CARDIFF. It’s a small word but it means so much to the speedway fraternity.
If you mention Cardiff the man on the street he’ll think of nothing more than the capital of Wales, a football team nicknamed the Bluebirds who play in red or the birthplace of Roald Dahl. Or maybe sheep.
But say it to a speedway fan and their eyes will light up, glistening with excitement at the biggest weekend on the sport’s calendar.
Like tens of thousands of others, that’s where I was last weekend.
As usual we kicked off with the Premier League Pairs at Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena where Ecco Finishing Bears duo Spud and The Law did the club proud with their third place finish.
Somerset of course is no more in Cardiff than Middlesbrough is in Tyneside.
Proof if ever it were needed came from the taxi driver who drove us from from our hotel in Bridgewater to the track. In stereotypical ooh-ahh fashion he proceeded to rail at length about the amount of Welsh news on his local radio station.
It was a rant I’d have been proud of, but fortunately we arrived at the track before he turned into a human Krakatoa.
Anyway, we’ve established that we all know our geography but in speedway parlance ‘Cardiff’ is the word used to describe the entire weekend, starting with the Pairs and then climaxing with the British Grand Prix at the Millennium Stadium.
And it’s not just about the speedway. The weekend is a joyous coming together of speedway folk from all over the planet. A chance to meet up with fans from other tracks we’ve met on our travels, to have a drink and a laugh and good old catch-up.
It’s a celebration of the camaraderie that exists in our sport, the bond we have with our kindred spirits and the acknowledgement that whoever wins we can have a pint together after the meeting. Sometimes even during it.
And I’ve enjoyed some legendary moments to chuckle at during ‘Cardiff’ weekend over the years – sharing a room with James Grieves when he won the Pairs with Glasgow and throwing a party in our room; Brian Havelock bringing plates off food back to the bar after a mass punch-up led to the early end of a wedding party in our hotel ballroom; staying in a hotel so bad we nicknamed it Poland 1984 because it belonged in some impoverished Soviet era Iron Curtain setting…
This year’s trip was another memorable one.
The travelling Bears fans certainly made their mark in Somerset. Easily the most well-supported and vocal visiting fans, their loyal support was even saluted by Sky TV man Nigel Pearson during his live broadcast. I bumped into Nigel the following night and he was still gushing in his praise for the Redcar support.
Somerset was certainly a tasty hors d’oevre and once again the GP was a mouthwatering main course.
Everyone who is anyone in speedway converges on the city for a day and night-long shaletastic party. There was even a band belting out punk rock songs in the Fanzone before the meeting and the Prince of Wales pub sold a beer called Pecker Wrecker. All that and a big speedway meeting to follow – you can’t fall off.
The atmosphere in the stadium for the GP was as awesome as always – I swear I’ve never heard noise like it when Wuffy won his semi-final – and I’m as deaf as a post so goodness knows how loud it was for the rest of you!
The British No 1 just missed out on victory in the final, of course, but he’s still top of the pile in the World Championship so we all went home happy… especially those members of our party who had money on Greg Hancock to win!
Post-meeting it’s time for everyone to let their hair down and not even the world’s worst chilli con carne in an overpriced buffet restaurant could spoil it.
We drank, we sang, we boogied. We mingled with the great and the good from speedway, we lapped up the occasion for all it was worth.
I can’t think of another sport where there’s a weekend like this on the calendar – long may it continue!