Speedway Yearbook 2020 from ABC Speedway
LOCKDOWN does strange things to your perception of time, meaning and fun. Previously normal things become unimaginably exotic while small happenings and happenstances stand out like never before. Like it or not, there is more time to reflect and take time to ponder. Of course, last (2020) season, we more-or-less had little or no British speedway to distract us either. Let alone watch live. The only major (senior) event was the national championship. But, thankfully, for those unimpacted by the pandemic and with funds to pay for the access, there were the top tier speedway seasons of Poland and Sweden (albeit badly abridged) to watch with an intensity like never before as well as the chance to enjoy a shorter more compact Speedway World Championships mostly staged in Poland. Though it often flew below our British speedway focussed radars, many other European countries also managed to stage their national championships.
Looking back on it all now, like so many coronavirus era experiences, the edges are slightly blurred by the repetition so, even though it only happened recently, who did what to whom has got a bit lost. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of the new 2020 edition of the Speedway Yearbook whose full colour presentation immediately leaves its traditional monochrome rivals from Methanol Press and the always comprehensive Front Page Books behind.
Last season it was the soon sold-out new big format kid on the block bringing the results and copious carefully constructed, chosen and curated original details in glorious four colour on all the major European speedway events (Speedway Grand Prix, Speedway of Nations, Speedway European Championships, World Under 21 Championships and their qualifiers). Rounded out with extensive meeting-by-meeting race-by-race scorecards for selected top tier leagues (Ekstraliga from Poland and Eliserien from Sweden in 2020), scorecards from Liga 1 in Poland plus a healthy smattering of all the national championships (Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovenia and Sweden) and qualifiers, if staged. More-or-less wherever there is sufficient depth in the rider talent pool to hold a serious event (or, even, sometimes, when there is not).
We all know that – for example – there is the odd national and regional difference when it comes to what to include and how to present speedway statistics. For example, in Poland they calculate rider averages on a points per race basis whereas here – in what we like to think of as the home of speedway – we go for a four race cumulative total. It is effectively the same thing in incongruously different numbers. Such minor differences aside, since time immemorial speedway stats have stuck to the basic knitting of scores, riders totals, heat results and race time since time immemorial. These are the vital metrics and parameters of our understanding that flesh out the visual thrills, spills and compelling sights of the on track race action.
Beyond its innate European exoticism, easy-to-read visual appeal, four colour presentation throughout and big format what really makes the Speedway Yearbook compiled and edited by Slovenian Robert Cankar sing are the variety of original ways he assesses each meeting and the visual impact of their presentation. Some of these ways of analysing a speedway meeting are so useful you simultaneously feel they’re always been around and shocked they haven’t been considered before. I haven’t been this excited to get a Speedway Yearbook through my letterbox since last season when the 2019 edition arrived or, of course, when Robert Bamford’s magisterial 2008 Speedway Yearbook arrived. While you may not realise you want or get fully on board with them all, Cankar not only contextualises each meeting with new information but also provides additional ways – both visually and number tabulated – to interpret and understand the oft-overlooked but often relevant minutiae that underpins the spectacle of each meeting.
To mention some of these in not necessarily impact or alphabetical order: we get – start times and actual meeting durations; [net] overtakes (the “passing index”) per rider and meeting; actual start and closing temperatures; graph analysis of such variables as gate performances (in profile across the whole meeting and on average); time speed graphs; rankings (for example, at SGPs) by excitement and fastest events and races. Plus there is a Top 200 Speedway Riders ranking. This is a complex affair involving rider birth signs, inside leg measurements as well as weighting every meeting/point scored according to the strength of the field (“start list”), volume of rides undertaken and the resulting averages. Tapes offences, exclusions and non-finishers are also taken into account (negatively) too. Though not official and also subject to possible methodological query, nevertheless the resulting table effectively ranks and sorts riders across all the speedway leagues to compare them (and also includes their 2019 rank position, if available).
To whet your speedway tastebuds, before further visual improvements in 2020, this is what a small section of the page dedicated to the British FIM Speedway Grand Prix looked like about Cardiff back in the 2019 edition.
Oh, and I forget to mention, there are a variety of lustrous full colour photographs – on almost every one of its 144 pages – mostly from Jarek Pabijan but also from various other European speedway photographers including Kristijan Kro, Judy Mackay, Jan Sroubek, John Bo Jensen, Taylor Lanning, Roger Hultgren, Erik Kruse and Jacopo Chiarandini amongst others.
Like any Yearbook, you can dive its pages, pick selected leagues or events, follow your club(s) as well as read chronologically. Different things will stand out to different people. Some of the things that struck me and/or leapt out from this 2020 Speedway Yearbook include:
Masks! This accoutrement for the pandemic era wasn’t yet a thing for some events (Australian Solo Championship), is defied by some on podiums and worn with style and élan by others too. Easily the silliest looking in their (ineffective) transparent masks are Leon Madsen and Grigorij Laguta. Chris Harris wears his camo version with fearful ferocity in France while they say you can house train a dog quicker than some men (like Krzysztof Kasprzak) master the concept of mask use being over their nose as well as mouth.
SGP meetings this season took longer but – because they were staged on proper regularly used tracks throughout the series – featured more overtakes.
Australians took Gold and Bronze (Rory Schlein and Jason Crump) in the British National Championships but neither raced in any of the five Australian Solo Championship rounds; while a Brit (Chris Harris) took bronze in the French national Championships but was fifth at Belle Vue in ours.
Endless track maintenance at four heat intervals (plus before semi-finals and final) supervised by FIM Race Director and expert ‘accidental’ camera-bomber supreme (in the virus enforced trackside absence of Monster Joe Parsons) Phil Morris ensured slowest heat times immediately afterwards at five of the eight SGPs.
The Italian National Championships are a six meeting endurance event starring a whole load of rider surnames that would sound like a delicious meal on any menu.
Robert Lambert is ranked eleven in the Top 200 Riders chart.
The hottest start temperature at any meeting in Europe was held at Leszno (32c) – in Australia it was at Mildura (34c) – and the coldest at Lublin (7c)
The Speedway Yearbook 2020 would look good alone on the bookshelf of any speedway fan.
To order your copy of the Speedway Yearbook 2020 go to the ABC Speedway website.