Racing at 50 mph, on 500cc motorbikes, with one gear, and no brakes, there is never a dull moment in the sport of speedway.
I had never been to a speedway race before, and I'm going to be honest - I knew virtually nothing about the sport when I went to see the local Somerset team racing against Reading on Friday 19 August, 2005.
Having said that, after just three hours, I had been converted into a speedway addict!
|"In 1996 I broke my back... I came back in 1997!"|
Basically, speedway is a team event in which seven riders, from each of the two teams, race against each other over 15 heats.
Two riders from both teams (so a total of four) race in each heat, and each heat consists of four laps, which takes, on average, just under a minute to complete!
In the first 14 heats, it's predetermined which riders will race, but in heat 15, the team managers will nominate their riders.
The riders get three points for a win, two points for coming second, one point for third place, and no points for coming last. The team with the most points, at the end of the 15 heats, wins.
These are the basic rules, but the Somerset Rebels' Press Officer, Ian Belcher, told me more. You can listen to my interview with Ian by clicking on this link:
Rev up the bikes
|One of the Rebels' motorbikes|
The frames of speedway bikes cost, on average, £1,500. The engine costs roughly £3,000, and needs tuning every three to four meetings!
The bikes run on methanol and reach 0-60 mph faster than a Grand Prix car!
Before the meeting began, I went behind the scenes and into the pits, where I met the Rebels' number one rider, Magnus Zetterstrom.
He told me how dangerous the sport can be when competing competitively.
"In 1996, I broke my back," said Magnus. "It took me out of the whole season... but I came back in 1997!"
Magnus explained more about his career, and his racing in general. You can listen to my interview with him by clicking on this link:
And they're off!
I had previously assumed the sport would only attract motorbike and speedway enthusiasts, but I was proven wrong, as the majority of the crowd was made up of families.
|High-speed action at the meeting|
Heat one consisted of the two best riders from each team. It got the night off to an amazing start, as it ended in a draw.
The Reading Racers were on top form though, and by heat four, both teams were level on 12 points each.
The Rebels then slipped six points behind the Reading Racers in heat nine.
Despite this, the Rebels came back and won the meeting. The final scores were Somerset 47-43 Reading.
Dust, anybody? No?
With motorbikes speeding around a circuit at 50 mph on dirt, there is bound to be a fair bit of dust!
The Oak Tree Arena's track is 300m long, with loose dirt on the surface.
Water had been sprayed onto the track, to reduce dust being blown over the spectators, but this was all part of the speedway experience!
After the meeting finished, I chatted to Somerset Rebels manager, Mick Bell. You can listen to my interview with Mick by clicking on this link: