The new Jeremy Clarkson, Moley or British speedway’s voice of the people?

SHALE TREK
Review by Paul Burbidge, Speedway Star 20th November 2010

WHEN it comes to writing about the shale sport, Jeff Scott has established himself as speedway’s literary equivalent to Sky Sports camera-come-mascot Moley.

He is the man with a different angle on proceedings – an angle or viewpoint which is not always aired by the conventional speedway press.
Scott sees British speedway through the eyes of its supporters and his whistle-stop tour of the nation’s Elite, Premier and National League tracks sees him meet an impressive collection of people.

He encounters hundreds of the characters involved in running these clubs, everyone from the man on the pit gate to the person who runs the track shop, and they offer a unique insight into how their team operates.

This gives Shale Trek a different perspective on all the weird and wonderful goings-on of a typical year in British speedway – everything from the ludicrous mid-season decision to cut the Elite League play-offs from six to four teams to the average manipulation allegations levelled against Poole.

Scott also shoots the breeze with some of the nation’s promoters, and veteran Sheffield boss Neil Machin’s opinions on everything from the cost of equipment to improving the spectacle for supporters make chapter 11 a great read.

Scott recounts his many conversations as he travels the length and breadth of the country in great detail. Although he could be a little more selective with the ones he includes, many of these quotes give readers a great insight into clubs they may have never visited.

With fuel prices on the up, Scott offers fans of clubs like Poole, Eastbourne and Swindon the chance to see what life is like north of the border at Edinburgh and Glasgow [or vice versa!] for the bargain price of £20.

He also saves us the ‘joys’ of life on the road that come with gracing the nation’s Travelodges night after night. His fantastic tale of getting caught in the middle of a swingers party at the Stoke Talke Travelodge after a night at Loomer Road has to be read to be believed.

To say Scott is not a fan of the Grand Prix series would be like saying Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan are not the best of friends. He is far from shy when it comes to airing his views about the World Championship in his Cardiff chapter.

The earlier start time for the British SGP, the competition’s lack of national newspaper coverage and the Gelsenkirchen fiasco of 2008 all get the treatment. Scott also bemoans how the competition had gone “stale” last year – an opinion many will have shared following Jason Crump’s seven-ride maximum to win the meeting.

It will be interesting to see how he views this season’s World Championship in his next offering, particularly in light of one of the most hotly-contested title fights for years and a string of consistently good race tracks and meetings.

Given the low price of flying to Europe in this day and age, it would be great to see Scott take a look at the sport overseas. His experience of camping in the forests of Malilla or taking in the action at the Marian Rose Motoarena in Torun would take the series in a whole new direction. Some trips would probably cost about the same as driving from his Brighton base to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Berwick as well.

There can only be so much inspiration one man can get from visiting the same venues year after year. But the fact Scott is a regular visitor allows him to build up relationships with all the characters that make British speedway tick.

His views may not always win him favour with those in authority, but British speedway’s voice of the people refuses to be silenced, ensuring his Shale Trek is an engrossing read.
• Copies of the book can be ordered online – go to here

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