EEP in thought, Ben Barker trudges through the pits of the National Speedway Stadium.
DHe has just produced a full quota of seven races and accumulated 11 points in typical swashbuckling and unpredictable style for Ipswich live on Eurosport.
But it’s clear his mind is 167 miles away from Manchester with youngest son Bradley in a hospital bed in Bristol.
A broad smile appears across Barker’s face as he shares with me a poignant picture of his six-year-old watching the Premiership clash on his iPad in the hospital bed while clutching a Ben Fund water bottle.
It unearths a side of Barker that has been rarely spoken about. A marvellous motorcycling maverick of the track, willing to bounce off the airbags to bring in the bucks.
But this is also a guy with a gooey soft centre, revealing a motivation for success that still burns deep for his kids Joshua, Luke and Bradley.
With this latest renaissance of racing form, those three children might just yet be the inspiration for a few trophies and a late hurrah in the red, white and blue.
He told me: “Bradley is home from hospital, he got back last week. He’s not very well but he’s a little tough cookie.
“He had Laryngomalacia when he was very little and has always had trouble with breathing from birth.
“From just months old he had to undergo operations and that’s been a continual process. It’s not over now either because his hearing is not that good either.
“They were going to put some grommets in just to help him but when he was in hospital they couldn’t put them in because he’s got a growth in his ear. So he’s got to go back for a CT scan.
“We don’t know anything further on that until he’s had the scan and more tests.
“It’s not the easiest thing to race when your boy is in hospital. But I do know that he would want me to be going to speedway and doing everything I can to win.
Ben Barker vows to finally bag silverware for his kids. By PHIL LANNING
sport. As he participates in his 20th year of racing, stretching across 19 clubs, he is showing the sort of form that took him to the brink of international greatness.
He epitomises the saying ‘close but no cigar’ having reached the final in four British Championships but frustratingly failed to get his hands on the big trophy.
“The equipment I’ve got now thanks to Dave Broome is working wonders. He builds them and tunes them and is doing an incredible job. Everything is the best it can be at the moment.
“I’ve also got Mark Simmonds looking after the bikes and he’s also doing brilliantly. Him and Dave are making this work for me big time.
“He’s so proud of me and watches me. He was in hospital watching me on Eurosport on Monday night on his iPad. I bloody love that picture of him.
“The big thing for me was to go and do well for him and let him see me win some races, that will make him happier than he currently is.
“It’s a massive inspiration for me, 100 per cent. That underlines why I do this. I just race because my kids love me doing it. I’m just going out there and enjoying myself.
“This is my job, I’m doing my job to support my children. I love my job but it’s all for them.”
Barker has always been an enigma of the
Yet part of Barker’s charm is his unpredictability. One meeting he is all legtrailing, board-scraping and points piling. The next he is frustrating and flustered with mechanical gremlins and grimness.
However, the 2022 version of BB has been barnstorming. He is at his most productive right now with Ipswich and Plymouth and, after his high-class performance at the NSS 10 days ago, could yet be an outside bet to finally nail that British title later this season.
He added: “Over the past three meetings I’ve scored 30 points for Ipswich. It’s where I want to be, I’ve still got more improvement in me. There’s loads more in the tank.
“The engines and carbs are fine after so much investment. Now it’s a bit more going into the clutches. Then it’s just down to the jockey.
“If you know that your equipment is right, the belief flows because the results come and you feel that will carry on.
“The only thing that can improve is me. We are working hard behind the scenes to make me better. If I can lose some kilos, that could make another difference.
“I can lose half a stone in two weeks. I’m just cutting out the cr*p really. I’m a terrible person, I don’t eat salad. My diet is horrendous.
BARK TO TH
2 speedway star June 18, 2022