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Fog Off

We can’t allow 1990 to pass into the speedway history books without reference to the amazing events of 20th October 1990. This was the day that the Goodyear Wolf Cubs headed north to Bradford to defend an 8-point lead in the 2nd leg of the BL2 KO Cup Final.

It was a typically cold, wet and miserable October day, and only a handful of Wolves fans made the trip. Worse was to follow when the journey across the Pennines revealed a Bradford covered by fog! Prospects for the match looked poor, but on arrival we were greeted by a very weird situation. The fog hung around at ground level, but the stadium itself is in a huge bowl, which the fog lay above to form a ‘roof’. The meeting went ahead with the stadium perfectly clear, yet the streets above could not be seen.

The preceding match, Bradford v Oxford, was a predictably dull affair, remembered only for a ‘ditch’ on the first bend, which the track staff tried to hide by filling it in with wet shale. This disguise obviously worked, as Hans Nielsen hit it in heat one, and went on to record his only 4th place of the season! Apart from this, the match was instantly forgettable. Then it was on with the main match (as far as we were concerned).

The Bradford Tudors side contained two very powerful riders at junior level – Brian Larner and Stuart Parnaby, as well as ex-Wolf Dean Child. It was obvious that our 8-point advantage did not guarantee us the cup.

Things started well when the Tudors gifted us two 3-3’s after falls by Simon Bean and Dean Child in the first two heats. This maintained our 8-point advantage with 4 races remaining. This gave no hint of what was to happen in an incredible heat 3. At the first time of asking, Stephen Morris fell on the 2nd turn, causing the race to be re-run. In the restart, Shane Cooper made a superb start to lead from Simon ’Mr’ Bean and Stuart Parnaby. On the 2nd lap Shane and Simon Bean went into the 3rd/4th bend, both locked up, and slipped off, completely independently. Both fallen riders got up, and seeing that the race was continuing, set off running with their bikes down the home straight, desperately trying to start their stalled engines! By this time Parnaby was coming round on his 3rd lap, ready to lap both riders, and get them excluded. As he approached his team-mate Bean, he obviously realised this, and stopped! So we had the ridiculous sight of two riders running with their machines, followed by a third trying not to pass them! Parnaby soon realised that this was hopeless so continued on and lapped them. By now totally baffled, he then proceeded to stop and turn back to meet them!

Chaos now reigned supreme. Everyone had given up, and referee Gus McLoud waited until it was obvious nothing could be done, then put the red lights on. Now, as Stephen was already excluded, Shane and Simon Bean also had to go for being lapped. This left Parnaby, who had to be excluded on two counts – 1) going the wrong way, and 2) failing to complete the race within the time limit. (3 minutes?). So McLoud gave the only result he could-a 0-0!! This obviously suited us as it maintained the 8-point lead, but the Bradford riders and fans were less than pleased. Encouraged by members of the senior team, the Tudors riders laid siege to the referee’s box, and arguments raged for 10-15 minutes. At this point it was announced that, after agreement with both team managers, the race would be re-run with 3 riders. This came as a shock to Cubs team manager Derek Bodley, who had not even spoken to McLoud!

As the arguments continued, the inevitable happened and the fog came down. The race was eventually re-run with 3 riders, but by this time you couldn’t see the back straight at all. It was obviously too dangerous to continue, so this was where the Bradford management played their trump card. Now this was their last night of the season, and what do speedway tracks have on their last night? Yes, you’ve guessed it. It was announced that the fog had made the racing impossible “so we will have the firework display, and then see if the fog has lifted!” I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a firework display in thick fog, but I couldn’t. Of course this made an amazing effect on the fog, turning it from your average dull colour to a whole range of pretty pinks and greens! By this time, you couldn’t see the floodlights, and the postponement was inevitable.

This story has a happy ending, of course. This leg was eventually run at Cradley, and the Wolf Cubs steamrollered the Tudors to clinch the League and Cup double. But what a night we had a Bradford………

Mark Rowe (October 1990)

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Many photographs on this site are copyright/courtesy of John Hipkiss - Wolverhampton Track Photographer.
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