Blog post from John Harrison.
Another One Bites the Dust: Yesterday (8 Aug 2020) the management at Rye House Stadium stated that 'We are sad to announce that motorcycle events at the stadium have come to an end', thus terminating a long history of speedway, and a more recent past of flat track events at the iconic venue.
It's no secret that regrettably, British speedway is on its knees. A largely pensioner fanbase, venues in increasingly residential areas, and now Covid all nailing down the coffin lid.
Flat track in the UK relies on speedway tracks and Rye House, (along with Scunthorpe) has been at the forefront of embracing the rising popularity of the more accessible type of motorcycle oval racing. These two tracks (plus Leicester) recognised that they could supplement the dwindling speedway income by running regular practice days for the flat track fraternity (and not insignificant sorority).
The big deal for UK racers came in 2018 when Rye House initiated their own flat track championship [Scunthorpe also runs a one-track race series]. It was successful enough that they repeated in 2019. I eagerly attended each round and loved the intimate, closed to club atmosphere of the races, seeing the same familiar faces at each round. Like the DTRA scene but on a smaller scale.
The racing was just as exciting and the craic was good. Importantly for the promoters, they didn't lose money. Importantly, it was part of both Peter Boast's and Anthony Brown's hopes and vision for the growth of flat track in the UK, that other promoters would organise their own races.
What a pity that other track owners haven't grabbed the same opportunity and run their own events and series.
Rye House Stadium, just outside the M25 north of London, next to a canal and in the shadow of a power station was never a glamorous venue, but it was steeped in speedway history. I have a 'book for boys', published in 1951 with five chapters covering speedway and Rye House is named regularly throughout. The final section encourages brave and spirited lads to go to Dick Case's training school there.
So, the end of an era for motorcycle sport at a historic venue. One that saw some fabulous DTRA races. Personally, it was a place of flat track firsts. It was the site of my first DTRA competition, when I briefly led a race for the first time and when I first met Gary Inman and many others who have become real friends. I won my first Vintage final there (and a bottle of Champagne, drunk not sprayed) and at the end of 2018 my first (and to date, only) Vintage Championship, both in the Rye House series. Happy days of camaraderie, cake and competition. It was always worth the minimum six-hour round trip.
However, all is not lost. In their announcement, BMR (the stadium promoters) concluded by stating 'We have had many discussions over the past few weeks and we can announce that we are now in the build phase of a new venue for motorcycle events. We are not in a position to give further details at this time, but Mark and the team are pushing hard to open as quickly as practically possible and we will keep you all updated on the BMR Flat Track Facebook page as soon as we have further news.'
I hope it bears fruit, with luck the new site will be closer to my home. Wherever, BMR can count on my support.
I've only known Rye House Stadium for four years, but it feels like I've lost a scruffy old friend.
As a sport, we can't afford to lose any more. JH