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It's All About You... Colin Hodgson

Steve Wilcock as drawn by Ralph Smith

Tell us about your introduction to speedway

My Dad took me to Cleveland Park during the Provincial League days but I was scared by the noise and used to cry to go home. He tried again when Cleveland Park reopened in 1968 as part of the brand new BL Division 2 and I was completely hooked. I used to cry if I couldn't go! I was completely obsessed for about 500 meetings and even bought a Jawa 500 from Ken Marshall at a little shop he had in Byker for £350. Tim Swales was in the shop and helped me start it. Ken Marshall said "don't make too much noise or the neighbours will gan scatty!" I rode at Felton for a bit but soon realised I didn't have the magic needed. Paul McHale was the big cheese at the track.

 

Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time

Well obviously 1981, need I say more? The world finals at Bradford were also good. Visits to Hyde Road were great too but I have to plump for Teesside 40 Doncaster 38 in '69 or '70. Dave Durham's last bend win over Dave Baugh to win the match!

 

Tell us about your favourite rider of all time

Steve Wilcock. Hands down. As a Division 2 supporter all my life I never saw much of the big boys. Saw some of them on the way up - Lee, Collins, Crump, Louis, etc. Steve Wilcock though was a very stylish performer and a master of Cleveland Park. Of the 'big boys' I'd say Collins and Morton - Aces spearhead for years .

 

Tell us about your favourite track/stadium

It would have to be Cleveland Park - second home to me and I knew every inch of it. Such a shame about the fire which wrecked the main stand. I went past on the train around 6.30 the next morning and I couldn't believe what I was seeing - a still smouldering skeletal ruin. It was downhill after that but it was still a smashing little place. A tricky track which i believe sorted 'proper' riders from the rest. After that it would be Odsal. I might not be here but for Odsal where my parents met.

 

What are the best things about speedway?

The fans of course. I loved the silver bikes and black leathers under the lights. If I'm honest, most of the things I fell in love with have changed beyond recognition. If we could slow the bikes down and get some more grip it would help. There's still nothing so thrilling as the four machines crescendoing at the start gate, the sudden release of the tapes and the battle for position in the first corner. Then the slow winding in and pass of the rider ahead. Two guys shaking hands at the end, win or lose. I love that.

 

What are the worst things about speedway?

Daft rules, slick tracks, laydowns, bikes too fast, riders not interacting with the crowd.

 

What one thing would you do to improve speedway?

It sounds really crappy to say this but in all honesty I think we need to wind the clock back to simpler times. Uprights, black leathers, dirt on tracks, riders and fans mixing. Frankly I'd prefer that below the top level that it was an amateur sport. I can't think of one thing, other than safety measures like airfences, that have improved in the last 25 years. Sorry but that's the way I feel.

 

Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen

Ove Fundin. He rode at Cleveland Park in an exhibition ride and broke the track record. Wish I'd seen it. Also he looked really elegant on a bike and I've always been a sucker for elegant, stylish riders. One of the most stylish, who never really made it, was Dave Butt - bit of an old fashioned leg trailer. Never saw Moore or Craven either and that's a shame.

 

What does the future hold for speedway?

Hard to say but Ivan Mauger said in the 70s that he thought that in future there would be a tour, like tennis. Kind of like Gps now. There will always be room for the sport at grassroots level but I think amateur or semi pro at tracks away from built up areas. I think a bigger weaker top division and an amateur lower tier. The world has changed and I don't think the general public think it's worth spending £16/17 every week.

 

Which riders should have been much bigger stars than they were?

I thought Mark Courtney would be a world star but I guess he never had the temperament or whatever, he certainly had the ability.

 

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This article was first published on 21st January 2018

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