King’s Lynn legend Betts delivers his Elite verdict
It takes him only marginally longer to answer than the fractions of a second he left rivals in his wake at the tapes.
'Do I miss it? I did terribly in the early days when I packed up but I wouldn't have changed the era I rode in. No way. It's a different world now.
'It was a more family-orientated sport I think back then. Now it seems so expensive to run and so professional.
'When we ran there was very little sponsorship and you had to make things add up, but the cost of engines now is so high.
'We were riding bikes that you could do 30 meetings on an engine. It was so much easier to run cost-wise and with the situation you have now the crowds aren't there in the same numbers to make enough money to meet those bills. If you haven't got the best gear, it's tough to win.'
Crowds and winning came as second nature to Betts.
The blond bomber was persuaded out of premature retirement by Maury Littlechild and Cyril Crane following the closure of the Firs to re-launch speedway on a run down dog track bordering the outskirts of King's Lynn.
- 1 Every household in the UK to get £400 to help with rising energy bills
- 2 M&S to close 32 stores as part of move away from town centres
- 3 Where you can see the Red Arrows over Norfolk this weekend
- 4 Explained: What the cost of living support package means for you
- 5 Man dies of collapsed lung after 'busy' hospital meant x-ray was missed
- 6 WATCH: 'Unplayable' delivery from Suffolk bowler goes viral
- 7 8 places where you can see fireworks for free in Norfolk for the jubilee
- 8 Neighbours shock at ‘unexplained’ sudden death of woman
- 9 Norfolk holiday home named one of the best in the UK
- 10 Rollesby mum shares heartbreak after death of her seven-year-old daughter
It was Sunday, May 23, 1965. The Lynn Trophy. 6,000 paying punters. And plenty more crammed in for free to accommodate the huge crowds.
'It was a special club,' says Betts. 'If anyone was going to get me back into it, it was Maury. I told him that if and when he did open a track of his own I would be happy to ride for him but my first reaction was, 'Is this it?'
'It was just a run down dog stadium in a field. There was nothing there but to see it grow up was great. Maury said they were planning some Open meetings and I won that first one. The following year they went into the league and I stayed for the next decade and more.
'I kind of grew up knowing the supporters because it was all new, it was fresh. Most of them were there in the early days and we grew up together.
'The fact I got on so well with Maury and Cyril I loved it and could not see any reason to leave. Other riders came and went but I stayed.'
Betts made his mark on the world stage in the early 1970s with success in the world team cup and world pairs – but Lynn remained the epicentre of his speedway life.
'Honestly, you would get more people down for a practice then compared to the crowds who watch a speedway meeting now,' he says.
'You had to be there early to get your place. It was unbelievable. The Pride of the East at the end of the year was a huge meeting. The traffic backed up. 'It was gridlock. I used to have to come in the back way through St Germans otherwise I got snarled up and would never had made the meeting on time.
'Great days. It was a job I loved doing but the bonus was I got paid for it. That meeting was something which they had taken on from Norwich when it folded but it wasn't the only thing.
'We had bits and pieces like the starting gate and a lot of the track stuff as well when they closed. That's how much we had to build it up. But we had some great sides. Lads like Simmo (Malcolm Simmons), Howard Cole, Crumpie (Phil Crump) and in later days Michael Lee.
'I remember seeing him from a 16-year-old lad progress into the team and go onto to be a world champion in 1980. I like to think in some part I helped him on his way. We got on well, as I did with most of them.'
Betts has long since hung up the leathers but believes the modern-day club remains in secure hands with Buster Chapman and his family.
'Buster has done a wonderful job with the stadium, from what it was,' says Betts.
'Looking back they should have done that when they were making big money in my time because they were making so much.
'That was the time to improve it but Buster has done so well for the crowds they get. I still can't get used to the blue and gold colours, not the green and gold.
'The Norwich race jacket was a single star, then they went to the five stars in green and yellow and I think Buster felt changing to the blue might bring them back the luck.
'I hope he is doing the right thing for the club going into the Elite League because the Elite miss out so much on the riders being in the grand prix series.
'When that is on it must affect the crowds and the costs, but I wish him all the best.
'He has done so well down there. You have to keep going forward, and forward is up.
'He'll have given that serious consideration and if he thinks the time is right with sponsorship and so on good luck to him. I'll certainly try to get down and take a look.'