Sunday 24th September saw the sun come out and the temperature rise to keep a small but vocal clutch of home and away supporters happy and warm.
We'd decided to use a 24-man format where each of the four teams were represented by two pairs of riders with optional reserves at 5 & 6. That decision was made fairly easy, each of the three event organisers (Andy MacDougall, Stevie Gilroy and Terry Kirkup) knowing they'd be hard pressed to raise teams of 6 or more at this stage of the season for a more usual race format split over four separate matches. And a great success it proved. With all sides playing it "straight" there was no-one flown in specially for the event and apart from Marcin Czarkowski and Daniel Wharrier no regular NL Division One riders (Bartosz Laniecki being a slight exception, but very welcome here all the same). That led to some great racing during the meeting to spice up the day.
Cramlington were forced to loan out two of their starting line-up, JP Colback and Jordan Smith swapping shirts for the day. Although that looked on paper to be giving bitter rivals Northumbria the edge over Cramlington their top man, poor Lee Redshaw, was suffering with breathing difficulties and could only complete one race, but he stayed with his mates in the pits to give them encouragement, and also plenty of advice. That made Jason Keith's absence even more of a handicap but they battled gamely, Shane Gray again turning in a great performance since his helmet swap!
phabulous photos courtesy of George Swanson.
With Dode Mitchell still recovering from his nasty shoulder damage his daughter Skye was drafted into the Edinburgh side and their ever-reliable "retiree", Dougie Morgan once again donned the red shirt of the Falcons with fellow MTBer Marcin Czarkowski and rapid youngster Ewan Kennedy making up their quartet. Glasgow brought their two stalwarts Jim Alexander and ever-reliable Colin Gray down to accompany Andy and Bartosz so the team strengths, on paper at least, looked fairly even.
Bartosz proved just too fast for the opposition and eased his way to a bonus maximum, Cramlington's super skipper Dan Wharrier coming closest to threatening his unbeaten run. Andy, Marcin, Dan and Terry all took three bonus wins to keep things very even all the way to the end, where Edinburgh's overall superior solidarity earned them a slender win at the finish.
The only major mishap of the day occured when Andy slid leaving turn four and partner Colin had nowhere to go suffering an almighty thump as he hit the deck outside the pits gate. Somehow he re-appeared for the re-run with Andy excluded and put up a great fight against Skye and Marcin in heat 7 before the latter managed to steer Skye through to the lead.
Next round is at Glasgow on 1st October and we're all hoping for a repeat of today's success. Mr Alexander told me he's already booked a solid afternoon of unbroken sunshine for that one.
Although the following really has no place here I must mention it as it just happened to take place on a day when our closest friends in Short Tracking (Ok Keith Dyer, Cycle Speedway!) from the two places I visited most in the 1960s were also here at the time. Mention what? After the match I was taken completely unawares when our Chairman started to make an announcement with me as its subject. There followed a presentation to me by Dan Wharrier of a beautiful silver salver inscribed to recognise my fifty years of involvement with North East Cycle Speedway (er, Short Track Racing:) ). I was honestly stunned when the realisation finally struck me and I read what was on it and I'd like to thank the whole Club and whoever the intitial perpetrator(s) was/were (I know the truth now!) but there are others here who've been at it a bit longer than me and while not racing any more are still around giving their support, so my thrill is tempered with some guilt. A really lovely gesture and an absolute shock.