Premier League, Rye House Rockets 59-34 Berwick Bandits, Admission £16, Programme £2.
My first visit of the season to a speedway meeting, and it was long overdue. Various reasons had kept me away from the tracks. April had been a virtual washout, with the monsoon conditions causing most meetings to be postponed. May had seen me laid low with a flu bug, and at the same time I had car problems and then we had a weeks holiday in Cornwall later in the month. Which meant by the time I’d pencilled in a visit to Rye House I was desperate for some shale action.
I try to take in at least one meeting a season at Rye House, their regular race night is 7pm Saturday, so making it a popular choice amongst shale track hoppers.
Rye House is a location in Hoddesdon in the English county of Hertfordshire, now in the Lee Valley Regional Park. There were medieval buildings there, for about 450 years, of which only a gatehouse remains; it is a Grade I listed building.The House gave its name to the Rye House Plot, an assassination attempt of 1683 that was a violent consequence of the Exclusion Crisis in British politics at the end of the 1670s. The Gatehouse sits just outside the entrance to the speedway venue and is well worth a quick look.
Going into this meeting, Berwick had raced 3 league meetings and had won them all. Whereas the Rockets had indifferent form, but had just recorded in the previous week or so an excellent 46-44 win at pre-season title favourites Ipswich, and a 45 all draw at Redcar so clearly confidence was fairly high in their camp.
The Hoddesdon stadium is one of the best tracks in the country, and on each visit I seem to notice another little improvement or addition to facilities for spectators, although the octogenarian promoter Len Silver makes great play of his “world-famous” fish and chip restaurant underneath the stand, Ros and I dined her for the second time, and both found the food mediocre at best. Agreeing that whatever oil they cook the fish in, it’s not very agreeable, if you pardon the pun!
Anyway, it was a pleasant mild sunny evening, as I met up with my friend Dave Lewis, and the three of us took up a position on the wooden terracing above the start gate, our favourite viewing position at the track. Most watch the action from the two seated stands situated on the home straight, or where we had settled on the terracing. Although Len has added seats to the bends over the years, due to rising dust and shale these areas are less popular with fans. As is usual for a Saturday evening in the summer at Rye House, it was a healthy turnout, numbering about 1,000 I’d guess.
The 1st heat was pretty uneventful and the rockets stormed to an early 5-1 lead with Dane Charlie Gjedde winning the race. The second race came to a sudden halt when away rider Alex Edberg became entagled with rocket Jason Garrity on the back straight which caused his bike to catapult down the track whilst he hit the fence at some speed, it looked quite nasty.
It was soon clear this was indeed a serious injury as the ambulance spent some time on the track, and Edberg was then taken to a local hospital for attention to his injuries. We later heard he’d actually broken his shoulder. Although broken collar bones are very common injuries on the speedway track, shoulder breaks are less so, sounds painful! So, a 45 minute delay ensued, before we had an ambulance back on the circuit.
The re-run was won by Jason Bunyan for the home team and running 2nd was team mate Jason Garrity, and so after two heats Rye already led 10-2. And by heat 7 it was 32-10, clearly this was not going to be a close meeting. With Bandits number one Ricky Ashworth, either having an off night, or clearly not liking the small technical Rye House track.
Although Seb Alden put up some resitance, with three race wins, the dominant rockets shared the points amongst the team to bang in an impressive home display, regularly leaving the tapes and being first to corner one. As is typical on the short but tricky rye house track, passing was not a regular occurence but the racing always remained interesting none the less.
Alden and Ashworth won the last heat 5-1 to offer a token of comfort for the small band of travelling bandits fans, but I should imagine it was a very long journey home to the borders after this thrashing.
I shall watch the progress of the Rockets and the Bandits closely after this meeting.
Rye House – 59 – C.Gjedde 10, L.Bowen 7+3, A.Mellgren 9+1, R.Hawkins 6+2, J.Frampton 12, J.Garrity 7+2, J.Bunyan 8+2.
Berwick – 34- R.Ashworth 8+1, L.Tomicek 0, L.Complin 7, D.Bellego 3, S.Alden 13, A.Edberg (retired injured) 0, J.King 3.