Controversial end to long track leaves Smith frustrated

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Berwick’s new Australian Kozza Smith experienced a hot, long and ultimately frustrating night at Tamworth, New South Wales as he went close to winning the Australian Long-Track speedway title at the weekend.

The 22-year-old was just one race away from what would have been his first national title when an exceedingly long-drawn-out event was controversially halted – at 2am!

“It was a mess,” said Smith shortly after the event. “It was a really hot night – before racing started it was 42C (107F) and it didn’t cool down much after dark!’’

The meeting was delayed for an hour due to the high temperatures and with organisers insisting that a series of support races were also staged, the event dragged on well past midnight.

Smith battled through his qualifying races to the all-or-nothing final, but after two further crashes, in which he was not involved, the event was abandoned – after six hours.

Smith was naturally frustrated, and afterwards he said: “I think I could have won this thing, which would have been great for Berwick, as well as personally for me.

“We had all sat about so long waiting while they worked on the track and through all the other races, I’m fizzing!”

Smith’s homeland campaign will now conclude next weekend at the Kurri-Kurri track, near his Cessnock, NSW base – after which he will be flying into the UK to link up with his new club as he embarks upon a new season of Premier League racing.

Meanwhile, Berwick promoter John Anderson has revealed for the first time how he came to sign new number one rider Charlie Gjedde.

And the Bandits’ boss says that at first, when the initial contact was made, he thought it was someone playing a practical joke.

“I was lying at home in bed one night when the telephone rang,” he said.

“The voice on the other end of the line said it was Chris Morton, the Belle Vue team manager, and he claimed he had a rider who was interested in riding for Berwick.

“I asked who the rider was and when he said ‘Charlie Gjedde’ I nearly fell out of bed.

“I just couldn’t believe it, I honestly thought it was someone trying to play a practical joke.

“I said ‘You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?’ but he assured me he was deadly serious.

“To cut a long story short he said Charlie, who is coming back from shoulder and knee injuries, had already signed for Belle Vue in the Elite League, but was keen to ‘double up’ in the Premier League.

“At the time he only had two possible options open to him, one of which was us, and Chris, who is a former Berwick team manager, had no hesitation in recommending that he join us.”

At the time Berwick were actively looking for a new number one to replace the retired Adrian Rymel.

“We had several irons in the fire,” said Anderson. “We were interested and had spoken to a number of possible targets, but I never for one moment thought we would end up with a rider of the calibre of Charlie.

“He is a world-class rider. He won the World Cup with Denmark a few years ago and also won the Elite League pairs.

“I know it is a gamble as he is coming back from injury, but in all honesty it is a gamble worth taking.

“If he manages to recapture anything like the form he showed a couple of years ago he has the potential to be one of the top riders, if not the top man, in the Premier League.”

Berwick supporters will get their first chance to meet their new star man in person when Gjedde attends the club’s annual forum night in the Black and Gold on Friday (February 11).

Other guest speakers will include Alex Harkness, the chairman of the BSPA, and former rider and Coventry team manager Alun Rossiter.

The event is a sell-out and Anderson is confident that fans who attend will be in for a good night.

“We held the event last year and it was a tremendous success,” he said, “I think everyone will be keen to meet up with Charlie and hear what he has to say.”