Stalls at the Start
One of the sport's most bizarre experiments took place at Canterbury in 1969. Students of speedway history will not be surprised to learn that Johnnie Hoskins was the man behind the scheme.
'Roaring John' was determined to solve the age-old problem of cheating at the start. His experimental solution was to install a series of stalls across the start line, these are illustrated in the picture above. Each rider would be given their own partitioned area from which to gate.
The thinking behind it was probably sound, if the riders can't see their opponent moving then they're more likely to sit still until the tapes go up. So did this prove to be the solution to 'creeping' at the start? Not quite, in the first race all four riders jumped early and broke the tapes! It would clearly take a bit of getting used to!
The idea never caught on, there must have been safety concerns in having to remove the stalls from the track as each race was in progreess, a slip from one of the chaps carrying them and things could have got nasty.
In the end 'creeping' at the gate remained a significant problem until the mid 1980s. At that point the regulations were changed to make touching the tapes, rather than actually breaking them, an excludable offence. One of the few sensible rule changes made in recent times!
This article was first published on 23rd February 2007
"Thanks loads for the memories! Sadly I am old enough to remember the starting gate boards at Canterbury. We followed the Canterbury Crusaders all over the country, which improved our knowledge of the geography of the UK no end! Great days much missed now. Wish I had kept my huge colletcion of speedway items - never mind. One of the things I hung on to was set of miniature metal bikes and riders; the riders I hand painted in Canterbury colours, or course, and even had a go at reproducing their leathers; Barney Kennet, Ted Hubbard, Brendon Shiletto, Keith Pritchard, Denzil Kent, Kevin Howland, Graham Banks are all respresented, as are a few others. "
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