“But I don’t really have any regrets about basing myself up north. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of really good riders and race at some pretty prestigious clubs.”
You don’t have a 2016 team place at this stage. Your 2015 season was ended by a back injury in July. How’s your fitness and when will we see you on track again? “My back injury wasn’t the best. I’ve had some really nasty back problems and I got the advice I should let it sort itself out before I do too much.
“I’m back to reasonably decent fitness now and I will be getting on my bike to do a bit of my testimonial. I’m not racing in the main meeting; I’ll let all the youngsters and everybody who has started the season do that.
“But I’ll be back on a speedway bike. I haven’t been on one since I fell off. So I’m looking forward to doing that on Sunday.”
Are you planning to put yourself in the shop window for a team place in the near future? “This testimonial has taken up a lot. I never realised how much it would take to get it all organised. Hopefully I can have a good day and get this one out of the way. Then I can work out exactly what’s what.
“I’m lucky enough that the main sponsor at Newcastle, Sapphire Engineering, get me to do a little bit of work for them. I’ve been lucky enough to keep myself busy while I’m not doing speedway.
“I’m still involved and I go to Newcastle every week. I know the set-up there very well and still help the odd rider out when they need anything. I’ll definitely still be around speedway.”
I gather injuries have hampered your progress in recent times. You also had a bad back injury in 2013… “There are riders who fall off and riders who don’t fall off. I tend to fall off. It’s one of those things. Most of the injuries I’ve had have been caused by myself and rider error more than anything else.
“I’ve ridden with a lot of riders who I’ve never seen crash. I seem to love having a good crash every now and then, which is not something I set out to do. But even with as much experience as I have, I still get it wrong every now and then.
“I’m back to relatively decent fitness now, but it does take its toll on you when you’ve been crashing your brains out for 15 years!
“I think I’ll be able to keep riding speedway in the middle order of the Premier League. Although I’ve had a lot of injuries, I always seem to bounce back half decent because I concentrate quite a bit on my fitness. That has been what’s kept me going up to now.”
How long do you plan to keep racing and have you had any thoughts about what you want to do in the next stage of your life? “I’ve spent more of my adult life in the UK – nearly 16 years. So I have a few different options. We’ve thought about going back to Australia.
Weather-wise, it’s a much better option for me, especially when you have had a few injuries.
“At the end of the day, I am only 35. If I want to carry on doing speedway, I can still be relatively competitive at the level I’m happy at in the Premier League. Or maybe it would be time to try something new?
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 15 years. I don’t know what’s around the corner, but I am looking forward to it.”
How do you rate the current Newcastle side? “They have a fantastic team. They’ve signed Robert Lambert. I’ve done a lot of laps around Newcastle, but that kid is something else.
“I’m usually quite good around the inside there. There was the odd time I could string the perfect lap together on the inside and pass people. He does it every single lap.
“I enjoy watching that kid ride every week. He has a fantastic technique on the bike and I think he’ll be great for Newcastle and British speedway in general.
“British speedway should really look after a young kid like that because I’ve been around speedway for a long time, and you don’t see many kids who ride the bike like he does at his age.”
Keeping up with the likes of Lambert is no easy task. But I gather you’ve raced your whole Premier League career with just one bike per season… “It must be some sort of record! I’ve only had one new speedway bike in my whole career.
“I turn up to every track and every meeting with one working bike,
and I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen some people with three bikes. I ride the same bike at Lakeside that I would at Peterborough.
“I’ve probably done all right in that sense. I haven’t had the best of equipment, but I’ve got through British speedway with one bike and had a couple of decent years along the way, so it’s something different.”
Were you ever concerned about how you’d cope if you broke down or wrote off your bike? “I’ve been lucky enough that my engines have always been pretty good. Peter Carr has always done my engines and if you look back at my record, I haven’t had many engine failures. I can pretty much rule that out.
“As far as big crashes are concerned, I usually make it a decent one, which would be me out for the meeting anyway!
“I have always been lucky enough to be good mates with my team-mates. Worst case scenario, I can always jump on someone’s bike if I need to finish a meeting.”
Maybe it’s a cost saving other riders could consider? “Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t recommend it! But I’ve seen so many riders with two or three really nice bikes go out in one race, have a bad one and swap bikes. They ride on the other bike and end up on the one they rode at the start.
“If you only have one bike and one really good engine, you have no choice; you make it work from the start of the meeting until the end.
“I’m really familiar with that bike. I know everything on it. It’s the best bike I can build. I haven’t had many breakdowns or things falling off it. Doing it with one bike has worked for me.”
Do you think you could have gone further in the sport or are you content with the career you’ve had? “I think everybody does speedway for different reasons. I’ve always enjoyed it. But from pretty early on, speedway for me was just a better option than working on a building site from nine to five back in Australia.
“I didn’t have fantasies of trying to get to the very top or thinking I would become a World Champion at speedway or get really rich and make loads of money. I’ve done it because I like riding.
“I’ve always liked being in the team, working with team-mates and it’s why I’ve done it for so long.”
Christian Henry was talking to Paul Burbidge
Pictures: STEVE BROCK
April 16\, 2016 speedway star 25