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24 September 2014

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Magnus Zetterstrom
Somerset Rebel Magnus Zetterstrom

Speedway revs up in Somerset

As speedway is such an up-and-coming sport in the county, I thought I'd head down to the Oak Tree Arena, near Highbridge, to visit the local Somerset Rebels team.

Chris Ellis

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!

The Rules

"In 1996 I broke my back... I came back in 1997!"
Magnus Zetterstrom

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:

audio Interview: Ian Belcher >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer

Rev up the bikes

One of the Rebels' motorbikes
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:

audio Interview: Magnus Zetterstrom >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer

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.

Speedway action
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:

audio Interview: Mick Bell >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer

last updated: 23/08/05
Have Your Say
Have you watched speedway in Somerset? Are you a Somerset Rebels fan?
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i went to speedway last night and ben barker was excellent!! he's a total legend and a great speedway rider. mwah! i love you loadz ben x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

matthew marshall
I think the rebels are dowing good this seson so commeon you rebels

the sport needs more publicity

hiya!! i looove speedway so much. i am startin to ride in june! and my fave rider ben barker has enspriered me loads. i love u ldz ben!! lol somerset rule!!! xxx

I think the BBC local news ought to broadcast at least the fixtures and results, perhaps even the odd pictures

i am a swindon robins fan and i like the rider paul fry who used to ride for swindon and i wish him and all the peps down there at somerset and the speedway tea especilly wiviliscome london house flats

Good to see the great zetterstrom doing well after leaving the pirates

will you keep the team for next year.?

Mike Jones
I started watching the Rebels this season and was totally addicted after the first meeting. It is such an exciting sport. I have taken 7 people with me this season and all of them are hooked. We need more Speedway on the radio and tv. If you haven't been yet you don't know what you are missing.

Dave Thompson
Many thanks for this article, it can only do good to bring the sport to a wider audience, and it's great to see speedway getting increased coverage, alongside the more mainstream sports. A big thank you to BBC Somerset for providing increasing coverage of our great sport. keep up the good work

David Fews
I returned to watching speedway in 2002 watching the Somerset Rebels at the Oak Tree Arena, Highbridge. My previous experience of the sport was watching the Bristol Bulldogs at Eastville during the late 70s. The action at Somerset is fantastic - a great track, where the action is fast and furious. I would certainly not want miss a match during the season. A true sport for all the family to enjoy, and possibly still one of Somerset's best kept sporting secrets. Come on BBC Sports on local radio & points west, forget about all those ball games, and include a weekly speedway feature in your sports bulletins.

S Sparkes
Great to see The Rebels getting some well deserved local coverage....Well done

very good informative interview .

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