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Speedway... what’s it all about then?

PUBLISHED: 12:26 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:26 10 October 2018

Suited and booted Picture: Ian Burt

Suited and booted Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

It’s fast and furious – and King’s Lynn Stars are good at it. But what is speedway all about? CHRIS LAKEY takes a look at the sport ahead of Wednesday’s crucial league title decider in west Norfolk

Riders fly out of the tapes Picture: Ian BurtRiders fly out of the tapes Picture: Ian Burt

A few acres of land just outside of King’s Lynn town will host one of Norfolk’s biggest sporting events on Wednesday night.

The Adrian Flux Arena is home to the King’s Lynn Stars who, if they beat Poole Pirates by a big enough margin, will be crowned British speedway champions for the first time in their history.

All roads will lead to Saddlebow Road as thousands of fans head to the stadium, clipboards at the ready, hooters in pockets.

The Pirates have a 16-point advantage after winning the first leg of the play-off final 53-37 on Monday night.

Robert Lambert - speedway perfection Picture: Ian BurtRobert Lambert - speedway perfection Picture: Ian Burt

But what is speedway and exactly why would it be a good idea to follow suit and watch the Stars bid for their place in the history books?

Well, first off all, it is exciting. We are talking of motorcycles with 500cc engines and, more pertinently, no brakes, reaching speeds of up to 80mph - and they can do 0-60 in three seconds, which is faster than a Formula One car.

The basics are:

Speedway riders are tough - fortunately King's Lynn's Robert Lambert walked away from this crash Picture: Ian BurtSpeedway riders are tough - fortunately King's Lynn's Robert Lambert walked away from this crash Picture: Ian Burt

Each heat is over four laps and each meeting is 15 heats

If the scores are level after 15 heats tonight, then it will go to golden heats

Heat winners get three points, runners-up two, and there is a point for the third rider home.

Each team has seven riders, two of which are reserves, and there are two from each team in each heat

Home riders wear red and blue helmet covers, while away teams wear white and yellow/black

There are three leagues: the Premiership (in which the Stars race), the Championship, which is the middle tier, and then the National League

Races last around 60 seconds

Riders line up at a tape at the start of the race. When the green light goes on, if they touch the tape with their bike, they are penalised – they can be excluded, ride off a 15m penalty or be replaced by a reserve.

Bikes are fuelled by methanol - just enough for one heat

While they have no brakes, the riders can stop! The high compression ratio of the engine means once they decelerate the bike slows considerably. In the event of a crash, riders are adept at ‘dropping’ their bikes to prevent themselves hitting a prone rider or machine. Bikes also have a safety cut out device fitted – a piece of string attached to the rider’s wrist so if he parts company with the bike, the switch is activated and the engine stops.

It’s a dangerous sport, and riders need protection - they wear a metal ‘shoe’ on their left boot, which is a stabiliser as they skid around corners.

Riders’ leathers are made of kevlar while helmets (obviously) and goggles are a must. The goggles have tear off clear plastic strips so the racing surface - shale at King’s Lynn - doesn’t stick to their goggles and impair vision.

And a final note for fans: don’t forget to take a pen and a clipboard because you will need to keep filling in your race programme so you can keep track of the excitement

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