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Raking Over Old Coals
By David Pickles

Among the many interminable delays and boring moments now, are the track "repairs" after every 4 heats, carried out with a tractor or two. This combined with TV coverage, and the ridiculous start rules stretches a 15 heat meeting to well over two hours at most venues.

Fans of an older disposition will well remember the rakers at every track. There were usually 3 or 4 on each bend and the track was raked after each race with the aid of one or two laps of the tractor - the whole operation being done in around 1-2 minutes.

Contrast that with today and the track grading done by the tractor every four heats takes a minimum of 5 minutes, and sometimes longer. This adds to the frustration of the fans, especially those of us older ones who remember a 13-heat meeting and 7-heat second half all being wrapped up in usually less than two hours.

So, why not bring back the rakers? Combine that with an immediate "two-minutes" if there is a tape infringement, instead of the riders taking time galore to refill or "garden", and maybe fans might just enjoy an evening of entertainment without delays that seem like forever.


This article was first published on 11th September 2022

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  • Steve Haire:

    "Years ago I did raking at Rye House plus I doubled up at Hackney whenever there was a shortage of track staff. You were not paid but did get free entry, a programme and at the interval a cup of tea. From what I remember the rules were 5 minutes from the start of one race until the start of the next which would include any track preparation that needed to take place with only a extra time given if a rider had two rides on the trot, starting gate malfunctions or fence repairs.

    These days you have to wait for riders to go back to the pits after an unsatisfactory start, wait ages for any air fence repairs (old days you just put the kick board back).

    For us olduns who cannot get to watch live speedway the solution is simple, get a sky or virgin box and subscribe to watch speedway, that way you can live pause or record and watch at a time to suit you. I've been informed that you cannot do that if you stream a match which means you are back to watching them take two hours to run a meeting.

    These days I am quite happy to record the highlights of the British League matches (when they decide to show a league match) and Grand Prix's on Quest which ironically with the league matches, unless there's loads of re-runs or delays you get to see all 15 heats in an hour programme and I subscribe to Premier Sports to watch the Swedish (Tues &Thurs) and Danish (Wed) where even if there is a delay due to the weather they will still show all the match, even though you do tend to be watching the same riders in both leagues most of the times.

    Interesting enough for those who don't follow the Danish league they have 5 riders in a 14 heat format which makes it a bit awkward if somebody gets injured.

    Having moaned about all that Speedway is still a great sport. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of footballs pages and have a ladies speedway league, how many of us would watch that?"

  • Jim Henry:

    "I suspect the demise of rakers was to save on staff costs & free entries. I raked at Powderhall many years ago and I do think that rakers can refresh a surface in.very short time working with one track grader. Rakers have to forget about filling programmes and get out as soon as the last bikes go past.

    I do not think the multiple tractors etc move much dirt in towards the white line to be honest. Rakers are better on wet nights as they can get druse Shale on to the slick bits and shift any slop as needed. Might be worthwhile giving rakers a try again - you would only need two at each end if the flag marshals at each bend joined in."  


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