YOU’VE opened the presents, eaten the turkey save for the leftovers and just possibly your house has returned to some sort of sanity – welcome or not following the Christmas festivities.
So, we thought, what better time to reflect on the grasstrack and longtrack year just ended.
It was a year when Britain again produced a European Champion and a World Junior Champion, but arguably the French stole the headlines, winning World Longtrack solo and team gold.
A clutch of stalwarts chose 2019 to hang up their leathers, but thankfully other young talents began to emerge in the hope of filling the void.
Here’s our look back over the 11 months of grasstrack issues this year...
JANUARY IN an exclusive interview with Speedway Star, reigning 250cc Champion Henry Atkins confirms he’ll attempt to make it a hat-trick of consecutive wins in the upcoming season’s British Championships.
However, with ambitions to move on to more powerful engine sizes, the youngster confirms he’s not in the market for challenging the great Mark Wadsworth’s 13 title successes of the 1980s and 90s.
In preparation for racing 500cc machines both at home and abroad, Atkins says he plans to travel with ‘mentor’ Andrew Appleton to some of the 2019 World Longtrack Series rounds.
The Track Racing Committee begins the year with a familiar problem on its plate – a lack of hosts volunteering to stage national championships. Both the British Championship and the Upright Championship are without takers and the governing body admit they are sending letters to clubs with appeals for help.
One club who won’t be answering the call is Dunmow and District, who confirm they have folded. Useable equipment has been passed on to VMCC, while spare funds were shared between the ACU Benevolent Fund and the Essex Air Ambulance.
And the grasstrack world mourns the passing of Selwyn Perry, killed in a motor accident near his home in Gorsley, aged 81.
An excellent rider in his own right, Perry became one of the sport’s premier bike builders and was a generous sponsor of many riders.
Close friend Roger Taylor
38 speedway star December 28, 2019
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Review of the Year 2019
It was a memorable year in the longtrack for the French.
Picture: DANIEL SIEVERS
describes Perry as ‘a swan – a quiet man with a dry sense of humour on the surface, but someone paddling like mad beneath it’.
FEBRUARY IN his first interview since taking the job, new Track Racing Committee chairman Tony Steele admits it wasn’t a role he went looking for.
MARCH THE TAYLOR family make the headlines as Vintage Motorcycle Club raise the curtain on the 2019 racing season.
Former British 250cc Champion Neil Taylor scoops the open solo class on a 350, while nephew Cameron makes a winning start to life at Intermediate level.
Hartlebury Parish Hall plays host to the 80th birthday celebrations of grasstrack stalwart Geoff Mann.
APRIL JAMES Shanes starts his season with a bang, racing unbeaten all day in the 500cc solo class at Ledbury GTC’s popular Leader fixture.
The top speedway referee replaces Dickie Staff in the hotseat, but suggests he may be keeping it warm for vicechairman Paul Hurry whenever the time may be right for the former European Champion to assume the mantle.
Nevertheless, he vows to tackle a full in-tray, including enabling a British club to stage a round of the World Longtrack Series – something not seen on these shores since 2003.
ACU Events announce plans to make the 2019 British Sidecar Speedway Championship bigger and better than ever. Seven fixtures are to be scheduled in all, including four individual rounds, a team championship and two ‘open’ meetings.
And Formula Grasstrack Association are celebrating being named ‘Best Club Stand’ at the Telford Classic Dirt Bike Show.
But there’s sad news too this month with the passing of sidecar stalwarts Mick Humberstone and Mick Adams.
Off the track, Zach Wajtknecht suffers the disappointment of missing out on a wild card for the 2019 World Longtrack Series, for which he is named among the substitute riders. In an interview with Speedway Star, he vows to qualify for 2020 via the qualifier and the Challenge, for which he says new machinery is being prepared. The Bristolian confirms he will be busy on the grass too with his Masters title to defend at GTSA – somewhere he has never raced before – and another tilt at the European crown.
The Track Racing Committee breathes a collectively sigh of relief after finally securing hosts for the British and Pre-75 national championships. 500 Sidecar Association volunteers for the former, while JCR Promotions puts its hand up for the Pre-75’s big day.
Elsewhere, it’s a month for parties with Gareth Winterburn celebrating his maiden 1,000cc Sidecar Masters triumph in his home town of Skipton, while
Luke Harris (250cc) becomes the first recipient of the Frank Yates Memorial Trophy, while other highlights of a mammoth 71-race programme include Mark Giles snatching victory on the line from Dave Mears in the 350s and Tom Cossar & Wayne Rickards taking the first 1,000cc sidecar final of the season.
Tom’s big brother Mark survives a first race exclusion to win the British Sidecar open meeting at Leicester Speedway. There’s not such good news for dad Andy, who crashes out in his first heat, while reigning British Champion Paul Whitelam doesn’t get to the tapes at all after mechanical problems in practice.
A week later, new club STOMP make their grasstrack bow by staging the East Midlands Centre Championships. Masters Champions Gareth Winterburn & Liam Brown take the sidecar honours after finding their way past Colin Blackbourn & Carl Pugh early in the final, while late entry Richard Hall survives a third race fall when leading to