With Kev Burns out through injury and his Leicester sidekick Mark Whitehead otherwise engaged we’d hoped to pull in a few non-regulars to this, the fourth of eight rounds in 2017. However the nine Over 40s who made the trip were the familiar faces of prior rounds with no additions which was disappointing but as is always the case, nothing can detract from the standard of racing we get as these lads treat every round as a championship final and give us the works out on track.
We reverted to a nine man programme format so there’d be three riders in each race, much better than the odd two or even single rider heats. The track was nicely prepared for our arrival (a few minutes late for a certain gaggle of Northerners) and the weather just about perfect, sunny and 22 degrees at the scheduled 1:00 pm kick-off time.
Mark Winwood took heat one with Eddie Ridley fending off a very rapid-looking Jim Collier, plenty of interest in the opener. Craig Marchant shot from the tapes to lead heat 2 followed by a running battle between Jason Keith and Mick Knowles, every bit as exciting as the first race behind the leader. Martyn Hollebon had to overcome a rapid-starting Andy Johnson in the third with Wayne Tipton following them home. The next three races proved even more tasty with Jim, Andy and Jason nicely bunched up in the 4th followed by a great scrap between Eddie and Mick while heat 6 saw top runners Mark and Martyn give chase to Craig who was flying from the starts again. The World Champ went on to two more wins with Martyn dropping just one point and Mark also taking three wins. Unluckiest man in the heats had to be Mick Knowles who just missed out on the “A” Final on countback after Jason had beaten him earlier while Andy and Eddie were both just a point adrift of these two.
If we did a regular Man of the Match award it would probably have been shared today between Jimmy and Mick for their all-out effort.
Another healthy Over 50 & 60 entry compensated for the slimline 40s and the 14 rider field produced another decent match. Good to see Steve Mullinder out again and he cracked in a good win over Phil Hemming, JP Colback and an off-colour Terry Kirkup to start the match. Over 50 Favourite Mark Griffith romped to a win over Paddy Wenn while Fred Rothwell and Ashie Patterson had a good tussle for third place. Dave Frith laid down his marker with victory over the fast threesome of Paul Timms, Steve Hodgkinson and Glyn Morgan while Norman Venson overcame Chic Mackie’s use of his gating bike to start his mission with a win. One ride each done.
There were some great races over the next sixteen heats, Paddy and Norman having a titanic dust-up in heat 10 and Paddy again with Paul and Phil in the fifteenth. At the finish Mark was unbeaten with another masterful display while Dave was only beaten by him, these two 2 points clear of Norman and Paddy with Phil next up on a very well taken 16 points. There was drama in the final race of the heats when Paddy must have clipped Glyn as he tried an outside move coming out of turn four. The Norwich legend came down heavily and that forced Terry to ram the fence to avoid adding to the carnage, so close to yet another broken hand but fortunately only the left knee copped it! Amazingly Paddy managed to win the rerun.
For the semis the top four were clear but it needed a countback to split Glyn and Steve Mullinder for the “B” Final places.
In the Over 40s “B” Final Andy Johnson romped to victory but there was all sorts of un going on behind him as Eddie, Mick and Jim fought it out for the minor placings in another great race.
Meanwhile Craig made no mistake away from the gate in the “A” Final to cap an unbeaten day, the familiar, tentative first bend seeing it finish in grid order with Martyn ahead of Mark and Jason.
The Over 50s “B” Final saw Paul get revenge over Phil with Stevie holding off Glyn for third spot.
Mark copied Craig’s performance in the 50s “A” Final for another magnificent unbeaten series of races ahead of Dave, Norman and Paddy.
Ashie and Chic lined up for the Over 60s “B” Final, the Northumbrian easing to the win while the incredible Chic just keeps those pedals churning after all these years.
More drama was to come in the 60s “A” Final when Phil, having led for 3½ laps from grid 1, lost it leaving the fourth bend starting the last lap, possibly pulling it too tight to defend against the ever-pressing Paul who had nowhere to go but down. That allowed Terry and Fred to coast over the line hesitantly for a very unexpected 1-2. With the scores as tight as they are at the top they’ll both feel aggrieved, Paul the most, and he didn’t look at all happy. It’s been a while since Phil dropped it like this after it had become something of a trait in 2015 and up to this point he’d had a great day and indeed a great run so far. Still time to make up for it of course, but there's not a lot of room for manouevre with four rounds gone. I must say I didn't expect to leave with too many points after collecting a bout of pneumonia three weeks ago but two men's bad luck is another's good.
It was good to chat with legend Martin Jarvis at last and also to catch up with my old Boss and teammate from South Shields, Leslie Gustafson. Apologies to all at East London and the regular E-V gang for not joining you in the afters but we had to make a sharp getaway to get up to Kings Lynn for the Speedway World Cup. Sort of wish we hadn't bothered now, what a terrible meeting.
Thanks to all at East London for staging another very successful Euro-Vets event.