This past weekend I was lucky enough to visit the 2017 Adrian Flux British FIM Speedway Grand Prix in Cardiff courtesy of Wales Blog Network and SGP.
“What is Speedway?”, I hear you ask! Well, it’s an exhilarating, fast-paced motorbike race. It’s not just any kind of motorbike race though… Speedway bikes have no brakes (!!), only one gear, run on methanol fuel and can accelerate up to 50 mph in just 2.5 – 3 seconds. Imagine being on a motorbike with no brakes!
The circuit is oval and the guys’ race anti-clockwise. 4 riders race for 4 laps, effectively skidding around the corners as the back wheel slides out. Each race is over pretty quickly, but those 4 laps are exciting! In Cardiff, 18 riders (including 1 wildcard and 2 reserve riders) were to battle it out in a series of races in a bid to get to the semi-finals and the grand final.
I’ve grown up with motor racing. When my brother and I were kids, Dad used to take us to watch the motorbike and sidecar racing at tracks such as Oulton Park, Donington Park and Mallory Park. His friends would race and we’d get the opportunity to hop on the back of a sidecar in the paddock. I’ve since been to the Isle of Man TT (Road Racing Capital of the World), watched F1 Testing (I would love F1 pit access!) and visited an F1 factory, but I’d never been to the speedway… Until now!
So as I was given the opportunity to take a “plus 1”, who else would I choose but Dad? He was in his element!
Before the main event, we were lucky enough to be given a tour of the pits on Practice Day (Friday). We got to see the speedway bikes up close and had plenty of opportunities to chat with the riders and even have photos taken and get autographs, despite the riders being busy, having their bikes put through scrutineering and preparing to go on the track for practice. There was plenty of revving going on and a fair few backfires too (caused by fuel igniting in the exhaust).
We also got to see the live draw (aired live on BT Sports) which determined in which order the riders would race. Our guide was hoping to take us up to the track itself, but unfortunately, security decided otherwise (despite our guide initially having permission).
We took to the stands to see the guys practice, but it was fairly quiet as I guess most people were planning to just go for the race day.
Despite the Opening Ceremony not being until 4.55pm, Speedway GP put on a Fanzone at Cardiff’s City Hall Lawn from 11 am until 4 pm. The Fanzone was free to enter for all, whether you had tickets for the Speedway or not. Unfortunately, the heavens did open a few times while we were there, but blazing sunshine would appear as the clouds cleared, so we’d be dry in no time.
There were plenty of things to do at the Fanzone with racing simulators, vintage Speedway bikes on display, a merchandise stall, autograph sessions, mountain bike stunts and more.
I thought the Savage Skills freestyle mountain bike stunt team were brave. The downpours of rain made sure their platforms and gear were nice and slippy! They still put on a good show though.
We headed back over to the pits for another look before the grand prix. It was much busier this time, so I’m glad we’d had the tour the day before when it was quieter. Again, the riders took time out to chat with fans and the media, despite getting ready for the main event.
Time to Race!
Our seats were up in Block U29 of the Principality Stadium, which meant it took a while for me to acclimatise to the height! However, it gave us a fantastic view of the track.
When the racing got underway it was a shame to see 4 time World Champion Greg Hancock pull out due to a shoulder injury (which had also plagued him during practice).
Speedway racing is fast and exciting. It can be all over in under a minute, but it’s thrilling and close racing.
Most Brits were shouting for Tai “Woffy” Woffinden, but sadly he just missed out on going through to the semi-finals. However, he did do a lap of honour for the fans.
Australian Jason Doyle came home in second at the end of the evening, despite being on crutches and coming off his bike on the last corner of a lap (resulting in a bit of a hissy fit when he headed back to the pits!).
Slovenian Matej Zagar came third in the final and Pole Maciej “Magic” Janowski was the winner. The support for Janowski was unbelievable! When the Welsh national anthem had been played at the beginning of the event, barely a few in the stadium seemed to utter a word (and we’re well known for our singing!). Again, the British national anthem was barely audible. But when the Polish national anthem was played for Janowski at the end, the entire stadium seemed to erupt into song. No surer a sign of how popular Speedway is in Poland.
Fans who stopped behind after the award ceremony were treated to a wonderful firework display by Gothenburg Fireworks…
This may have been my first trip to the Speedway, but it definitely won’t be my last! It’s a fantastic event and fun for all the family (no matter how old or young!).
Tickets have just gone on sale for the 2018 British Speedway Grand Prix on Saturday 21st July 2018 and you can bag a ticket for as little as £19! Don’t worry if you think it’s a little too early to book though as tickets were also available on the day this year. One thing to be aware of is that air horns are popular with Speedway goers, so you may want to go for an air horn free zone if you’re sensitive to them (or have young children with you).