Team Talk - Week 2
Photo by Dave PayneSat 06 Apr 2013
Saturday 6th April
Well, here we are with something new – an online Comets programme column – these website
things might just catch on you know!
‘Team Talk' is basically the ‘Track Crack' column that I wrote in the programme each week for the
past two seasons but now available online; as what can be put in the race-card each week is fairly
limited and certainly nowhere near enough space as is needed most week's, and certainly not this
week! In fact there is without doubt going to be far more words in this column than there ever was
in my programme column.
The main purpose of the column remains the same – to give everyone an insight into what
happened and why, which hopefully will be an interesting read – but if it isn't then at least you got
to read it for free!
So, let's start at the beginning – with last Saturday's opening fixture for the Ian Thomas Shield.
In the build up to the meeting it became apparent by Tuesday that Mason would not be with us for
the opening weekend of the season so, with it being a challenge fixture we were permitted to
utilise guests up to Mason's average. I must admit the thought of having to book guests before we
had even turned a wheel was a bit of a concern – especially considering the vast quantity of guests
we have used over the past two years (the total is exactly 70 guests in official fixtures over the past
two seasons by the way) – but thankfully Simon Lambert and Simon Nielsen both jumped at the
chance to get some laps in at this stage of the season. Simon Nielsen used to ride for us of course –
we were his first UK club back in late 2011 – so he still has a soft spot for us, which must have
helped I am sure. In fact Simon was actually due to fly home to Denmark on Sunday but offered to
change his flight to Monday in order to ride for us at Newcastle.
Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, which was a relief, as rain is normally a problem at this
time of year but on this occasion we knew that the cold weather would still make for a difficult
evening – and so it proved.
After a long day at the track erecting banners and sorting out a million minor problems we were
ready for the opening meeting and it was fantastic to see so many supporters turn up – despite
the cold weather.
Thankfully we managed to take a victory on the night although we did worry if nine points would
be enough. We had been looking for double-figures – maybe a 12 or 14 point lead; but it was not to
Overall the racing was not too bad although towards the end it got a bit too risky as the moisture
was getting drawn out of the ground as the temperature dropped, after which it began to freeze.
Unfortunately this is why we had to do far more track grading than we would have liked – in order
to try and break up the surface and keep the meeting going until heat 15 at least – without it we
would have had to cut short the racing after maybe heat 12. As well as ice forming on the surface –
which I have never encountered before, the ‘berms' of dirt were also freezing, which meant that
rather than break away when hit by a back wheel they simply didn't move – acting a bit like a kerb
at the side of the road. Needless to say this was a little dangerous to say the least and was
something else that had to be broken up by grading after every race almost. At this point I would
like to thank the riders from both teams for keeping the racing going and providing some
entertainment, especially for an opening night crowd.
By heat 11 this was becoming more of a problem and by heat 15 it was simply too much of a
problem. In fact so much so that we had no option other than to cancel the remaining two match
races, which would have seen Rene and Rusty each taking on Scott Nicholls.
Scott has agreed to come back at a later date and finish the job when the weather improves and it
can be fitted into his schedule. While on the subject of Scott I can only say that he was very
professional throughout the evening and he did a great job beforehand – meeting the fans and
posing for photographs, signing autographs etc.
Of course Scott Nicholls wasn't the only visitor that we had; just as the meeting started we had the
Preston-based former Ellesmere Port, Belle Vue and Edinburgh legend Peter Carr arrive along with
his friend and well-known speedway fan – Isle of Man TT ace – and he really is a legend – John
McGuinness. It was John's first ever visit to Derwent Park and he liked what he saw – he even
promised to return when commitments allow. Incidentally, John has a speedway bike of his own
that he bought off former triple world champion Jason Crump when Jason was at Belle Vue and
has been out on it a few times but obviously his Road Racing ‘day job' takes up so much of his time
that he can only treat speedway as a bit of fun!
With regards to the meeting itself I thought all the riders showed glimpses of a good season ahead
although obviously the freezing track conditions limited what they could do. Rusty, Rene and
Richard all showed that they would be amongst the points and did some overtaking, Kyle was
magnificent, Tero made some good gates and looked fast, Ashley overcame some early machine
problems and was unlucky in heat 2 when his footrest bolt snapped on the final lap causing him to
slip back into last place, although on the other hand he was fortunate to stay on his machine.
Meanwhile guest Simon Lambert did well as a stand-in for Mason. Incidentally, while on the
subject of Simon we would all like to wish him a good recovery as in his next meeting at Rye House,
riding for the Rockets, on Easter Monday he was involved in a crash that saw him break his ankle,
which will keep him out of action for quite a while.
Thankfully Tero didn't get hurt as much as was initially feared following his fall going into turn one
in his fourth ride – for which I felt he was harshly excluded. He suffered some minor muscle and
ligament damage to his shoulder, which forced him to miss the visit to Newcastle the following day
after it stiffened up overnight. But, he has improved greatly as this week has progressed and will
be fit and raring to go against Redcar this evening.
The trip to Newcastle for the second leg was disappointing as the Shield was there for the taking –
despite having a weakened side by having to use Rider Replacement for Tero and a guest for
Mason. The fact that we provided only three race winners out of fifteen tells its own story – and
that was simply because we were not making starts no matter what we tried. If we had made
more gates we would have won more races and won the shield – simple as that. Starts had been a
bit of a problem the previous night at Derwent Park and all the boys are trying to get that sorted as
soon as they can. What passing there was at Brough Park was mainly done by us and despite
everything a 5-1 in heat 15 would still have given us the shield.
We were hopeful that Richard and Rene could repeat their heat maximum of heat 13 but as the
tapes went up Richard's clutch decided to have a problem and right away our chance had gone.
One rider that did please me at Brough Park was Ashley – his two second places were well earned
and if he can keep that fighting spirit going he could have a good season ahead of him.
Following the weekend's opening fixtures we were collectively disappointed with the level of
coverage our opening night gained in the ‘News & Star' on Monday. We appreciated that it was a
Bank Holiday weekend and there was a lot going on but even so, a few more column inches would
not have gone amiss. Although, to counter that, we have to applaud the coverage we have
received in this weekend's Times & Star.
We have also had reasonable tv and radio coverage of late, which all helps to spread the word
while of course last Saturday's meeting was filmed by Workington-based ‘Pro-Cam' who aim to be
at Derwent Park as much as they can this year when other commitments allow. Pro-Cam also carry
out work for Border tv so that all helps with our media profile right across Cumbria.
This week has seen Richard in action on Thursday at Swindon (for Lakeside) and at Lakeside last
night (Friday) while Kyle scored a best-ever Elite League points total of 11 paid 13 at Poole on
Wednesday for his parent club (Poole) and then he rode as a guest for Swindon on Thursday
against Lakeside. So they have seen some action this week, which will certainly help their race
fitness at this stage of the season.
However, the main talking point throughout this week has been Mason's battle for a visa to come
over and join us from Australia.
Following the issue of a sponsor number by the UK Border Agency some weeks ago it was
expected to be something of a formality to get things sorted out at the Australian end. With the
delay due to the Bank Holiday we were all hopeful that he would get the nod on Tuesday and be
able to jump n a ‘plane and come over – he has his bag packed and ready to go – while his bikes are
all ready and waiting over here. But, when he got word late on Wednesday that he had been
refused a visa it was a major shock to him, his family and obviously to us.
Mason and his family have now engaged an immigration lawyer to fight his case over there and
although we can't say too much at present we are confident that a challenge can be successful –
but how long all this will take is an unknown quantity.
In the meantime we had to track a side for our first competitive match and with only three days to
go before the fixture we had to act fast otherwise a National League rider would have been
required at the reserve end of the team – but that is far from ideal and you cannot have any facility
for a rider that has not yet ridden an official fixture for a club – which is the case with Mason as last
season's guest bookings do not count, so we needed to sign someone and sign them fast!
Thankfully we were able to quickly tie up a deal with Essex-based Chris Mills, who rode at Glasgow
last year, and he has agreed to come in to help us out until Mason arrives. Obviously at the
moment we have no idea when that will be. We are very grateful to Chris for helping us out at such
short notice and of course we fully appreciate that he has not had anywhere near the time he
would have liked to get fully race-prepared for the season but after a couple of matches and a
week or so he will have got pretty much up to speed with the rest of the boys. So I hope that
everyone appreciates that and also gives him a warm welcome when he makes his debut for the
Comets against Redcar. In fact when he takes to the track tonight it is with thanks to former Comet
Chris Schramm, who is a good friend of his. Schrammy has lent Chris a van to get up here for his
first meeting and also lent him an engine, so thanks to Chris, who was always popular when he
rode for us in 2010.
This evening's fixture against Redcar marks the start of our official fixtures and is obviously our first
fixture in the League Cup group – which also includes Newcastle. The one that finishes top of the
three-team group progresses to the semi-finals of the competition.
For a full preview of the home meeting against Redcar please see another story (Meeting Preview)
within the Comets News section on the website.
Incidentally, this meeting also features the ‘return of the Max' as Michael Max makes his return as
centre-green announcer to help everyone enjoy their night out – I am sure that you will all give
him another big West Cumbrian welcome.
Of course to finish off this evening there is a four-heat Northern Junior League Cup fixture
between the Workington Meteors and the Redcar Cubs, so there is plenty going on at Derwent
Park again this evening.
This coming Thursday we travel to the South Tees Motorpark for our away clash with the Redcar
Bears (7:30pm start) in the return League Cup fixture so we will be going all out for victory there in
order to strengthen our League Cup hopes, although following Newcastle's Challenge match (Tyne
Tees Trophy) victory at Redcar on Thursday of this week I suspect that it may well be our home and
away League Cup matches with Newcastle that may determine the final outcome of this group.
That should become apparent next Saturday when Newcastle make a quick return to Derwent
Park for their League Cup fixture, starting at 7:00pm, which is certainly a match not to be missed.
Hopefully the weather will be warmer than last week for this evening's match with Redcar but if
you think you will be cold bring someone to hold on to in order to keep warm – that would double
the crowd right away!
Until next time,
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Last Updated : Sat 13 Apr 2013, 14:46 UK