Connor Mountain racing Mountain who is beginning to scale the heights, although still very much under the radar, admitting: “This will be the first time I have ever been on the front cover of Speedway Star!”
While he’s got that Championship team place all wrapped up in time for Christmas, what is still missing is that contract from a Premiership team as he faces up to what will become an increasingly common problem for anyone who has come through via the Rising Star system.
He is no longer eligible for another season within the programme and that means competing for a top five team place in the marketplace.
He has had informal talks about going back to Sheffield but he fears that they won’t have room for him under their plans so has been calling other clubs to make sure they know he wants to remain in the top flight after a pretty impressive season with the beaten Grand Finalists.
He ended the season boasting an actual average (including bonus points) of 5.26.
As a comparison, stand-out Rising Star Tom Brennan’s figure was 6.43, based mainly on appearances in the main body of Belle Vue’s title winning side, but when you consider what his contemporaries – Leon Flint 4.65, Danyon Hume 4.41, Anders Rowe 3.67, Drew Kemp 3.65 Jason Edwards 3.39, Jack Thomas 2.78, Jordan Jenkins 2.77 and Jordan Palin 1.88 – did, it makes pretty impressive reading.
If nothing else, Connor has learnt how to be patient when it comes to contracts. He signed for Newcastle in 2020 but, like everyone, he missed the Covid season and was expecting to make a delayed debut for the Diamonds in 2021.
But fate took an unwelcome hand, Connor recalling: “In 2021, Newcastle lost a couple of riders, Nick Skorja and Ondrej Smetana, they had because of Covid and they had to change the team and I was left out. I had nothing until about March time.
“Then Newcastle rang saying, ‘we can get you in and if you want to come back you can’. I did because time was running out and I needed to ride. I don’t think I have ever been close to giving up, but you do get frustrated.”
By his own admission, his form at one time last season was ‘pretty mediocre’: “I wouldn’t say I was feeling low but I was lost, I didn’t know why things were going badly. My starts were okay, I was making good starts and just getting passed, I couldn’t figure why I’d got no speed. I went to Oxford for Leicester and ended up with about three points, I
was just getting smoked. It wasn’t a great feeling.”
Connor can pinpoint the meeting that was the catalyst for an uplift in form that saw him finish the campaign brightly, his points helping Sheffield come so close to being crowned Premiership champs, and taking Leicester to the Grand Final against Poole.
“We had a couple of weeks with nothing much, a chance to forget about speedway, change a few things on the engine, I did the Coventry Select meeting at Birmingham and I scored 13. That was the meeting that made the difference.
“I had a few crashes at Leicester, I had that week or two off, Millie and I had a little girl, Sienna, in June, there was a lot going on in my head.”
It wasn’t as if the new arrival was keeping him awake; she sleeps soundly for 12 hours every night and has always done the same since she was born, but quite often an adjustment of lifestyle with a new-born can play on the mind even when you don’t realise it and Connor admits he uses Sienna as natural motivation.
The biggest disappoint, of course, was having to settle for second place in both of the title deciders but at least there was the consolation of helping Sheffield to victory in the League Cup Final.
“I was bitterly disappointed not to win the league titles, you work so hard all year to get to the Grand Final, only to come away with two silver medals, especially with Sheffield just losing by two points, that was probably worse than Leicester because you accept Poole, over the two legs, were better.
“But at Sheffield, we were so close, to come down to two points is hard when you really think you have a shot.”
All he wants and needs now is to have the chance of going one better with a Premiership team next year!
November 26, 2022 speedway star 3