THE sweet, yet pungent, smell was unmistakable from the moment we entered.
The place was filling up with expectant faces – men, women and children looking forward with relish to what lay ahead. Oh, it was good to be back.
That’s right – we were in Pizza Hut at Sheffield! Man, the jalapenos on those hot and spicy pizzas are something else!
It wasn’t just a crafty intake of junk food though, although frankly that scenario ticks all my boxes. No, this was the pre-match meal before the first speedway meeting of the new season, the Ozchem Classic over the road at the Owlerton Stadium.
And, just like in Pizza Hut, the stadium too was buzzing with an eager and enthusiastic crowd – although this lot had been made to wait four-and-a-half months since their last taste of their chosen dish.
Former world champions Jason Crump and Greg Hancock were the major attractions, and they didn’t disappoint on a superb night of entertainment – but for most of the riders on show, this was a pressure-free shakedown ahead of the serious business.
Bears new boy Carl Stonehewer declared himself happy enough after using his blast round the wide open Owlerton spaces to test his machines, and it’s clear the travelling Redcar fans, stood up near the bar on the first bend, have already taken to their new recruit.
There’s a long season ahead, however, and all the 2009 Bears contingent will be judged on how they perform not in early season celebration meetings, but in the nitty gritty surroundings of the Premier League, Premier Trophy and KO Cup.
It’s press and practice day tomorrow followed by the annual meet the riders night at the Riverside (I’ve heard the compere is top bloke and well worth listening to by the way) before the start of the season with a mad spell of three meetings in four days a week later.
Workington promoter Ian Thomas has already suggested that this could be the closest ever Premier League campaign with up to 12 teams capable of mounting a title challenge.
You know what, he could be right. Any predictions, folks?