Published on 21st February 2017
Author Dick Barrie

I had an idea last year.

We talked about it, but so far it hasn’t made the top of the ‘to do’ list – but as I see it one day, one day….

Here’s the thing. A man called Fred Mockford, who promoted speedway at Crystal Palace and later New Cross, had seen the business of starting races as a major problem for this fast-growing sport.

Back then, around 1930(ish) races just went off a haphazard rolling start – not much changed, eh? – but old Fred made a quantum leap forward by constructing fly-up starting gates, which had been introduced to horse racing about twenty years before that.

Bingo! Problem of ragged starts solved – and from that day to this, speedway races have been clutch-started from a fly-up gate.

But (and here comes my point) that was 90-odd years ago. Shouldn’t we be thinking about moving forward again?

Transponders, that’s what we need. My idea was – is — to hold a meeting here at Berwick with no starting-gates. To prove the point, rather than just waffle on about it. Invite FIM bigwigs, BSPA littlewigs and show them the future of speedway.

Just a device – a tiny chip — on each bike which pings a signal to and from a base buried under the start line.

Start the races with a count-down light (as they do at F1 GPs) and the electronics tell you if a rider has jumped the start….

The transponders will also deliver the winning times of each race – indeed, of each rider, on each lap – and there need be no need for a starting-gate ever again. Or a timekeeper, I suppose.

In my ideal world, such a demonstration meeting would be sponsored (to the hilt) by one of the several manufacturers of these transponders — eager to do so, given that there would be an immediate worldwide demand for their product.

A pipedream? Not really, transponders are already used in a multitude of other sports and pastimes – when we went go-karting up at Tranent last season (when Seb Alden rammed me into the tyrewall and gave me a sore knee which troubles me still) we were handed a print-out just seconds after each race to show us our lap-times and finishing positions – and if they can do that up there, a speedway scheme would be pretty simple.

Will it happen? Definitely, but when it does you can expect some smart-bottom in the BSPA or FIM to claim it as their idea – which is why I thought I’d just set it down here that we had the idea at Berwick first.

Just another instance of “the little club that could” showing the way.

Dick Barrie
Dick Barrie

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