Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Motorsport: Night of Drama

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Motorsport: Night of Drama

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Neal

It wasn't without its teething problems ( but speedway fans on Teesside have welcomed the sport's return in their thousands.

A bumper crowd estimated at more than 4,000 last night packed the South Tees Motorsports Park to see the Redcar Bears edged out 46-44 by the Sheffield Tigers as their first ever meeting went to a dramatic last heat decider.

The home side had led a fascinating Premier Trophy contest for almost the entire distance until the visitors snatched victory at the death to win the first speedway meeting on Teesside for nearly ten years.

But it was, in the words of team owner Chris van Straaten, a traumatic night.

The start was delayed for 20 minutes to allow a much larger than expected crowd to cram into speedway's newest venue.

And there were further delays when Sheffield's Ben Wilson became the first faller at the new track on the very first bend of the opening race, and then team-mate Benji Compton hit the deck in a similar location and was struck by Bears ace Dan Giffard who could not avoid him.

Compton was taken to hospital with neck and head injuries leaving the big crowd ( who had spilled over to the supposedly out-of-bounds back straight ( kicking their heels for what seemed an age while the ambulance left the track.

During that time the floodlights failed for a time, but fortunately were back on by the time racing resumed, albeit on a track which will need time to settle down. The Bears quickly raced into a six-point lead and hopes were high of an opening night victory.

Skipper Gary Havelock was, predictably, the star of the show and the manner in which he stacked up his 15-point maximum suggested he will take some beating this season. Chris Kerr offered solid support after finishing a distant last in his opening ride while Kevin Little too scored well, although he faded towards the end. …

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