BRITISH promoters are actively seeking to stage a second Grand Prix in this country at the National Speedway Stadium in Manchester – possibly as early as next year.
The move comes on the heels of a thwarted attempt to reintroduce World Championship racing to Bradford’s Odsal Stadium, where promoters were hoping to stage a second British GP to supplement the long-established showpiece event in Cardiff.
Rob Godfrey, the chairman of British Speedway Promoters Ltd., has revealed to Speedway Star this week how insurmountable problems over the track width at Odsal scuppered that plan, although he insists that league racing could still make a return to the West Yorkshire circuit.
“We have given Bradford our best shot but had to concede,” he said. “You just couldn’t have a Grand Prix there, it’s impossible.
“But that is not to say that Bradford can’t be a British league track again because it can, due to the different set of standards that the SCB and the FIM have.”
The BSPL have now turned their attentions towards Belle Vue’s National Speedway Stadium as a potential Grand Prix venue and have been holding talks with Discovery Sports Events, the World Championship promoters, as well as Manchester council.
Godfrey says “there is still a long way to go” but doesn’t rule out the possibility that Britain might be hosting two GP rounds in the summer of 2023, the first at the National Speedway Stadium in the spring and the second on the already confirmed date of September 2 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Godfrey continued: “I know Discovery want two Grands Prix in this country and there is definitely room for two Grands Prix here, one at Cardiff and one in Manchester, absolutely there is. That’s why we have now moved on from Bradford to Belle Vue.
“It’s a possibility for 2023 at the moment. I wouldn’t say it’s a real possibility at this stage because a lot of things can happen but the venue is world class, it’s just about getting the capacity up.”
HE decision to pursue a Grand Prix in Manchester comes after the promoters were forced to admit defeat in their bid to put on a GP at Odsal.
TGodfrey revealed that negotiations have been ongoing behind the scenes for months, but it was the impossibility of getting the track up to the FIM specifications required for a World Championship event that pulled the rug from under the project.
“In early 2020, we were aware that Discovery were going to be taking over the rights to the GP series and we made an initial approach to them to see if they would be interested in having Bradford as a Grand Prix venue,” said Godfrey.
“They were very excited about its potential straight away and it was pencilled in for what would have been their new era in 2021.
“We made a call to Steve Rees, who had taken on the lease to run stock-cars at Bradford and also wanted to have speedway there, and myself, Damien Bates and Chris Louis (fellow BSPL directors) went there to meet with him and a representative from the RFL (Rugby Football League), who own the over-riding lease on the ground, to discuss the feasibility of running speedway there.
“We met with them several times and came to an initial agreement on rent, date and everything for a Grand Prix. It was looking good, although we could see the potential problems.
6 speedway star September 10, 2022
Bradford’s a non-starter, but might there be a second Grand Prix in this country next year? British promoters are pulling out all the stops to try and make it a reality, as chairman ROB GODFREY reveals
“First of all, we asked for an independent track inspection to see how far away it was from FIM specifications and whether this could be overcome. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, we submitted a lot of plans and we put a lot of time and effort into it.
“But after the inspection, it was quite evident that the track was not wide enough to be able to construct another fence inside the fence that the stock-car people had built, taking into consideration the new corporate hospitality units that have been built on the third and fourth bends, as they used to be, when speedway was last staged there.
“That would prove to be a major challenge because it brought the track right in on that bend and because of the rugby pitch, for FIM speedway events, it meant it was just too narrow.
“The only way around that would have meant a total reconstruction of the rugby pitch to lift it up and relay it afterwards, which understandably the RFL were really not keen on at all.
“It’s one thing to put mats down and run a stock-car track over the pitch that way, but to actually take their rugby pitch up and put it back down again afterwards, with all the drains involved and everything, it just became a massive hurdle.
“At the end of the day, we couldn’t do it. It was out of our hands because the RFL would not allow us to dig up the rugby pitch. It would have been considerable, too, it would have been the straights and on the third and fourth bends, although the first and second bends were wide enough.”
Stanchions supporting the hospitality boxes – constructed on what used to be the third and fourth bends after speedway was last staged at Odsal in 1997 – were presumed to be the main obstacle preventing the sport’s return, but Godfrey says, in fact, they are not a major barrier.
“As things turned out, that was actually something that could be overcome,” said Godfrey.
“We had designed a bespoke fence to go in there for a Grand Prix, similar to what every temporary track uses.
“We designed something that could go in there and be perfectly safe. Chris Louis, as a former rider, had a massive hand in designing a fence to overcome that problem, and he was convinced it was absolutely safe. The stanchions were not an issue. “We put a hell of a lot of time into it, Chris especially, but the final straw was that we just couldn’t get round the issue of the track width to get it to FIM spec.
“We had done pretty much everything we could. We invited Armando Castagna (FIM Track Racing Commission director) across when we had the Speedway of Nations at
• “If we can pull it off, it will be right up at the top of everyone’s list to watch a Grand Prix there, let’s be honest” – BSPL chairman Rob Godfrey. Picture: IAN RISPIN