Lions Touched By Excessive Sun
Leicester speedway fans are a patient lot, having waited 28 years for the return of speedway to the East Midlands city.
Their patience was tested again on the evening I paid my first visit to the new Beaumont Park Stadium. Racing was halted for some 20 minutes because, of all things, excessive sunshine.
The track is aligned roughly east-west and on a bright, if chilly May evening, the setting sun in the west meant visibility for the riders coming out of the second turn and on to the back straight was severely - and dangerously - restricted.
The safety of the riders, as the announcer reminded us, has to be paramount. The Leicester and Glasgow riders retired to the pits and the crowd enjoyed an unexpected comfort break.
In many years of watching speedway I can recall a number of reasons for meetings to be interrupted mid-stream. Lack of medical cover, damage to the safety fence, urgent repairs to the starting gate and a temporary halt while waiting for a heavy shower to pass over, have all been part of my experiences over the years.
Sunshine halting play was something new, to me at least. A good job perhaps that Sky TV was not present, although at least some of their production staff have previous experience of a similar problem.
The wicket at Derbyshire County Cricket Club's ground, not all that far away from Leicester, was one of the very few in the first class game pitched east-west. The setting sun was only an occasional problem until Sky started televising day/night one-day matches.
On occasions there was a substantial delay, much to Sky's annoyance. The temporary solution, fantastic though it may seem, was to hire a crane and suspend a giant canvas sheet behind the wicket to blot out the sun. The long-term solution, now accomplished, was to turn the square north-south.
I'm not suggesting for a minute that Leicester promoter David Hemsley turns the Beaumont Park race track around, or phones the cricket authorities to hire the giant canvas. I'm sure sun stops play it won't happen very often at the speedway.
I enjoyed my visit to Beaumont Park. Already the track has all the facilities that a speedway fan could wish for and Lions PR man Alan Jones, who gave me a pre-meeting run-down, says considerable additional development is planned. It could end up as something really special.
The signposting from the Leicester ring road to the stadium is impressive, there is ample car parking, plenty of cover for spectators and good views. The stewards were friendly and helpful and there was a good general atmosphere. It is, overall a pleasant and comfortable experience.
Oh, yes, the other unprecedented happening. In one heat three Glasgow Tigers appeared at the tapes. Clearly the visiting team manager had forgotten to tell one of his riders that he had been replaced by a reserve ride.
Lots of incident, some spirited racing from both sides, and a close scoreline for most of the match, made for good speedway.
I am already looking forward to a second visit. I hope the sun shines again on Leicester, but that a conveniently-placed cloud appears in the sky near Beaumont Park.
This article was first published on 26th May 2011
"Sun stopping racing is a common occurrence at Stoke."
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