Facing up to the problems caused by Grand Prix series

BRITISH speedway may at last be facing up to problems caused by the Grand Prix series.

Former Eastbourne co-promoter Jon Cook has suggested the time has come for speedway leagues in this country, Sweden and Poland to run without the GP riders.

Cook, who now runs the Lakeside speedway team in Essex, made his comments after seeing his top rider, Andreas Jonsson, take a terrible fall in a GP heat.

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He suggests the top speedway nations face up to the GP and take tough action.

It's something I have suggested British speedway should do for some years. To my mind, the GP series is bleeding the sport dry and in many ways has spoilt a lot of the entertainment in the Elite League.

GP riders invest huge sums of money in their bikes '“ in truth they are rocket ships. We see stunning speed, some wonderful moves but races are often won and lost in the twinkling of an eye.

Once a GP rider is past an opponent there is usually no more overtaking.

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Saturday night's meeting at Arlington summed it up for me. GP riders Hans Andersen and Scott Nicholls provided zilch entertainment in heat one as Andersen completed a tapes to flag victory.

Two races later, non-GP riders Cameron Woodward, Danny King and Claus Vissing had me on the edge of the seat as they passed and re-passed each other for the whole four laps. Oh, and Lewis Bridger was buzzing at the back, only to fall with a do or die effort to get in the points on the last bend.

That was entertainment with a capital E. As a fan, that what's I want to see '“ speedway RACING. It was great stuff.

Some will say an Elite League without the GP riders is being dumbed down.

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It's an argument that has merits but I feel the GP riders are not necessary for fans to see a good night's speedway. I've watched quite a few Premier League (division two) matches. There are no GP riders but still exciting racing is served up.

Eastbourne polled their fans on Saturday as to whether they would support Saturday afternoon speedway when the GP is on TV.

I documented the club's problems in my May 2 column. The problem with Saturday afternoon speedway is that many fans make a day of sport '“ soccer in the afternoon and speedway in the evening.


Eastbourne 46, Peterborough 44 (Elite League B, May 31)

TOP SCORERS: Eagles: Scott Nicholls 14, Peterborough: Hans Andersen 15.

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BEST RACE: Has to be heat three. Cameron Woodward overcame a poor start to engage in a four-lap battle with the visiting duo. Great speedway.

BEST MOMENT: Edward Kennett making the most of the inside gate to push Hans Andersen wide on the first bend and then to gallop to victory with some aggressive wide riding.

SURPRISE: That Peterborough took the match to a last heat decider . . . Danny King winning heat 13 against Nicholls, Kennett and Andersen. Claus Vissing winning heat 14 for the Panthers was also a shock.

STORY OF THE MEETING: This match was tight throughout. The first five races were drawn 3-3. Eastbourne's weakness at reserve showed up and some tapes offences by Bridger didn't help the cause. With three races to go Eastbourne were six ahead but then conceded two successive 4-2s to set up the last-heat decider. But heat 15 was a damp squib with King falling on the opening corner, which ensured the Eagles would win.

FASTEST TIME: Heat 1; Hans Andersen, 56.1 seconds.

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REFEREE: Mick Posselwhite '“ was given a tough time by riders moving around at the start. But he held his nerve despite some barracking from home supporters.

ON THE ROAD: Belle Vue v Eastbourne (Elite League B, June 9), Swindon v Eastbourne (Elite League B, June 12).

NEXT ARLINGTON MEET: Eastbourne v Swindon (Elite League B, tomorrow, Saturday) at 7.30pm