A Welcome Change To The Tactical Ride Rule
A welcome change to the Speedway Regulations in 2012 is the restriction of the opportunities for a team manager to use the Tactical Ride Rule. Before considering the implications of this change it worth reviewing how we reached the present position.
Tactical Ride Rule had its roots in the old Tactical Substitute rule which was introduced around the late 50's/earley 60's. The effect of it was that if a team fell 8 or more points behind a top rider could be brought out to replace an under-performing rider. Even at that early stage the rule might be viewed as illogical or unfair but the point was that it at least gave the fans some potentially more exciting racing if a top rider was brought out to replace someone who was constantly failing to score, and balanced against that a single Tactical Substitute ride rarely affected the final result of the match, apart from keeping the score-line a little closer.
Over the years the one Tactical Substitute per match became two and it did start to affect the outcome of some matches, and by the 1990's with a widening discrepancy between the points money of the top stars and the lesser lights it began to cost more in points money.
So the Tactical Substitute started to be replaced by other ideas, notably the Joker or Golden Double whereby a rider would be awarded double points but had to start off a 15 metre handicap. This led to further problems because riders had the expense of running their bikes in a much harder race, starting from the back with far less chance of any points money. Although the rider was riding to score double points promoters were reluctant to pay double points and eventually the present Tactical Ride rule was introduced with the aim of trying to maintain interest by keeping the scores close but it was never really satisfactory.
The effect of the Tactical Ride rule is that if a team falls more than 10 points behind, a rider can be nominated for double points, going off the normal gate position but only in the races he has already been programmed to ride. In other words the idea of a "substitute" was dropped. If a team falls 12 points behind a second rider then can be nominated for a tactical ride and for double points in his next programmed ride.
The main difficulty was that soon after the present tactical ride rule was introduced, the method of awarding league points was changed to the present system which means an away team can still collect a league point for an away defeat of less than 6 points, or two league points for an away draw etc. This rule change made the Tactical Ride Rule ridiculous because if a team is 10 or 12 points behind then one or two tactical rides for double points is rarely enough to give them an overall win but it can bring them within 6 points of the winning team so they collect a league point that was not really earned on the track, and it leaves the fans of the winning team (usually the home team) feeling cheated as their own team, deserving of 3 league points only gets two points. This is not good for the sport.
For 2012 the rule has been changed so that a tactical ride may no longer be used before heat 5 or after heat 12. Whilst I personally would like to see the tactical Ride Rule abolished altogether the amended rule probably represents a reasonable compromise. It prevents a team getting an 8-1 on double points in heats 13 or 14 thus closing the gap from say 11 points to 4 points which then leaves the opposing team little chance to recover the deficit before the end of the match. Under the amended rule if a losing team gets an 8-1 as late as heat 12 to bring them within 6 points of their opponents it still adds tension to the match but the winning team still has 3 heats to recover their lead without the T/R rule being used against them and all things being equal a decent side would normally be able to regain their lead over three heats achieve this.
It's still not totally satisfactory in my opinion, still a vast improvement on the rule as it stood before.
This article was first published on 26th January 2012
"The old T/S rule was 6 behind and there was no restriction on how many times it could be used. I would still have this rule, the current TR is just tinkering, making team managers almost redundant. If most home teams are savvy enough they'll put their top 3 at 1,4 & 5 thus giving them a strong finish especially with the away team almost certainly putting a heat leader at no3."
"I agree with Derek. The old Tactical subtitute rule was much better and worked well for years. Abandoning it on the basis that it probably cost more money to pay the substitute that it would have the rider he replaced is typical of the backward thinking that seems to prevail in speedway in the UK. And while we're at it, how about replacing the points limit in the National League with a grading system. This is supposed to be a development league, but has recently reduced from 10 teams in 2011 down to 8 in 2012. Yet they keep the same points limit. The result is that young British riders who made progress last season and upped their averages are now frozen out. I know one rider made homeless by Belle Vue pulling out was denied a place in another team because his average was 0.08 too high..!! Hello....."
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