Danny Warwick has been riding since 2002
The sport that hooks you in - despite the risks
Speedway riders hurl themselves around a dirt track at 60mph on bikes with no brakes. So what is it about the sport that makes them risk their lives?
It’s not easy being a speedway rider.
Hurtling around a dirt track at 60mph on a bike with no brakes for little money is something not many people could do.
But that’s what hundreds of men do every week in order to make a living.
Danny Warwick, 23, from Poole, rode in the 2007 Premier League for Somerset Rebels.
“It’s such an adrenalin rush, I love it- despite the risks,” he said.
The riders compete in around 50 meets a season, half of which are at home and the other half sees them travel across the entire country.
Emil Kramer, 27 from MarieStad in Sweden, rides for three teams- Somerset Rebels, Valsarna Hagfors and Dackarna in Sweden.
A typical week sees him ride in three meets in Sweden and England. For him to race for the Rebels, it involves a 900-mile commute from his home in Sweden.
The Rebels compete at the Oak Tree Arena
After the meet is over, his mechanic Phil Pickering drives Emil to London Stansted. He then waits at the airport for his 7am flight. He gets home at 10am.
Emil said the travelling was the worst part and waiting in airports was very boring. He sleeps wherever he can including in the van on the way to the airport.
“My girlfriend doesn’t like it [him being away from home] but my five-year-old daughter is used to it,” he said.
So is it worth all the hassle?
“Yes. I’ve always been passionate about it and all of my family love it,” he said.
The riders are paid per point and have to pay for their own bikes, mechanics, fuel and tyres. A new engine could set a rider back around £3,000 while a chassis is £2,000.
One engine lasts around ten meetings while the oil has to be changed every two meets.
“It is expensive but if you want to score points then you’ve got to have equipment which works,” said Danny.
“The costs are sky high to what you earn but it’s worth it.”
Ian Belcher, the Rebels’ press officer, said the payment system was unique. “Imagine if Alex Ferguson said to Ronaldo that he wasn’t going to pay him because he missed a penalty.”
Speedway fever seems to have grabbed hold of everyone from the riders to the mechanics to the officials as well as the loyal fans who dedicatedly follow their teams.
Referee Dave Robinson’s story is common for people involved in the sport. As a child he used to help out at meets and he has since been a mechanic and a rider (until he broke his back) and has also acted as a cleaner and sold merchandise.
It took him two years to fully train as a referee, a job which has seen him travel all over the world. Despite the demands of the sport, Dave manages to hold down a full-time job thanks to a “very understanding boss”.
“If you’re in it for the money you’re in it for the wrong reasons,” said Dave.
“You’ve got to love it.”
last updated: 12/06/2008 at 16:16