Speed, Dust and Fighting
A warm day in Cardiff, few clouds in the air and the temperature is high. Cardiff City Centre is littered with makeshift stores, selling flags, air horns and t-shirts. They were swarmed with crowds all heading to one destination, the Millennium Stadium, for the Speedway Grand Prix.
This year marks the 9th time the SGP has visited the wonderful city of Cardiff, but this year marked the first time that I had managed to make the trip down. The day started early and finished late, but that is not what I cared about. From mid-afternoon to late evening I got one hell of an entertainment show. Excluding Killer Queen, who were awful.
The seats we had were at the lower tier of the stadium, meaning we were one of the closest people to the track. And the referee, which allowed heckling to be a whole lot easier. Awesome seats still, though the television above us (as we couldn’t see the big screen) had to be the one that didn’t work. Typical luck.
The Parade starts, pretty sure the British drivers – Scotty Nicholls, Chris “Bomber” Harris, wildcard Edward Kennett and the two reserves in Tai Woffinden and Simon Stead. But they did bring out some snazzy tri-bikes to showcase the the drivers around the track.
The races had earlier started with some British Junior heats. However they were cut short due to a rather nasty looking crash involving one of the youngest riders. This required an ambulance to come on track to sort things out.
The Speedway Grand Prix started off, with Heat 1 consisting of the Russian sensation Emil Sayfutdinov, Nicki Pedersen, Kenneth Bjerre and Rune Holta. This also saw the first crash, Rune Holta losing control at turn three causing a red flag and his eventual exclusion. Impressively, it was Kenneth Bjerre who ended up managing to win the heat, starting off a fairly dismal night for Sayfutdinov and Pedersen.
Then came heat two and the first one involving British riders, my personal favourite, Scotty Nicholls. The reception of Nicholls coming on, as well as other Brits was unbelievable, the flags flying high, the air horns blasting, it was immense. Sadly, Nicholls could only replicate his current form and ended up last in the heat. And it relied on Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris to save the day for the Brits in the first round of heats. He duly delivered, with a lovely second place finish behind the unstoppable Jason Crump.
Every four heats there is a little break to allow the television companies an advertisement break. Normally, its just a good time to have a quick visit to the toilet or get yourself a quick drink (of coke, I’m not drinking. But the way some people were buying there beers, they would be drunk be heat 4). Can only describe how massively useful ad breaks can be sometimes.
Then the big drama. Heat 5. Fairly standard heat, Sebastian Ulameck edging out Chris Harris. But a late battle between Scotty Nicholls and Emil Sayfutdinov resulted in a fight at the track entrance. The way the crowd rose to their feet and cheered on Scotty was incredible. Watching replays of it, still unsure why Tai Woffinden got involved to stop them. If you haven’t seen it, look below. Would also recommend that you watch all the way through.
The reaction of that eventually died down and it was back down to the good reason I was there, speedway. The following heats were formulaic, Jason Crump showing he is the best rider out there and the popular Leigh Adams struggling to find anything at all.
Half time allowed me to stretch my legs for an even longer amount of time, whilst listening to hear some pretty dire music sung by someone I have never heard of before. This also allowed me to look at the number of different banners littered across the stadium. My personal favourite being in support of the ever lovable American, Greg Hancock.
If you don’t understand the story, basically his new main sponsor for this season is the energy drink ‘Monster’ which also sponsored Jenson Button at Silverstone. There were loads for Scotty Nicholls and Chris Harris, even the odd one for Tai Woffinden.
The heats restarted, Rune Holta managed to crash out again in Heat 16 and the biggest shock in Heat 17 was Jason Crump slam into the comfortable air fence. However, he picked himself up and Swede Andreas Jonsson was excluded for an avoidable collision. He picked himself up, and inevitably won the re-run.
But before that, Scotty Nicholls has managed to win his first heat of the season. And the reaction of the crowd was unbelievable. The stadium had absolutely erupted, flags at an even higher mast, air horns, somehow, louder. It was incredible.
And when Chris Harris won his heat, I think we managed to deafen the whole of Cardiff.
Due to the fact Chris Harris had managed to get into the top 8, he was in the semi finals. And was involved in the second semi, a close tussle with the Brit, Nicki Pedersen, Greg Hancock and another Dane, Hans Andersen. Then this is where being close to the referees helped. At the second corner, Hans Andersen lost control of his bike, Harris, who had a bad start himself barely touched Andersen as he fell to the ground. Everyone expected Andersen to be excluded, but when the light flashed Blue, it was instead Chris Harris excluded. And how the crowd booed that decision. And it wasn’t just to the referee, Hans Andersen got a full boo for when he came out for the re run. Second attempt, the same thing happened. But this time, replace Andersen with Pedersen and Harris with Andersen. Pedersen was excluded. Whilst this was still good, with everyone hating him after the events of last year, the real decision was that it should have been Andersen excluded. More boos followed. This left the third re run with just two riders, Hancock and Andersen and they finished in that order.
So the final arrived, the so far unstoppable Jason Crump on course for a 100% record. Then was the loveable Greg Hancock and the hateable Hans Andersen. Finally, there was the quiet and unfancied Swede Fredrik Lindgren, who I decided to tip for a surprise win.
There was no surprises. Despite disappointment on the last lap with Hancock losing third to Andersen, it was a comfortable victory for Jason Crump. He finished ahead of Fredrik Lindgren easily.
When the interviews took place, the crowd deafened Jason Crump with blasts of the air horns. We appreciated his victory, show how much we really do like him. Lindgren and Hancock got a similar response. Andersen, unsurprisingly, didn’t
And with the events coming to a conclusion, a fireworks display celebrating the events, I decided that it was a fantastic day out in the Millennium Stadium. I loved the out of this world atmosphere that would be unachievable without a roof. It is a great place for this event, wouldn’t want to see it anywhere else. I want to go again for 2010. The 10th anniversary of the event at Cardiff, and I’m sure it will be even better than 2009.