NORTHSIDE UPGRADE bigger, and that’s where we’ve gone from there.
“We’ve not had the sport here with losing speedway in town a few years ago, which was very sad to be honest, and we feel now it’s a great time just to start building things up.
“We’ve moved 9,000 tons of stuff, so we’ve done a big excavate and cleaned a lot of banks and so on, and we’ve built the site up about a metre and a half higher.
“There’s been a real lot of work done down there, and I’ve been really impressed because we’ve had a lot of volunteers coming down to help – we’ve been quite lucky there.
“The reaction has been amazing. The news went into the local paper last week and I saw how many likes we had from the Speedway Star as well, even compared to Oxford which of course is a bigger catchment area than ours.”
For several years, Northside was a regular staging post for a round of the British Youth Championship, and in 2016 it played host to the inaugural British Youth Pairs.
That meeting saw the likes of Tom Brennan, Jordan Jenkins and Kyle Bickley compete at 500cc level, with Jordan Palin and the Thompson twins racing in the 125cc class.
All are now regular Championship racers – but any who find themselves back in the National Development League next season will be racing on a very different circuit.
And it’s not just the track itself, but the ancillary facilities, both for competitors and spectators, which are undergoing major changes.
Northside was sadly hit by a spate of vandalism incidents over the past decade, and their British Youth round six years ago had to be put back by a month after a particularly vicious attack less than 24 hours before the meeting.
And in early 2020 there was around £3,000worth of damage caused by fires and breakins targeting track equipment, the café and the office, leading to increased security measures.
Bain said: “The track is now twice as wide and twice as long. It will be a 300-metre track, and really it’s going to be a small Belle Vue – 300 metres, but the same shape as Belle Vue is.
“The straights are the same width, and the corners are the same width as well. Steve has designed the track and he’s been coming down at weekends and helping out with everything.
“I talked to Steve when I made the decision to do this, he told us what we needed to do, and we’ve just carried on from there. He’s been the main driving force of it.
“Once it’s all done, the SCB will come in to inspect it, but I really can’t see that being a problem. It will be a very big, wide, safe track.
“It will also be spectacular for spectators because the banks are raised two metres high, so you’re standing and looking into it – so you’ll get a really good view from there all around the track.
“We’ve also got two lots of seating going in, one on the start straight side with 600 seats on there, and 600 more on the back straight, and the standing areas will be in between.
“The pits are going to be just off the second corner, and they’ll be beside the changing rooms, so the riders will just come out of the changing rooms and the pits will be right there.
“There used to be changing rooms but they got vandalised and burnt down the day before the British Youth round in 2015 – the vandals set fire to all the changing rooms and
• Man behind the upgrade, Comets fan Andrew Bain everything, and they slashed the airbags.
“So now we’re going to build all the changing rooms back up and put in medical rooms and so on, and we’re going to build a separate ladies’ changing room and shower block as well, because there are more and more ladies and girls starting to come into the sport.
“We’re going to build a workshop as well with hot washes so the riders can stay over for the weekend and practice, and then they can do mechanical work on their bikes and change things in between if they want to.
“As well as just racing, I want this to be one of the best training tracks in the country, and there will be overnight facilities for camping.”
It’s a huge amount of work to complete, and much of it is being done at a time of year when the weather is not always favourable.
But Bain is adamant that the club will be declaring their intention to compete in next year’s NDL, and discussions are ongoing as to whether that will be with the historic Workington Comets name – which would surely provide a major boost in terms of publicity.
He said: “We should be fine, and we should be all built up by March, weather permitting! We’ve done a lot of work in bad weather already, we’ve had a lot of rain at weekends, but we’ve got through it.
“This weekend we’re going to start laying the shale, and then we’re going to start work on building the pits and the changing rooms in a couple of weeks’ time.
“Hopefully by the end of the December the track fencing will all be up, and we shouldn’t be far away.
“The plan is that we’ll be competing in the National Development League next season, we’ll definitely be applying for that, and in addition we’ll run amateur meetings, as well as doing a bit of flat track, and obviously a lot of training days.
“I want to run Youth days here and make it a really good training facility for the kids to come on, and it should be ideal – hopefully I can twist Mr. Vatcher’s arm to do Youth training up here!
“I’ve got a management lined up, and that will come out in time. Steve will be looking after the track as curator, with the day-to-day business of running it, there will be a manager, and we’ve got riders in mind for next season as well. It’s exciting times, it really is.”
Report: DAVID ROWE
November 27, 2021 speedway star 3