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Dick Barrie's picture

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.