I was in the pits at another track.
Idly watching the usual pre-meeting routines. A big van backed up, catching my eye as it was obviously brand new and really well sign-written.
Two chaps jumped out, dressed in identical pit-shirts which matched the van. They rolled out two immaculate bikes – in the same livery – a gigantic tool-chest, two matching-coloured clutch-fans and a personalised folding chair .
As I was thinking what a superbly-professional set-up this all was, the penny dropped.
The rider who was to benefit from all this equipment and expertise (who had remained in the van with a young lady – who, when she emerged, was also wearing the ‘team colours’ – as his servants prepared his pit) wasn’t going to be racing in the main event of the evening.
He was there to take part in the second-half junior match!
Call me a cynical old moaner (and many do) but do overly-enthusiastic parents and sponsors not realise speedway can be taken up with one reliable second-hand bike, a wee bag of tools and very little else?
It really can be accessible to those with limited resources. Talent will out.
If a youngster can get on an old banger, and by ability alone keep up with the fancy-dan Joneses, his aptitude will be seen by the wiser watchers. Which in turn will lead to promoters and level-headed sponsors being smart enough to invest in his flair for going sideways at very high speeds.
Once some prize money starts to trickle in, only then is it time to reinvest in better equipment and, eventually a spare bike if this is available. Flashy paint jobs and matching overalls for your mechanics should come a fair way down the line.
Trust me, having all the gear is no guarantee of success. Having talent, and a will to win, is a better way to get to the top.
I can recall seeing Barry Briggs turning up (late) at Wembley with his certainly-not-new single bike strapped to the back of his car and a small cantilever tool-box in the boot. He finished second in that World Final --- and I rather suspect the winner, Peter Craven, was similarly-equipped.
As the Duns project creeps ever-closer, more and more young men in the border area will fancy their chances of becoming a speedway star. My reason for writing this message is to urge them, and their parents, not to believe that ours is a sport financially beyond the reach of the average family.
Start on an old bike, get it going reliably and put in the laps. Always the laps! Every lap holds a lesson.
The flashy gear, the designer girl-friend and the matching mechanics all look good, I know. (Especially the girl-friend).
But at the end of the day the most-important part of the set-up is one single nut.
The nut that holds the handlebars.
Want to disagree with Dick (as many do?). He will always be happy to hear from interesting people at firstname.lastname@example.org