LYING Dutchman Theo Pijper may not have raced a British league match since 2018, but he definitely hasn’t had time to put his feet up.
FDespite the 41-year-old remaining one of the biggest names in the World Longtrack Championship, finishing sixth again last year, Pijper’s focus has been on the development of sons Ace, 14, and Stene, 11, as they make rapid progress in the British Youth Championship.
His racing diary's already bursting at the seams, but Theo Pijper would be happy for more, as he tells PAUL BURBIDGE
Dad sat out the 2019 season after making the selfless decision to lighten his own schedule and dedicate his time to their development. That hiatus was forcibly extended to two years by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but Theo is back and lines up for Scunthorpe in the SGB Championship this term.
The Scottish-based racer can’t wait to be back in British league action. But his priorities in the sport have changed as Ace and Stene continue to show increasing promise on the shale.
Theo has no regrets about taking some time out. He said: “I was really busy with my boys in 2019. The GPs and internationals clashed too much and I thought about how I could have more time with the kids to help them ride.
“So I decided not to ride in the league myself. That was how it went and I still had my races abroad. But I kind of miss it now.
“It’s quite hard to organise everything, especially with my sons. They have some meetings when I am racing too. I have to have two vans on the go and two teams of mechanics. Everything needs to be doubled, so it’s quite hard.
“But the kids are the future. There is no doubt about that. I am not near the end, but I am getting older. The kids are young, so they have a longer future in front of them than I have.”
That doesn’t mean Dad isn’t taking his own racing seriously. He has finished sixth for four straight seasons in the World Longtrack series – a result which has always seen him qualify for the next year by right. He may be one of the longtrack field’s veterans, but his ambitions still burn bright.
He said: “I have been training hard during lockdown. I have never been as fit as I am now. I am very much looking forward to this year and I will give winning the title 120 per cent.
“The closest I have been to it is second. I think I have been in the GPs for 23 years in a row. I am the longest-standing rider. Hopefully I can keep it up.”
If he can’t, Pijper won’t be hanging around, waiting for a wild card. He said: “If I can’t qualify myself anymore, it is time to pack it in. I don’t want to do all these challenge rounds and I don’t want any wild cards either. If I can’t do it on my own strength anymore, it’s time to pack up.”
With Team Pijper racing in the UK and internationally, life isn’t just hectic on the track for the family.
He said: “It’s crazy just getting everything organised and my wife Carrie is definitely a key member of the team. She organises everything – all the paperwork and all the meetings we have to go to.
“I had my mechanics around recently and we were trying to build a picture of the season coming. They said, ‘the Pijper family must be crazy!’
“If any sponsors still want to come on board the Pijper team and help us out, that’s always welcome!”
PIJPER is still ready to add to his workload. With the pandemic and Brexit posing new travel difficulties, making it tougher than ever for clubs to recruit riders from abroad, SGB Premiership teams may have to look closer to home if any replacements are needed.
While he hasn’t raced in the top flight since a brief stint with Birmingham in 2011, Pijper would relish the chance to double up once again.
He said: “The question has been there and I would definitely take it with both hands. If they do need me, I will be there – if I can fit it all into my schedule. I still have a few days when I am not riding.”
Not only do the Pijpers have to contend with the sheer volume of fixtures, Brexit looks set to complicate matters.
“Going from the UK to Europe is pretty hard,” Theo said. “We have already been trying to figure it out and we think it may be better to have bikes abroad. If I send them from here, you pay a lot more money than if you buy them over there.
“Hopefully in a couple of weeks this lockdown situation will ease off a little and it will be better to fly in and out. Then hopefully I won’t have to quarantine when I come back.”
While last year’s British speedway shutdown was a nightmare for the sport’s senior stars as those racing solely in the UK lost a year of income, the young
Pijpers took full advantage of the fact amateur events could go ahead.
Theo said: “They still had a lot of meetings – they did the British Youth rounds. They rode in that quite a bit and also some amateur meetings. They had quite a full-on year actually and came out pretty well.
“Stene was the 125cc British Champion in the B class and he was very chuffed. He has moved up to the
Flat out ahead!
12 speedway star March 27, 2021