Match report by Terry Kirkup:
Saturday 28th September 2013
Euro Vets - Round 8 east London at Canning Town Rec
Probably the furthest the Geordies have ever travelled for a cycle speedway match, our quartet's day began around 5:00am. Gavin and Jason met at Terry's before nipping across town to collect Jimmy and squeeze the fourth bike into the generous boot space of Gav's spanking new Ford Mondeo estate car.We were on our way at around 6;15.
A long but trouble-free drive saw us arrive at the padlocked track gate close to midday, but amazingly as we stopped for a refresh at the last motorway services we bumped into none other than Mark Griffiths and Phil Hemming in the car park!
While we were preparing for the start of the meeting, a scantilly clad cyclist rolled in through the park gates and propped his bike up against the track hut. I think it was East London supremo Kevin Smith who shouted over to jJimmy and myself "isn't that an old mate of yours over there?", pointing in the new arrival's direction. We both immediately recognised the slim, fit-looking and hair-adorned (!) form of 1960's South Shields CSC's Chief Executive, Leslie Gustafson! It's around 43 years since the three of us were team mates for Trow Lea Mariners and I have to say that Les looks far and away the most youthful of those of us who remain from those early days in our teens! Les has lived in London for 40 years now and has become a regular contributor to cycle speedway journal Spokesman Online and the VCSRA magazine as well as providing our own Keith Dyer with loads of material and memories for his NCSC History web site. It was great to see "Gus" again after all this time, and he's threatened to return to the track after retirement to avoid any accidental disruption to his career!
A slightly diminished field saw 19 riders present and ready to fight for the Over 40, Over 50 and Over 60 podiums on a decent afternoon, breezy with high cloud but dry. There were a few rainspots at the start of each of the two ten-man matches but not enough to wet anything. The track turned out to be very draggy, and although it has steep banking it was still hard to maintain speed through the bends, an observation made by many of the riders.
The combined 50s and 60s took to the track first and although there were plenty of "ooh, aah" moments there was very little passing. Grid one didn't have things all its own way, however, with some fine examples of gating from other positions way up that crazy banked starting grid, which would have been a real nightmare in the wet for left foot gaters (like moi!).
The atmosphere in the pits, as at all of Fred Rothwell and home host Kevin Smith's Euro Vets meetings we've attended was absolutely brilliant. Plenty of friendly banter and mutual appreciation of everyones efforts. Lovely to see two of our long-time Scottish pals Dave Baxter and Chic Mackie make the massive trip down for the day.
While home star Dennis Hubble was lapping up the points to remain unbeaten, there were plenty giving chase with Mike Burgess dropping a single point and a whole gaggle of riders around the 15 to 17 point mark as the main body of the match ended. particularly impressive were Paul Timms, Phil Hemming, Steve Hodgkinson, Steve Woodruff and Les Stevens. The East London riders certainly know the quickest way around their heavilly banked bowl to impress on every outing.
So we come to finals time, made easy for Fred to sort out today due to the numbers involved. No repercharges needed just straight A and B finals. First off the Over 60s A boys. An explosive first bend needed a rerun to sort out the clash between Stevens and Aris on the first bend. We got away clean second time but the opening lap produced fireworks between the pair again as they hit turn one for the second time. Kirkup was quick to take advantage and swooped down from his lofty perch way up high on the outside to snatch the lead and a small gap over Aris. As the chase got ever closer the last lap flag loomed, and when the Northumbrian reached it he slowed dramatically, leaving a catching Aris nowhere to go. The resulting confusion had the puzzled ref blowing his whistle, which of course meant someone had to go. Bye-bye Terry then! Excluded for simply running out of puff following six weeks of some mystery, energy-sapping illness. Had he known how close his pursuer was he may have offered some some indication, but as it was poor Mick was caught unawares and collided with TK's bike bringing the race to a halt. Most of the watchers thought the Geordie had mistakenly seen the chequered flag until he explained what had happened.
Here's Mick taking an unusually fair line into turn one. Is it out of niceness to Jimmy on the inside, or is he looking for someone looming from above?
And finally - the A Final line-up sees Fred Rothwell on 4, Terry Kirkup 3, Mick Aris 2 and Les Stevens inside. You can probably see why the super-steep banking is totally biased against left footed gaters like TK!
The Over 40's included a few fine passing manoeuvres unlike the first match, with racing as expected a little more cut-and-thrust while still maintaining a super-friendly atmosphere throughout. Our very own Jason Keith looked mighty impressive as he blasted off the outside to take the first heat and continued throughout in fiine form to compensate for his "off-day" at the Birmingham round. Norman venson looked very sharp getting the better of super fast Paul Timms in the next before heat three threw up a bit of a surprise result.
We're used to fireworks now when Gavin Parr and Wednesfield's amazing, Championship-leading Mark Griffith meet and this race had some of the same. However, with Gavin having to do an outside pass after being third away from grid four, it was Mark's teammate Dave Meanley who produced the shock, diving underneath to threaten the other two and then hold off Mark's persistent challenge to the flag. Jim Graham was among a handful of Elders sportingly agreeing to filling the gaps by doubling up in the Over 40s.
It was only the aforementioned (apart from Our Jim) who won a race as the meeting progressed, with Norman looking super quick while Gavin's speed allowed him to come and go as he pleased for a very impressive maximum points score at the end of twenty heats. That 20 pointer was enough for Gav to be awarded East London's perpetual London Masters Trophy kindly put up for grabs today by Kevin Smith as extra icing on the Euro cake.
The final result - another storming win for our supersonic Vikings captain, Gavin Parr!
And here's exactly how he did it, with the impressive Norman Venson still looking good and our Jason in the mix with Mark Griffith:
Jason Keith (4th), Mark Griffith (3rd), apologies for no name (Presenter), Norman Venson (2nd) and Gavin Parr.
Our Jim Graham sees off a two-pronged Scottish challenge to win the B Final
Another mighty gate from Jason gats him ahead of Wednesfield's chasing riders.
and an extra bit on the end:
So, for the second Euro event in a row, Mick Aris and Terry Kirkup have an "interesting" clash in successive A Finals! It seems all the good luck is riding with the Midlander but he has simply been an innocent bystander in two bizarre events, while his northern colleague seems damned by ill fate. On this occasion the roles were reversed from the Birmingham clash, with Terry in front and Mick taking the hit behind. The reason for the author's mystifying stoppage was simply that he ran out of gas and something within that wrinkly, spindly little frame shouted "Stop Now or Die!". It was just as if an internal switch had been thrown - all stop. There was no change of line at all, not even by a whisker as the stricken leader kept it dead straight along the outer kerb to try and keep clear of the action, but Mick's closing speed left him nowhere to go and also left the Ref with, for him, a straightforward if slightly and morally unfair decision to exclude the one who was deemed to have caused the stoppage. See you at Wednesfield for Round Three Mick!