Dream Team : Dave Lewis
I began watching speedway in 1975 at Exeter & followed the Falcons through mostly thin & thinner until their hopefully temporary demise last season. I have also been lucky enough to be announcer at Swindon, Newport & Somerset in my time. My team is based on riders that during my time in the sport have given me the most pleasure and/or entertainment.
My first hero. One world title never seems enough for this all out racer who was just magic on a bike. Too many people have always said that first out of the start wins at speedway, but they obviously never saw PC race! In his prime he could give anyone - & I mean anyone - a decent head start & still line them up & pass them in spectacular fashion. Watching PC was like watching a master craftsman at his work. I was fortunate enough to see PC many times & conditions made no difference to him, slick, grippy, big, small, flat or banked, all tracks came the same to him & but for injuries his career would have been even more glorious than it already was. A legend.
If ever a modern day racer was made in the PC mould, Mark is the one. The esteem in which he is held by his peers speaks volumes - even the other riders want to see Loramski racing & for me, that says it all. I was lucky enough to see him at work first hand whilst he was at Exeter in the 90's & if ever you needed to have skill to overtake on a track, then the County Ground was it! But it was just another day at the office for Mark - his first race in Exeter colours & guess what? Yep, he missed the gate! Tracked Bo Brhel for 2 laps, sold him the most outrageous dummy & his status as an Exeter folk hero was assured from day 1! And any Exeter fan that was at Swindon for THAT cup match will never, ever forget that race with Jimmy Nilsen. The best "racer" of the modern day, without a doubt.
During those formative years of my speedway days at Exeter, an unknown Czech arrived in 1977 & became possibly the most spectacular racer in the history of the Falcons. Paid 11 on his debut & incredibly a near 11 point average at home in that first season. But it wasn't his points scoring that endeared him to me or the other Exeter faithful, but his all out, full throttle style. I swear once his reputation got around visiting riders would miss the gate to make sure he was ahead of them! The County Ground was a fearsome place with its banking & steel fence, but many a rider would ride wide only for Vac to find a "gap" to go outside him & roar to another win! It was only when you rushed down to the fence to see the tyre marks half way up the steel fence you realised that there was actually no gap to go through....
"Greenie" was very similar to Vac in may ways. A similar racing style & build, the County Ground made him as a rider. Prior to joining the Falcons he was a low scorer but he suddenly found his "home" at a track that was just made for him. Whilst other much more illustrious & accomplished stars feared the CG, Greenie just loved it there & the fans lapped up his no nonsense approach to his speedway. Quiet & unassuming off track, "Richard the Racer" was a real tiger on it & contributed so many outstanding moments to Exeter Speedway in the time he wore the green & white.
Havvy is my modern day favourite, stemming from a test match at Oxford in 1988 when the Danes ruled. Havvy was still a kid but had the beating of all the top Danes that day until his bike blew, including an incredible race against new World Champion Erik Gundersen which saw them pass several times before the young Brit emerged the victor. Had his troubles as a youngster & is certainly not everyone's cup of tea because of that & the fact that he speaks his mind. But that, allied to his undoubted leadership skills, & that fact that he would ride through a brick wall for England, mean he would get my support any day of the week & like Mark Loram, Havvy his held in very high esteem by his peers & that speaks volumes of the man.
I would never class Crumpie, like his Dad before him, as one of my favourites, but I admire him in many ways. For his steely determination to succeed & achieve his goals, the way he has worked hard to curb his temper & channelled those energies into his racing, his absolute dedication to his chosen profession, his qualities as an ambassador for the sport & his undoubted qualities off track as a family man. I was delighted for him that he recently won his second world title as he has been so deserving of it & he would undoubtedly have won more had he raced in a different era, for in many ways he has been a little unlucky to be at the very top at the same time as Tony Rickardsson.
KC was a flawed genius, as many often are. Destiny decreed he was never to achieve the greatness his undoubted talent, dedication & determination deserved as his path through life was shattered in that terrible tragedy. Kenny was another that many disliked because he was, many would say, a typical Yorkshirman, brash, loud, outspoken & very much a champion of his own cause. But for all that he was a sensation on a speedway bike & another who would die for the cause of English speedway. He could easily have won the 1981 World Title but for mechanical gremlins & many believe had he listened to Ivan Mauger & not his dad on the subject of tyres in 1982, he could well have won that one too. Had he been victorious, who knows, his life may have taken a different path to the one it did & it's amazing to think he would still only be 45 now. So many people suffered because of the Carter tragedy & I feel that English speedway never properly recovered from his passing.
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This article was first published on 5th October 2006
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