A Fours du jeur

Published on 27th July 2017
Author George Dodds

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, I must move progress – after all the Fours at Peterborough is only a couple of weeks away.
“So the motion on the table is that … we put our left leg in; although in the interests of fairness and transparency I must make you aware of Workington’s counter-proposal … that we put our right leg in.
“I should also point out that Poole’s suggestion – that we shake it all about – has been ruled out of order as the Pirates have nothing to do with this tournament.
“Now we’ve had this problem to sort out since January and there has to be a decision made before at least 1.55pm on August 6, otherwise we leave ourselves wide open to ridicule and scorn.
“On a side issue the Emperor’s new racesuit will be officially unveiled at the Championship Fours and the two weavers we have employed promise that it will be the finest, best racesuit ever made from a fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit to run speedway or hopelessly stupid.”
In other speedway news this week the annual trip to Fullers Brewery was postponed for the 53rd successive season due to continuing organisational problems; the Premiership winners will be decided on alphabetical order; Poole’s application to be renamed the Aardvark Pirates (Poole) has been rejected; all points scored by Richard Lawson for the rest of the season will be added to the Bandits’ match totals because he looks so debonair in Black and Gold and plans for the Championship Riders’ Championship to be decided by a 16-lap race at Lakeside featuring all 70 riders in the competition remains under consideration.
Yes this was the week that the Bandits officially said goodbye for the season to that one man headline machine Lewis Bridger – who is selling his Bandits’ racesuit via Facebook – and his temporary replacement Joe Jacobs while unveiling Nikolaj Busk Jacobsen in the latest attempt to turn the entertainment on track into league points.
It was also the week that saw us, within the space of a few hours, taking part in the Championship Fives with five riders to a heat; not taking part in the Championship Fours along with Scunthorpe and then taking part in a new look Championship Fives with a four-rider 10 and 12 heat structure.
My eyebrows did rise when the original plans to feature five rider races were unveiled, even though it would presumably have meant a return of the much lamented green helmet colour.
I was surprised that the riders had agreed to it so readily but, of course, it turned out that they hadn’t actually been asked their views.
Most will have competed in Europe or New Zealand, Australia and America – not to mention longtrack and grasstrack – where five or six, at times up to eight in handicap races, riders are on track at once.
But it is something of a rarity in Britain where the tracks tend to be much narrower.
There have been exceptions such as the 16-lapper Classic at Ipswich where the final involved eight riders.
And then there was the World Best Pairs which between, 1986 and 1990, involved six riders to a race – including the 1986 Final at Bradford’s much-missed Odsal Stadium.
Kelvin Tatum and Simon Cross steered England to the silver medal that day but they couldn’t match the efforts of Denmark’s Hans Nielsen and Erik Gundersen.
I have to admit that standing on the vast first bend terraces and watching six riders heading straight for me was quite something but I had the same feeling you get when watching a horror movie. You know: as the cheerleader gets ready for her shower, the storm grows wilder, the lights start to flicker and violins dominate the soundtrack – something horrible is going to happen; it is only a matter of time.
Three years later I was in virtually the same spot when Gundersen’s career – and very nearly his life – ended in a crash, also involving Cross, caused by first bend bunching in a standard four rider heat. Such is the precariousness of speedway.
A year later I was at Landshut in Germany as it staged the last six rider World Pairs final as rider concern about their safety finally won out over the demands of the sport’s rulers and TV producers to get as many countries and riders into the World Final as possible and damn the consequences.
Obviously since those days tracks now have air fences and riders enjoy much improved body protection and medical coverage but the actual machines are much more powerful today and there has been a worrying increase in serious back and neck injuries in recent seasons.
Anyway commonsense seems to have prevailed and it just remains to be seen whether NBJ will be allowed to represent the Bandits at Peterborough.
He has a pretty impressive record at Shielfield in Rye House and Peterborough colours after a less than auspicious debut in the European Under-21 final which lasted just one bend.
But as we welcome one new face we say farewell to Joe Jacobs who has come to the end of his 28 day contract as a replacement for Lewis.
Speedway is very much a numbers’ game and young Joe surprisingly found himself sidelined from all three leagues at the start of the season.
Initially he struggled to find the match fitness of opponents who had been on track since day one.
But he certainly showed more than the odd glimpse of his talent and, if nothing else, his time in the Black and Gold will be remembered for his part in those two 8-1s when he found his gating gloves and then had the wit to move aside to let first Nick Morris and then Richard Lawson take the chequered flag.
Glasgow fans have a slightly different opinion to us Bandits of his first bend manoeuvre on Aaron Summers when we last raced at Shielfield but as we all know the referee is always right!
Since that last Shielfield outing – the somewhat controversial 14-heat draw against the Tigers – we’ve had a typically unsuccessful trip to Ashfield, Somerset have discovered that there is more to successfully covering a track than meets the eye, Cardiff staged the latest British GP and Poland proved that it is as capable as any country in the world of producing a duff track –for the World under-21 finals.
On Saturday more Tigers come a-prowling – Sheffield’s this time but tapes-up at Shielfield is, as always, 7pm … and we may even discover if the hokey cokey really is what it’s all about.

George Dodds
George Dodds

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