FEATURE: Suffolk Open – Then and Now
By Dave Hunting
Reading the report on the Suffolk Open/Individual brought to light just how much the sport of Cycle Speedway has changed over the years.
I first won the Suffolk Senior Individual with a maximum score way back in 1957 at the Melton Meteors track, which unfortunately no longer exists. I was just 15 at the time, and to get to the final we had to go through qualifying rounds , quarter and semi finals, then the final itself. The following year I was fortunate to win the championship for the second time at Woodbridge with a faultless score at just 16 years of age, again having to go through the same process, before my move to London to ride for Harefield Pirates alongside Bill Punter & Roger Seymour.
There were approximately twenty clubs in Suffolk in those days, racing in two different leagues(10 in each), the Deben League and the Gipping League. All clubs had two teams in those days, eight riders in both teams, with the two reserves from the first team allowed to race in the second team. This equates to a minimum of one hundred and twenty riders overall, all racing in Suffolk for the various leagues, knock out cups plus individuals. There was no need to travel outside the County in those days, and all riders rode for their respective nearest club(great hostility was shown to those that didn’t).
After my retirement from the sport, it was not until 1973 that I once again entered the Suffolk Senior Individual for the third time in my life, this time coming runner-up to Rob Smith of Trimley who scored a faultless maximum at the Woodbridge track, with myself dropping just the one point to the victor. The following year was much the same, but this time it was Kenney Jessup who won with a maximum at trimley, myself once again dropping just the one point. In 1975 I eventually won the championship at Somersham for a third time with a 19 point score, this being eighteen years after my first ever victory. In all these three latter events all riders had to negotiate semi finals to get to the final itself.
Reading the report today, there weren’t even enough riders for a sixteen rider final, which just shows how much the sport has deteriorated over the years. Taking nothing away from the winners, I would like to congratulate both Adam Peck and Ashley Hill on their respective wins, for it has nothing to do with the riders themselves why the sport is in such a precarious position, as proof you only have to look at the entry numbers for the British Open Individual this coming Bank Holiday weekend.