Volcanic Vikings erupt at Wednesfield
Do you believe in magic? I never did but if the events of the last two summers are anything to go by I may change my mind. To recap:
“Saturday 15th of August saw us stun the Cycle Speedway World, and of course our own, by not only reaching the Final, but very nearly claiming runner-up spot in the meeting at a very sunny Hull.”
That was 2015, a quote from my report of that event, our first ever foray into the British Veterans Club Championship competition. Today, the day after the 2016 event at Wednesfield on Sunday 29th May I can proudly proclaim we almost did it again but missed third place by 5 points,
BECAUSE WE FINISHED SECOND!!!
How do you express more happiness than last time which was total euphoria after picking up that bronze medal at Hull? Well this time our little squad of Andy Knowles, Neil Magee, Jason Keith and Terry Kirkup did it by hoisting our incredible skipper Gavin Parr as high as we could throw him after his magnificent ride in the final heat. A finish would have done but no, that’s not Gav’s way, and we watched nervously from the pits as he blasted his way around the outside to tuck in behind eventual winner Leicester’s World Number Three Kev Burns to seal our runner-up spot.
While Neil would be the first to admit he’s only there to collect single points or freebies in his races and avoid any chance of calamity, he’s a bit unwilling to accept that it’s his outstanding team management skills that have taken us to these two off-the-wall successes. Of course the brilliance of Gavin and Jason are obviously massive factors in our favour but we absolutely never could have envisaged this.
Before our semi-final at 11:00 am against Birmingham, Kesgrave, East Park and Ipswich we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were there for a nice day out, just to make up the numbers this time. I must say that until a week or two before I had no intention of taking part, honestly not wishing to downgrade our fantastic 2015 result with dismal failure this time. However when I discovered that Michael Parr wasn’t going I felt I owed it to the lads to change my mind and try to make a go of it. I’m so very glad I did.
The semi-final became a tense affair once we realised how close we were to progressing further. We renewed our 2015 Final tussle with the scary looking Birmingham outfit led by the brilliant Mark Winwood with very solid backup, for second place while an impressive Kesgrave eased ahead to the win with top duo of Danny Zagni and Garry Brown dropping just a point each. While I was dead chuffed to gather 12 points, two brave rides from our new boy Andy to help him reach 8 got us into our second ever British Final and fittingly, Andy’s first ever! What a loyal and faithful servant Andy has been since joining us, a proper team man in every sense and after learning somewhat surprisingly that this was indeed his first chance of a British final of any kind I think we may have decided to up our game for the qualifier and the finale. I’m sure the others would join me in dedicating this success to Andy.
You can not be serious!
Jason’s second win in heat 11 popped us into second place overall and Gavin’s in the 12th put us in the lead! It was about now that Neil started really bulling us up for a potential place in the Final, Holy Macaroni, surely we couldn’t do it again? I got dragged along by ex-British Champion Danni Zagni for 2nd place in the 14th, quite tickled to hear such a fabulous and fabled rider say I’d given him a good chase. Neil picked up a useful 3rd in the next but it was Andy with a brilliant 2nd place in heat 17 who pulled us clear, leaving Gavin to stitch it up with another win and take the pressure off me in the last. The Ipswich and East Park lads battled gamely but with just a trio each it was always a struggle for them while for us Final Number Two beckoned!
We had to wait a couple of hours for our next appearance, time to watch the Under 10 Club Final with loads of proper, exciting racing with none of the rubbish we see from senior riders. Individual formats do help, of course. Well done to Kesgrave whose long trip paid off with a win.
So, who could stop the relentless glory march(ant) of Leicester? Nobody! That was fairly obvious to everyone when four of their championship winning quintet of 2015 turned up again in those dazzling Monarchs shirts, Cycle Speedway Royalty indeed. The remaining places on the rostrum (of which more later!) would need to be earned the hard way, but once again we weren’t exactly overflowing with confidence. Yes we’d had a good rest after our first rides but it’s a track we’re not used to, size-wise and we knew it would have an effect on most of us later.
Wednesfield had made it through the second semi-final led by a very rapid Mark Griffiths with Leicester overcoming Poole and Ipswich to join our heat winners Kesgrave and ourselves so we settled back in the pits to quietly celebrate reaching another Final for Andy, it was after all Old Hat to the rest of us! Our anticipated high point would come right at the start with our Super Skipper Gavin winning the first race, a moment to treasure as we began to get swamped by the other three teams. BUT something went awry, and after six heats we were level with Leicester on 18, six points clear of the other two! Once again judicious reserve use by Neil had Jason capitalising on inside gates and suddenly our Magical Manager had that devious, plotting look on his face again. Could we hang on? Would Jason pay the ultimate price for Friday’s untimely and these days uncharacteristic booze-up?
With Andy now tiring, Neil again slotted reserve Jason into a couple of highly productive heats and with Gavin reigning supreme from any grid position, after the next six heats we were still six clear of third place. I managed to grab another slipstream, this time from World Champ Craig Marchant in the next as we started our grid 4s for an unexpected 3 points which took us 8 clear, while Kesgrave and Wednesfield were locked together chasing third place. Neil and Andy claimed their safe points in the next two races which left us needing just a single point from Gavin in the last one. “Settle for a point Gav” came the call of command from the Boss as our Skipper headed out of the pits for the start of the last race and potentially massive Geordie Pride.
Gav had Peter Ingram, Steve Mullinder and the unbeaten Kev Burns inside him for this one but as expected was never going to cruise around at the back. With a super start he blasted around the Kesgrave and Wednesfield riders to sit on Kev’s shoulder out of turn two and did everything right to stay safe and clinch SECOND PLACE FOR THE VIKINGS (video)! We tried to give him the bumps when he got back to the pits but the last time I threw him up in the air he was about ten and a bit lighter! I still almost threw up.
So that final heat did promote a heart stopping moment, but fortunately not for us. It transpired that everything hinged on that race for who would pick up third place between the long-travelling Kesgrave quartet or hosts Wednesfield. After a brilliant four lap scrap it was home rider Steve who just held of Peter to the flag to grab bronze for the hosting club.
Highs and Lows
So to the rostrum I mentioned earlier. Unusually (very) the victorious Leicester squad were called out onto the centre green, one by one as their scores were announced. They were presented with their trophies as was meeting referee Bob Prince who handled the racing calmly and superbly well, and some photographs were taken. The announcer then suggested “the other riders can come onto the centre for a photograph, if they like”.
I looked around the pits, amazed, and noticed that the Kesgrave lads seemed as stunned as we were and remained where they were, as we did; not sure about the homesters though. Eventually, after time had seemed to stand still for a while, someone decided to make a move so we all trapesed out to the middle in a sort of communal daze and gathered in no particular order behind the winners as a few more lenses were aimed toward us. After the brilliant pre-Final parade and standing behind our bikes for the National Anthem this was a real damp squib. Through my very short history and limited knowledge of awards ceremonies I can’t remember one like this, but far from me to criticise… let’s just say it doesn’t take long for magical moments to fade into history if the atmosphere isn’t there. Conversely the fabulous 2015 presentation and celebrations at Hull CSC will stay with me forever.
Congratulations to the incredible Leicester Monarchs boys – Craig, Norman, Kev, Mark and Dave – another sensational and powerful performance to retain their British Club Title. It was good to run into Kesgrave’s Ray Pyke again and try to persuade him to get to a few Euro-Vets rounds although his busy domestic scene may get in the way. Kesgrave were superb throughout and very sporting, as indeed was everyone else from Wednesfield, Leicester, Birmingham, Ipswich and East Park who raced against us. The only dust-ups came in the second semi with some fierce attacking and defending going on between the exiting sides. I must apologise for not having the programme details for that one, and little recollection of it now although I recall the Hull lads riding like they'd stolen their bikes!
The track was typical of most meetings we’ve been involved in this year, including ours so far, due to decent weather! It looked slippery and definitely crackled under the tyres although grip wasn’t too bad. Whatever water was laid down was then brushed away by that strange phenomenon of circular sweeping. It may look pretty, like a striped lawn, but I just can’t get the point of it at all, bringing loose stuff back over a relatively clean surface. But hey, that’s just moaning old me.
Get In Vikings!