Darcy Ward: equals track record in his first ever ride at Glasgow Tigers Speedway (aged 16)

The rider every Glasgow speedway fan wants to see this afternoon is Darcy Ward. The ‘Meet the Visitors’ section of the programme succinctly summarises his potential appeal. “The Premier League newcomer of the year will definitely be Darcy Ward. The 16-year-old from Australia has taken the northern hemisphere speedway world by storm. He’s gone straight to the top of the averages with a 10-plus figure. For comparison, he is posting better figures than Leigh Adams and Jason Crump did in their debut seasons in the British second tier when they were 16. If he maintains this progress then he will be on the Grand Prix circuit in a couple of years and who wouldn’t bet on him becoming world champion at some stage? Hopefully we can get to see him at Glasgow a few times but I suspect he won’t be hanging around the Premier League for too long. Enjoy watching him race while you have the opportunity.” Should he remain injury-free, available and picked for their team, Darcy Ward will draw crowds at every club King’s Lynn visit this season.

Fresh from his meeting, Michael Max wanders past on his way to the pits. Usually before any meeting, professionalism dictates Michael continues with some vague vestige of optimism prior to tapes up but, this afternoon, his assessment is bluntly realistic, “We’ll get hammered! It’ll be interesting to see how Darcy Ward rides here, though.” Shortly after, Dan Holt leaves to undertake the necessary supervisory duties that are the lot of any SCB official prior to a speedway meeting. When Alan Dick emerges, he looks noticeably less youthful than the fresh-faced photograph that appears in this week’s programme (“that’s ’92 or ’93 at Fir Park”). Alan quickly lists the catalogue of misfortune and injury that dogs the club (again) this season. “We’ve a strong team on paper but, again this season, we’ve been decimated by injuries. The original one to seven last appeared on 12th April! Shane has hurt his back, Ross Brady has a broken wrist, Anders Andersen broke his leg (but we replaced him) and Josh has broken an ankle. We only have four of our riders this afternoon.” Controversy off the track also dogs the sport this season. Though Alan has strong opinions on what the future could hold, he studiously limits himself to a brief comment. “The sport needs a major shake-up! Neil Machin is an articulate advocate for the lower league clubs.”

Colin Mackie and his wife set out the merchandise at their trackshop located at the back of the covered home-straight standing terraces that overlook the fourth bend. Colin’s wife greets me with an ironic, “Is it going to rain?” Colin reminds me that my previous visits to Ashfield Stadium haven’t always been dry, “Every time you come here it rains.” A short distance away, stood by the raffle and programme stalls, ex-rider Jimmy Tannock discusses the Cardiff Grand Prix. “The racing was great but the PA was terrible! I couldn’t hear the race results and the camera work [on the giant screens] was not much better! Still, it was the best yet! Emil Sayfutdinov has a lot to learn. He’s with the big boys now, no one is going to move aside and wave him through! They’re going to block him. What Scott did was just racing. Imagine what Nicki would do? When it happens, and it will, he just needs to smile. Showing a reaction like that means it will only happen more!” Jimmy has brought a couple of black-and-white photos along – one from April 1949 (“the first ever meeting was held here on April the twenty-something in 1949”) and the other features the 1950 vintage Glasgow Tigers.

Glasgow uber-fan and committed-smoker Jim Fleming is pleased to see William Lawson in the Tigers team. “William is a good guest – he got 14 (paid 16) here for Berwick last weekend.” A passing fan interjects, “They sacked Lawson last night at Berwick. They told him to frick off! He’d done nothing from three rides and Newport got a draw. His home average is only 3. If he goes away, then they can bring Burza back!” Though Steve Johnston is a capable guest, Jim Fleming remains concerned at the continued absence of Shane Parker. “He’s the most exciting rider round here! You can see him line them up and then pass them. His points are missed but his leadership is missed more!” Jim does alert me to the fact that there might well be celebrity sportsmen in attendance this afternoon. “Stephen Craigan – Motherwell captain and current Northern Ireland centre half – I wonder if he’s here? He’s a real speedway fan. Not a celebrity one – he fills in the programme! Unfortunately, his wife doesn’t like speedway!”

Taxi driver Jim Brykajlo arrives with his son Stephen whom he jokingly dubs “Britain’s number one train photographer!” Jim’s a knowledgeable speedway fan with an in-depth appreciation of every club and rider but, most importantly, is an enthusiastic advocate for all things Berwick speedway. He tells me that the size of the border town and its comparatively isolated geographic location means, “75% of Berwick speedway fans come from outside Berwick – from places like Dunbar, Addington and Midlothian.” In my experience it’s not a proper Glasgow Speedway meeting unless, like so many other committed Tigers fans, Alison Chalmers and Ian Maclean are both in the stadium to watch the Tigers race. As usual, Alison’s come along with her daughter Laura who’s already left her mum to watch from elsewhere. “Laura has discovered the back straight [at the top of the bank by the riders’ vans]. They say it’s one of the best places to watch speedway from the UK!” Ian Maclean spent last weekend away on missionary work in England and Wales and saw his beloved Tigers visit Rye House at Hoddesdon. Though they lost 56-37, Ian’s fascinated with the overall presentation there since he believes it’s a significant component factor of the enjoyment of any speedway meeting. “At Rye House last Sunday afternoon, they provided a lesson in how to run a meeting efficiently – then you expect Len Silver to always be professional!”

Michael Max conducts the rider parade with smooth efficiency and even includes a polite mention for the referee, “Last time Dan [Holt] was up here it lasted about four and a half days – it just went on and on!” A Tigers fan recalls there were 42 reruns, 16 crashes and four exclusions! The first race of the afternoon promises to be a corker since it features a duel between the number one rider in the Premier League averages [James Grieves] against the number two rider [Darcy Ward]. Darcy and his partner Linus Eklof are both debutants this afternoon at Saracen Park. On duty this afternoon at the start line is assistant start marshal Hugh McNeilly ably helped by his daughter, Heather. If our collective expectation is for a thrilling debut race for Darcy then, it’s safe to say, even those fans with the most grandiose expectations have them massively exceeded by the sheer brilliance of the young Australian on his first ever Ashfield outing. The green-helmeted Ward lines up on gate 3 with the red-helmeted Grieves outside him on gate 4. As they zoom to the corner, the experienced James Grieves attempts to assert his dominance by leaning on the youngster but finds himself imperiously brushed aside by Ward who proceeds to flash round the track with breathtaking speed and brilliance before he wins by over a quarter of a lap! Over the public address system Michael Max exclaims, “Wow! That’s quite a track debut!” Collectively I suspect all of us in the crowd take pride that we’ve witnessed such a spectacle. Darcy showcases his incredible speed in combination with raw natural ability though the choice of the word ‘raw’ distracts from his sheer grace, vitality and skilful composure on the bike. Even more amazingly, he equals Shane Parker’s track record time of 56.5 seconds. Like so many others, Alison Chalmers is bowled over by what she’s just seen, “He lost the track record when he slightly locked-up on the last bend! He elbowed Grieves at the start as well, which also would have caused a fractional delay. It’s taken Shane seasons to set that record and he equals it in his first ever ride!” Co-promoter Alan Dick’s also on the terraces (with his sister) and equally impressed by Darcy’s performance, “That was phenomenal! It’s the second meeting running the track record has been beaten.”

Even before we learn the race time, everyone in the crowd knew that Darcy was disgracefully fast. Though the sport is called speedway, it’s not always speed itself that provides the drama or excitement in a race. Often, for a thriller of a race to really happen, there needs to be a tussle between at least two riders. Doubtless, when he progresses up the speedway ladder, Darcy will get to truly test his gifts and ability against similarly talented other riders. Nonetheless, sight of Darcy is enough to raise the philosophical question: what is speed? Well, the English word speed derives from the old English spowan, meaning to succeed or prosper and we all know speeding has long had associations with wealth, sex and power. However, at its most basic, clearly speed has something to do with velocity. That said, all quantification requires a scale of measurement. In any vehicle – whether a car or speedway bike – to really feel speed you need landmarks, things that are slower or stationary since the notion of speed is both variable and absolute. Unlike the riders, as fans the drama of each speedway race effectively takes place on a comparatively featureless canvas we know as a speedway track. While track sizes and shapes vary – and even shale colours – apart from the start/finish line, it’s essentially a featureless environment enlivened by the competition amongst the riders that takes place upon it. There’s a strong gladiatorial element to any speedway race, especially one under floodlights where the velocity of the bikes, the colour of the kevlars, sparkle of the chrome as the riders transition through darkness, shadow and light all contribute to its mesmeric effect. Helmet cams for riders show that a speedway rider’s experience of any race is much more forward facing and goal oriented. Sure they need rivals to compete against but part of their battle is against g-force and physics, conditions and perception (of available space, speed, danger and trajectory), let alone the brute reality of their powerful, vibrating equipment. So though speed and a speedway race is something that can be measured with lap times – it is also always a matter of perception and, for both the rider and the spectator, an optical and sensory illusion dependent on your surroundings. According to the French cultural theorist, Paul Virilio (crazy name for a crazy guy), who’s not to my knowledge a speedway fan, modern society is defined by a culture of speed and its ideology of competitive speed. Virilio suggests our conception of modernity is based on the social denial of human fragility and mortality – founded on the illusion that we have limitless capacities constrained only by available technologies. Though not quite the modernist superman this interpretation suggests, in this one race Darcy Ward confirms this thesis with his youth, vigour and speed. [1]

The second race of the afternoon is bound to be an anti-climax and, whatever happens, always likely to look comparatively mundane. However, any race that features the King’s Lynn ‘Roger Warnes Transport’ Stars reserve rider Kozza Smith is almost duty bound to contain a frisson of unpredictability as well as dramatic incident. After a false start, the rerun of heat 2 proceeds predictably until the third bend of the second lap when Kozza decides to execute a 360 degree turn on the track that would be the gymnastic highlight of the skilled choreography of a police motorcycle display team. However, during a speedway race, this isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. Trailed some distance behind the rest of the riders, Lee Dicken has all the time in the world to avoid the wild-riding Australian. Kozza’s teammate Jan Graversen only has a split second to make an evasive manoeuvre and this prompts his own slow-motion fall on the next bend. Fresh-faced SCB official Dan Holt disqualifies Kozza Smith as the cause of the stoppage. In the rerun, Glasgow Tigers reserves Mitchell Davey and Lee Dicken make short work of Jan Graversen the sole (out of touch) Stars representative in the race. This Tigers 5-1 gives them a surprise early 2-point lead. They maintain this margin in the next race when, despite an Emiliano Sanchez race victory, Lawson and Davey pack the minor positions after the retirement of Chris Schramm. The difference between Lee Dicken’s performance last night at Workington and his performance this afternoon at Ashfield Stadium is the comparison between night and day. This is duly emphasised in heat 4 when he again relegates Jan Graversen to the back of the field. More surprisingly still, Steve Johnston, beats the highly fancied Tomas Topinka to take the scoreline to a surprise 14-10 after four races. Michael Max hails the race win, “There’s very few riders more popular than Steve Johnston apart from Shane Parker, of course!” Michael provides us with an update on Shane’s medical – we learn his “sore back” continues to plague Shane after his crash in Somerset at the Premier League Pairs, “He hasn’t ruled out riding next weekend but, to be honest, it does look very remote.” Michael also kindly draws the attention of the crowd to my “annual pilgrimage” to Ashfield Stadium and recommends my “Irreverent book Quantum of Solace”. I’m appreciative that Michael not only promotes my book but also obliquely links me to the exciting world of James Bond. Michael manages to say “Quantum of Solace” three times in a matter of moments and this serves to remind Alison Chalmers that Michael’s failed to name check the Growlers Kids Club. “He’s not part of the management team – he’s a paid employee!”

The fifth race of the afternoon causes another buzz of anticipation to again surge through the stadium as Darcy Ward once more lines up at the start line. Apart from his great natural ability on the bike, another aspect of Darcy’s appeal is the fact that he hasn’t yet mastered the ability to gate consistently. As a case in point, Darcy completely fails to gate so arrives into the first bend placed in third place. William Lawson leads and, familiar with the circuit, proceeds to race fast and intelligently round the track. However, he soon has Darcy on his back wheel but, because of the determination shown by Lawson as well as Ward’s lack of experience at Saracen Park, the Aussie appears unable to find a way past his rival. By the third bend of the third lap, Darcy backs off from racing tyre-to-tyre on Lawson’s back wheel. However, Darcy’s clearly used the previous three laps to weigh up his options as well as the performance level and racing lines taken by Lawson. Just as they enter the first bend of the last lap, Darcy suddenly blasts incredibly wide (on this narrow circuit) to ride round by the fence. He draws parallel with the Scotsman before he zooms through a slight to almost nonexistent gap as they exit the second bend together. At last ahead, Ward accelerates down the length of the back straight at breakneck speed and, thereby, enters the final corner much too quickly. Somehow his reflexes, balance and natural elegance ensures he remains on his machine and takes the chequered flag to the deserved adulation of the crowd. Again the speedway fan in Michael Max overcomes the usually professional presenter, “I’ve got to say I thought William Lawson had ridden a perfect race but that was awesome! Thank goodness he doesn’t come out again until heat 11!”

Though he tops the green-sheet averages, James Grieves’s second race of the afternoon (heat 6) sees him beaten by a visiting heat leader for the second time this afternoon (in this instance, Tomas Topinka). Though we’re treated to the odd wild manoeuvre, Kozza Smith manages to complete four laps without the complete loss of control of his machinery and he deserves his third place ahead of Rusty Harrison. With the cumulative scores now level, Steve Johnston wins his second race of the afternoon in another drawn heat. If there’d been any chance to bet before the meeting, few people would have predicted 21 points each after seven races. Michael Max praises Glasgow guest Steve Johnston for his second win, “He looks very assured but he’s still got to come up against Darcy!” Alison Chalmers is much more concerned with Mitchell Davey who, with each race of the afternoon, scores fewer points per outing. “Mitchell Davey is missing his pal Josh [Grajczonek]. They live together and drive to meetings together but he’s injured and has had to go back to Australia. Mitchell started the season with some big scores but, everyone can see, his scores have fallen off. With all the extra rides ’cause of Ross Brady’s absence, he’s got very tired and, of course, often with seven rides a meeting his engines are wearing out and need costly services more often!” I tell Alison about my observations last night of Mitchell in the Workington pits. “Last night Mitchell ate bananas quietly and then checked the bin lid instructions before he disposed of his litter, while Lee Dicken regaled Johno with various stories of booze, birds and mayhem!” Alison reacts with incredulity, “What to Johno? He could write a book himself!”

With the scores level, Michael Max confidently “bigs up” the power Glasgow pairing apparently about to take to the track for heat 8, “It’s Rusty Harrison and Lee Dicken!!!” Unfortunately for Tigers fans, Linus Eklof’s third ever race at Ashfield Stadium results in a race win closely followed home by Kozza Smith whom Rob Lyon cunningly sends out in place of Jan Graversen. This maximum heat advantage gives the Stars their first lead since heat 1. After the first race the stadium announcer (either Jim Coyle MBE or Gordon Baillie) advised of Darcy’s track record with an understandable note of extreme surprise in their tone of voice. Though no one has subsequently come close to that time or level of drama, nonetheless the announcer somehow finds himself trapped in a state of perpetual astonishment after every race when he relates the race time.

Michael Max conducts his second interview in 20 hours with England team manager Rob Lyon. Impressively, Michael poses completely different questions.

[Michael] “Why is it that the Danes and Swedes have so many promising young riders – is it the facilities?”

[Rob] “It’s something we’re working on in the background. The structure needs putting in place – we need to change the culture and the way we bring the youngsters through. My long-term goal is to have a five-year plan. Meanwhile, we’ll have to make the best of what we have and get the best out of those. I’ve gone out of my way to select the youngsters and the message to the older riders is that they have to want it as much as the kids! They have to really want to ride for their country too!”

Darcy Ward’s virtuoso performance on his bike appears to compel all riders to up their performance levels. Already with a known liking and aptitude for the Saracen Park track, William Lawson tracks Tomas Topinka for all four laps of heat 9 as he probes for the ideal opportunity to pass. Lawson bides his time until the final bend only to find his last gasp burst along the fence towards the finish line expertly repelled when Topinka firmly shuts the door on him. Though their transport is wheeled, we all understand what Michael Max means when he says that the riders matched each other “stride for stride!” Before heat 10, Alison Chalmers identifies the possible guilty parties should, by chance, the Glasgow Tigers suffer a home defeat, “Rusty Harrison has cost us this today. Every race he’s been in we’ve lost: 2-4, 2-4, 1-5.” Though scheduled in the programme to compete in heat 10, Mitchell Davey replaces Rusty who then unfortunately, seemingly channelling the spirit of the rider he replaces, finishes a comprehensive last. Fortunately for the Tigers, James Grieves shakes off the comparative torpor of his successive second places to finally win the rerun of heat 10.

We all bathe in our collective air of expectation before a heat 11 that notionally pitches Steve Johnston of the Glasgow Tigers against Darcy Ward of the King’s Lynn Stars. The brute reality of their contest is really a race that pits an Australian of yesteryear against a youthful whippersnapper fellow countryman destined for success tomorrow. From an entertainment point of view, once again we get good value since Darcy continues to show a marked reluctance to leave the start line efficiently. Having missed the gate again, Ward proceeds to track behind Johnston until the third bend of the third lap when, with the close-shaven Australian straining every sinew and muscle to ring extra performance from his bike, Darcy effortlessly passes Johno with a magnificent blast round the outside through the proverbial non-existent gap to again ensure that he gets first sight of the chequered flag. Even though he travels past Johno with incredible velocity, Darcy still has enough time and confidence to make some sort of weird hand signal to his rival. Impressed though she is with his performance Alison Chalmers wonders, “What’s the thing with the hand gestures? It’s dangerous! I dunno what he’s riding but it’s like a rocket!” Quite how to describe the calibre of his racing is a struggle and on my notepad I scrawl down the words: fearless, peerless, exhilarating. Michael Max is seized with faux anxiety: “I dread to think what he’d be like at 17 ’cause he’s not bad at 16!” If this were a court of law, then Alison Chalmers has an objection: “Michael’s got it wrong – he’s already 17!” Though highly skilled themselves, every other rider here this afternoon lives in Darcy’s shadow and suffers from comparisons to his nonchalant brilliance. That said, one rider who also impresses is William Lawson. He wins heat 12 so comfortably by a positively Darcyesque margin of victory of well over a quarter of a lap. Though given to understatement rather than hyperbole today, Michael Max notes, “William Lawson has ridden his socks off this afternoon.”

If by the end of any of his races we think Darcy Ward’s mounted on the speedway equivalent of a rocket then, in each race, he adds to the entertainment and spectacle when he leaves the start line on the speedway equivalent of a donkey. However he rides his equipment, the individual race-by-race nature of speedway life dictates Darcy would struggle to catch James Grieves in heat 13 since he leaps from the tape like the proverbial scalded cat. Predictably enough, Ward departs with the speed of a tortoise. Though the teenager immediately gives chase, he’s held back from possible contention for a couple of laps by his own teammate Tomas Topinka. By the time the riders race towards the chequered flag, the extent of his delay is indicated by the fact that Johno has built up sufficient head of steam to nearly catch Darcy at the finish line and deprive him of his third (paid second) place. As Alan Dick walks past the grandstand terraces, a Tigers fan shares a team-building suggestion, namely that he immediately sign William Lawson and drop Rusty Harrison. Talk of equipment rather than skill rages in the crowd. “It wasn’t a slow bike! From his first outing in heat 2, Lee Dicken’s bike sounded throaty – I suggest that Darcy might finish fourth if you put him on Lee’s bike!” Another fan retorts, “Unfortunately the reverse isn’t true if you put Lee on Darcy’s bike!” Alison Chalmers thanks her lucky stars for the “selfishness” of the Stars Czech heat leader, “I thought Topinka did us a big favour in that heat keeping Darcy behind them!” My book display attracts good attention and the best sales I achieve at any league meeting during 2009. As usual, it also attracts fans keen to talk about their speedway memories. One of these is David McDermott. “I first went to speedway with Robert Bamford 31 years ago! I’m 46 now. We used to go all over the country together [from Swindon]. Rob could drive and I couldn’t!”

Before the penultimate heat gets underway, the Glasgow curatorial team employ their secret weapon and give the shale surface an extensive water. Jim Fleming’s impressed with this afternoon’s dust control, “They’ve kept the dust down today – not too bad. Against Newport it was dreadful – blowing all over you!” While we wait for the dousing to finish I let Jim know that Kozza (by his own reckoning) fell off 73 times during the 2008 season. Jim is amazed, “That’s more than Steve Lawson crashed in his whole career! I only saw Steve Lawson fall three times! Amazing”! There’s a Lawson namesake off the outside gate in heat 14. When it finally gets underway this Lawson fails to get any further than the first bend because, even though he was round and past Kozza Smith (off gate 3), the Australian fails to broadside into the corner and, instead, arrows onwards homing in on Lawson like an unwanted shadow to splatter him into the safety fence. For a few moments, feelings run high among fans, track staff, mechanics and riders. A track staff member holds Jan Graversen back as he tries to rush from the King’s Lynn section of the pits to console Kozza after the crash. Alison Chalmers points out, “That track curator Danny Gibb has lifted Lawson’s bike in his arms and carried it [easily] single-handedly back to the pits”. To widespread incredulity, referee Dan Holt rules the incident an unsatisfactory start. His decision is greeted with loud disapproval from the crowd below and around him (throughout the stadium, actually). Though sympathetic to the plight of fallen riders, Michael Max loves nothing more than to stand with his head cocked to one side, like a predatory bird, closely observing the ministrations of the medical team while he offers a running commentary. “Kozza Smith is now sitting up and complaining about his right ankle.” Ian Maclean can’t believe that it’s already five to six, let alone that the meeting hasn’t yet been completed. “It’s all this going round and round with the tractor.” If laborious track work can cause delays, then wayward decision-making by officials can equally infuriate knowledgeable fans like Ian. “Bad refereeing decisions can ruin meetings! That wasn’t an unsatisfactory start – you could see what would happen before it did!” Alison Chalmers is equally vehement in her interpretation, “Kozza took him out! William was ahead. That’s really poor letting him go back in – no way that’s an unsatisfactory start!” Some angry Tigers fans try to run up the stairs that lead to the referee’s box to remonstrate with Dan at even closer quarters. Alison doesn’t join them but, instead, returns to the theme of her disappointment with Rusty Harrison this afternoon, “It’s disappointing! We expected to get hammered but, if Harrison had scored a point rather than two duck eggs, we could have had the thriller of a last-heat decider!” With the rerun of heat 14 yet to get under orders, this possibility still remains – particularly since the Stars will track the lesser lights of Schramm and Smith to fight their corner. To pass the time while we wait for the rerun, on the centre green Michael Max quizzes Glasgow co-promoter and team manager Stewart Dickson, “King’s Lynn are many people’s favourites, can you see them getting beaten this season?”

[Stewart] “They looked pretty solid all the way through – nonetheless we’ve got about them. I can’t say I was happy with that decision! That was a stonewall exclusion but, sometimes, the ref sees it different to everyone else in the stadium.”

[Alison] “That’s a fine! He’s a Glasgow fan first and a Tigers manager second!”

[Stewart] “It’s obvious Kozza was told by the King’s Lynn management to go straight and right through him rather than round him!”

[Alison] “Oh! He’s obviously really rattled to say that!”

When the two-minute warning finally sounds, Kozza Smith is serenaded to the start line with the kind of theatrical boos usually reserved for a pantomime villain (or Derek Sneddon). Though unfancied, Chris Schramm gates and potentially could have led William Lawson further than the exit from the second bend if he hadn’t betrayed his lack of confidence with a quick backwards glance over his shoulder. The error of that fractional delay and hesitation is all that Lawson needs to blast round the outside and power onwards to a comfortable race win.

With the score still comparatively poised at 40-44, a last-heat maximum for Glasgow will ensure a drawn meeting. The nominated race line-up that everyone in the stadium wishes to see arrives when William Lawson and James Grieves come to the tapes to race against Tomas Topinka and Darcy Ward. Predictably, Darcy again fails to gate but, by the third bend, he has cut under Grieves and passes him like he’s practically stationary. Like the proverbial knife through butter, the youngster accelerates to the front of the field. Topinka and Ward cross the finish line almost side-by-side and, in synchronised fashion, they raise their left arms in celebration. Sportingly the Glasgow faithful applaud the victors with some abandon. Alison Chalmers basks in the glow of the Tigers sportsmanship, “What I like about the Glasgow fans is, that when Darcy walks across the centre green later to get changed, those here will applaud him! I like that! You never see the Edinburgh fans do that!”

The entire King’s Lynn team come back out on the truck for their victory parade to be greeted with warm applause throughout the stadium as they circle the track. There’s enough applause to indicate some of them should linger on the centre green for a post-meeting debrief with Michael Max. Darcy Ward must have a different kind of debrief on his mind since he winks at Heather McNeilly. Their eyes can do no more than meet across a crowded centre green because, at that very moment, Michael Max advances with his microphone to interview Darcy only then for their interview to be interrupted by Stewart Dickson whispering in Michael’s ear.

[Michael] “Could the owner of the caravanette blocking the pits gate please move it! Darcy, for your first time here you had an exceptional meeting.”

[Darcy] “We all had a good meeting.”

[Michael] “Have you been surprised by how things have gone this season?”

[Darcy] “Definitely, I’m just trying to get the experience and move forward.”

[Michael] “Do you have any plans in mind for 2010?”

[Darcy] “No! I’m still concentrating on King’s Lynn and things are going just fine!”

[Michael] “Are you looking forward to the World Under-21 Final?”

[Darcy] “That’s still some time away, I’m not thinking about it as it’s a while off yet.

Though they’ve been soundly beaten, Alison Chalmers takes nationalistic pride in the line-up for the Glasgow Tigers, “When was the last time two Scots last rode for Glasgow in Heat 15?” This afternoon we’ve all been privileged to see Darcy in his teenage pomp. Some fans have even got more lasting mementos than just their memories, “Laura’s got Darcy’s autograph – so she’s happy!”

5th July 2009 Glasgow v. King’s Lynn (Premier League) 41-49


Footnote 1 In the mid-19th century, some medical experts argued for speed limits as they feared that trains would go faster than the human body could stand and people would suffocate. The psychoanalyst Michael Balint argues in his book Thrills & Regressions that speed is related to competitive struggles and races are ‘symbolically related to erection and potency’. Balint also notes beating a slower opponent is only a ‘second-order enjoyment’. Like all thrills, racing at speed is a heady mixture of pleasure, fear and hope. For Balint, speed is both transitive (an affirmation of social power and status) and intransitive (an intensely personal enjoyment). It’s possible to agree that this does, in a small way, explain some of the philosophical appeal of speedway – since, for fans, the experience is mostly transitive, while the riders get to live the Full Monty of both states. For more information on the practicalities, history and philosophies behind our experience of twentieth century British roads and road building read the excellent On Roads by Joe Moran (or, indeed, his just as thoughtful Queuing for Beginners). For his discussions of speed and modernity see pp.166-168.]


(from Shale Trek)


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