It was back in March last year we broke the news.
We were to build and operate a fully-licensed speedway academy at Duns.
Predictably, there was a degree of scoffing – largely on social media – at the prospect, with doubters galore telling their little worlds it would never happen.
Well, it has!
The Grant Henderson Tankers Speedway Training Academy at Duns MX – a mouthful of a title I suspect we’ll soon be finding ways to compress – is just about ready to rock’n’roll.
Scott Courtney, who along with Gary Flint was involved from the start of the project, this week announced the site’s imminent activation, and told us the first sessions were imminent. He also paid tribute to one-time Bandit Tamas Sike’s dedication to the cause.
“He’s probably going to kill me for saying so, but the hard graft Tamas has put into the project completely renews my faith in humanity!” he stated on Thursday last week.
“Of course it is a team effort, but every team needs a leader and we’ve got the best there is”.
“There is obviously amazing passion and commitment here in this neck of the woods – I hope we can be seen one day to have left a positive footprint within this sport”.
The “Duns project” as we called it at the start, was announced by John Anderson, with Scott and Gary at his shoulder during the after-press’n’practice party in the Black and Gold in 2016.
To remind you how it came about, the initial funding was supplied by the BSPA – who said they don’t do anything right for speedway? – with a start-up donation, which was doubled by an interest-free loan to be paid back by a small levy on academy fees once the operation is running.
Others who have contributed above and beyond reasonable expectation include Bryan McKenzie (the main man on the moto-x scene at Langtonlees) and Grant Henderson, who, although based in Lanarkshire has been another prime mover in the business of getting a training track into operation for his nation.
Grant’s business has a regular advert in our weekly match programme (Page 19 – great website address, Grant!) and we also see his name on our track bowser each Saturday night.
So, how important is it that we have a speedway academy?
Put it like this. I can think of three speedways which I connect in my mind with having a separate training track under their wing or which grew out of practice strips to become real racing venues.
Eastbourne, Mildenhall and Linlithgow.
In the late ‘sixties, Eastbourne – who were running in Division II alongside our Bandits, catered for a growing number of under-age wannabees by building a small training circuit behind the pits at Arlington. In 1971, with a team almost completely staffed by teenagers who had learned to ride on that little bowl, the Eagles won the league!
Around the time Eastbourne were proving their point, Bernie Klatt was building a circuit on Terry Waters’ farm at West Row, near Mildenhall Air Base in Suffolk. Young riders with hopes of joining the established East Anglian big-league clubs at Ipswich and King’s Lynn came to practice on the land, and a stadium grew up around their circuit.
In 1975, the Fen Tigers – again, manned mainly by graduates of their system – joined what was then called the New National League. In 1979, the same local heroes won the league.
In Scotland, Alan Robertson built his training track at Linlithgow in the early ‘eighties and entered the Conference (now National) League around 1989 Local youngsters flocked to learn the game and yes, you’re right -- in 1996 with an incredibly young side of trainees they won that league!
I rest my case.
Want to disagree with Dick (as many do?). He will always be happy to hear from interesting people at firstname.lastname@example.org