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George Dodds's picture

I’m, with Shalamar on this.
At one point last Saturday I was excelling at the world famous “dad, uncle, granddad” game while simultaneously serving hot pies, Bovril and alcoholic beverages in the Michelin-starred Ducket Bistro and Grill and keeping an eye on Cheryl’s Fourth Bend Scoreboard Experience. It was, indeed a night to remember.
OK so the man from Michelin hasn’t actually visited Shielfield's back straight yet but Chris Louis and Neil Vatcher have and if it’s good enough for those culinary gurus then our acceptance into the Euro top nosh pamphlet is a given.
As for the rules of D.U.G. well it’s a game only really played at Stars of Tomorrow type events and even then involving those of a certain vintage who can remember having seen the Dad, Uncle or Granddad of the competitors race.
Given the ability and tender years of some of those on show last weekend the rules will soon need to be amended to allow the entry of great-grandfathers.
Despite a pretty full programme of National League action on the same evening the brothers Courtney still managed to put together a field of tremendous young talent last Saturday, albeit one with a distinctly northern feel to it.
Belle Vue – a mere 213 miles from Shielfield – is the nearest National League track to us as the crow staggers so it was the first opportunity for many of us to see what is an exciting crop of British talent in the flesh.
Not least it allowed us to measure the progress of two local lads who have been piling up the points in the third tier this season.
Leon Flint has taken the National League by storm, averaging over nine points a match in his first senior season and it was not hard to see why as he rocketed from the gate in his first heat of the British Youth Championship, winning in a time of 67 seconds which would have seen him half a straight ahead in many Championship races this year.
Not since the fledgling days of the British union movement and the banning of their use as chimney cleaners has a 15-year-old put in the sort of shift that we saw from Leon on Saturday night.
He wrapped up the 500CC British title with that first heat victory and rattled off four more in that championship and four more in the main meeting to reach the final of the Starza with a style and panache which reminded absolutely no-one present of his dad.
After a couple of steady seasons with Mildenhall Luke Ruddick has really stepped it up in Coventry colours this season, pushing his average over seven points and making it a Berwick double in the final, following Joe Lawlor home in the semi-final with the Belle Vue Colt showing a liking for a racing line halfway up the fun-bags.
Lawlor was the night’s big entertainer – although Connor Coles pulled off some daring moves before going a little too wide and bending both bike and himself on the third bend.
A quirk of the qualifying draw meant that two unbeaten men made it direct through to the final – the other being Kyle Bickley.
The Big B has been blooded at Championship level this season in addition to cementing his position as Colts’ number one.
While points may have been hard to come by in Workington colours until recent weeks – although the Comets deserve great credit for standing by their man – they have poured in at National League level for Belle Vue.
In the final, despite a warning for getting a flyer in the first attempt he settled back and ruthlessly took Flint wide on the first bend before racing, unchallenged, to the chequered flag.
That first bend left the inside line clear for Lawlor to take runners-up spot for a Belle Vue one-two, Ruddick just missing out on a podium place.
Flint and Bickley meet again in the National League Riders’ Championship at Leicester on Sunday. Look at the line-up and tell me that you subscribe to the much-aired theory that British speedway is in terminal decline.
However, the sport’s challenge is to ensure that there remains a clearly defined pathway from the development leagues through to the senior ranks for this crop of young Brits.
The much vaunted “one big league” solution to the death by a thousand cuts woes of the Elite/Premier league will simply make it more difficult to progress from the junior ranks – especially if clubs wield the axe after a couple of low points’ scores.
The current three tier system works well from a riding progression point of view. Who is in which league and how teams are assembled and operate needs a radical re-think.
Anyhoo while I was getting a warm feeling about British racing youth something else amazing was unfolding on our scoreboard, the local powers-that-be, AKA Cheryl, having persuaded co-owner Jamie that he should provide the Starza public with race-by-race updates in addition to making his debut as team manager (men, multi-tasking anyone?).
Over the years it would be fair to say that victories at Ipswich are as rare as … well victories at Armadale.
Having seen Scott continue his impressive record on Edinburgh shale (I make it two wins out of five as team manager) with our now familiar lightening start and building up of a big lead, Jamie decided to take a different tack and what evolved was a tight old match which edged its way towards a last heat decider.
Which Arron – along with Theo my shout for rider of the year – and King Kev rattling off a 5-1 to take the points.
In the end it wasn’t enough as we missed the playoffs by a solitary point. In the end that one home loss to Workington cost us the chance to reach the end of the season as the team in form that no-one else wanted to choose home and away.
Actually the point probably went AWOL at Brough Park or Redcar when a losing bonus was there for the taking but that’s sport I suppose.
It means we are on hold again this Saturday before the season comes to a spectacular end with the Bordernapolis on September 29.
No news of the competitors yet but, according to the club’s excellent Facebook page, admission has been pegged at £15 (children free of course) and there are some top value for money sponsor packages which very prominently include a night of New Age merriment in the hospitality suite heroically led by Stephenson, Beveridge and Dempsey, the Stock, Aitken and Waterman of speedway hospitality.
Rather like winning at Edinburgh and Ipswich on successive night, it is a rare treat – but one you could easily get a taste for.