Despite the weather doing its best to ruin Berwick’s big day, Saturday’s Grand Prix Qualifier has been hailed a success.
Rain over the 24 hours leading up to the event had led to the club installing covers around the bends to try and protect the track, and as the meeting eventually went ahead they were deemed a saviour.
Unfortunately, due to the forecast and the risk of causing any potential damage to the track, the lunchtime practice session had to be cancelled.
The practice was due to have been staged between 11.30am and 1.30pm, but this fell a casualty to the conditions.
The covers were the brainchild of Bandits’ promoter John Anderson and as he said afterwards: “They certainly helped save the day.
“If we hadn’t put the covers on there is absolutely no doubt this meeting would not have gone ahead,” he said.
Co-promoter George Hepburn added:
“A lot of people have put in an awful lot of hard work over the past few days, weeks and months to ensure this meeting went ahead without a hitch, but unfortunately we cannot legislate for the British weather.
“It’s been raining for the past couple of days now - to be honest I’m just glad it is all over.”
The cancellation of the practice was deemed a necessity if the meeting was to stand any chance of going ahead and BSPA chairman Alex Harkness backed the decision 100%.
“We could have run the practice,” he said, “but it might have ruined the track and that would have meant no meeting at all. I think it was the right decision to call it off and give the meeting every chance of going ahead.”
The meeting, won by pre-event favourite Chris Harris, who scored a 15-point maximum, did not produce the best of racing in the extremely wet and heavy conditions.
But despite this the meeting attracted a bumper crowd - the car park was full to overflowing - and now there have been calls made by fans for the club to be given another similar event in the future to prove to everyone that, weather permitting, they can put on a good show.
There were several messages of support posted on forums on the Internet with the majority supporting the club in their efforts and congratulating everyone, in particular the hard-working track staff, for their endeavours.
Some suggested that the FIM, who must have been pleased with the way the event was run, should reward the club with the granting of another approved event next season.
Promoter Anderson said that was something for another day, but in the meantime he has praised all the hard work of the staff, for ensuring racing went ahead and the meeting ran smoothly. He also thanked the riders for their tolerance and their willingness to ride, saying it could not have been easy, and the fans who turned out in numbers to support the event on a miserable night.
Former promoter Kenny Taylor, who was amongst the crowd, said: “I feel sorry for the club. You wait for more than 40 years to get a meeting like this and then the weather turns out the way it has.
“The racing wasn’t the best, but hopefully the organisers will look favourably on the way the meeting has been run and maybe award them another event in the future.”
After all the excitement surrounding the Grand Prix Qualifier at Shielfield, it’s back to routine business for the Bandits this weekend and a home match against Sheffield.
The Borderers went down 54-42 in a League Cup encounter at Owlerton last Thursday and they will be out to avenge that defeat when the sides meet in the return on Saturday.
But with Alex Edberg still sidelined with a broken shoulder and collarbone, Berwick will be further depleted with Frenchman David Bellego away representing his country in the World Team Longtrack Championship, which means that rider replacement will operate.
There is also a chance that Sheffield will be short-handed with Berwick asset Josef Franc, who is riding on loan with the Yorkshire outfit this season, likely to be representing the Czech Republic in the same event.
“it’s not ideal going into a meeting like this with two riders missing,” said team manager Ian Rae, “but that’s the way it is and we have to make the best of it.”
Berwick, who used Robert Branford as a guest replacement at Sheffield, are likely to call on another National League rider to fill the breach this weekend.
But as of July 1, Edberg’s rolling average will be such that he is the highest averaged reserve, which will mean they can then use a Premier League rider to deputise.
According to a spokesman for the club Rae is now ‘considering his options’.
Meanwhile, Berwick’s Ricky Ashworth, riding on loan from Sheffield, has been signed up by Birmingham to ride in the Elite League.
He will share the doubling up role with Ben Barker, whose commitments for Plymouth may mean that he is unavailable for some of the Brummies’ fixtures.
Manager Rae said: “Ricky, despite a couple of early season knocks, has been riding very well for us this season.
“In the past he has made no secret of the fact he would like to ride in the Elite League, so this is a really good opportunity for him and we hope he makes a go of it.
“We wish him well, but I would like to put all Berwick fans’ minds at rest - Ricky is fully committed to riding for us in the Premier League and our fixtures will always take priority.”