When I was a kid I saw brief news updates in the sports section. When they were done talking about the traditional sports: football, cricket and so on, they had a few seconds dedicated to speedway, and I thought: yeah ok they ride motorbikes in circles on dirt and slide them, big deal. The only team I heard about was the Poole Pirates. I ended up watching them live at Eastbourne a couple of weeks ago. I’ll get to that in a sec.
As it turns out, that was a bit hasty of a conclusion to make. Eurosport, one of the only channels I watch, recently acquired the rights to the Speedway Grand Prix series. So I thought why not give it a go and see what it’s all about. I’m really glad I did. Speedway GP is an elite level competition featuring the best riders in the world, and they compete against each other individually. Almost all other Speedway competitions are team based, where you have 2 guys from each team in each heat and therefore tactics can come into play. Because of the lack of tactics, you get what are probably the best Speedway races in the world and it’s fantastic to watch.
Rather than go into detail about the rules and how it works, which you can find out easily yourself, I want to just talk about how fantastic it is as a spectacle. It’s fast, loud, exciting, is a great spectator motorsport because you can see the whole track from any location around it and it’s easy to understand what’s happening.
Watching a couple of Grands Prix on TV got me hooked, and when we got the chance to go and watch a live meeting with the team I’ve heard about as a kid against the most local team to me, I jumped at the chance. It was cool that we got to go and see the same guys I saw on TV up close roaring past me at 60 or 70 mph only a couple of metres away. The sound of the engines roaring and popping was intense, I got a bit of shale in my eye once or twice, and every lap they went past I exhaled methanol but who cares. It was awesome.
On TV you just don’t get the sense of what it’s like up close. The rumbling of the engines as they rev on the start line and the amount of speed that they go past you on the front straight with before they slide into the corner with no brakes is addictive.
If you have Eurosport or better yet, if you’re within reasonable distance of a local team, either here in the UK or elsewhere I urge you to go and check it out. You might get drawn in as I’ve been.