talking in Afrikaans! I later learned that when South Africa finally got TV – and that was as late as 1976 — the government of the day only agreed to it starting up if all the programmes were broadcast in English and Afrikaans on alternate nights!
Also in Africa but much earlier, in 1971 I was involved in helping set up a couple of three-team league seasons in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). This was a surreal experience, as the nation had at that time declared UDI (independence from Britain, but without permission from our lot at Westminster – a process I’m sure Nicola Sturgeon has considered) and there were all sorts of embargos in place, making shipment of bikes and the like sort of, well, interesting!
Competitors who raced in the Rhodesian League and also – earlier or later – as Bandits, were Bill McMillan, Jimmy Gallacher and Brian Collins.
Down in New Zealand in the ‘seventies, there always seemed to be a few Bandits out on the tracks I visited. Roger Wright, Colin Farquharson, Mike Fullerton and Robin Adlington come to mind. Nice place, nice people.
I’ve also seen speedway in the United States, but can’t find any Bandits who were there to share the experience.
This was in 1982. I was there for the World Final in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and took in regular racing at both San Bernardino and Costa Mesa during the days leading up to the big night. Unforgettable!
The two little tracks were quite amazing – it would be like throwing up 10,000 seats around our Duns training track and letting some of the wildest throttle-jockeys in the world loose on it, six to a race! Entertainment was guaranteed.
On the Saturday night, it was the World Final. Bruce Penhall’s last meeting – nothing like quitting while you’re ahead, eh?
Before Brucie announced that he was going off to have his CHiPs, we had Heat 14.
Which is still being argued about, nearly forty years later.
Penhall and Carter. Did he fall or was he pushed?
Well, it’s still there on YouTube, take a look for yourself. I’ve watched it unfold a hundred times, and I still don’t know what I’d have ruled, were I the referee. But I do know one thing……
When I stuck that mike under wee Kenny’s nose and asked what had happened, he told me in no uncertain terms.
“I had nooooo chance!”
Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He is always happy to hear from interesting people at email@example.com