WHILE the top level of speedway is expanding into the bright lights of the Friends Arena in Stockholm, PARKEN in Copenhagen and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, there is a slightly less glamorous side to the sport which fans don’t get to see.
Driving through the spitting rain to an industrial estate on the outskirts of Cannock is a far cry from 50,000 fans cheering on their heroes, but the destination is just as important to the overall running of speedway throughout Europe.
There are no energy drink sponsorships here, no lycra clad women lining the way and certainly no champagne flowing, but the humble workshop is still the lifeblood of the sport.
An upturned container in the yard of a plant servicing centre is where Robins rider Nicolai Klindt and mechanic Luke Corbett spends hundreds of hours during the season, washing and preparing bikes, and he’s not alone. The best riders in the world prepare themselves in similar surroundings and, unlike perceived glamour sports like football, the Dane also deals with booking flights, ordering equipment and financing his own career.
Klindt, who has similar bases in his Danish homeland and in Poland, has moved around the country during his British career and, after inviting the Advertiser inside his workshop which has bike parts scattered across it, admitted there are good sides and bad sides to playing such a hands on role.
“I’ve had various workshops over here including my mechanic’s garage and other places but I’ve been here for a couple of years now,” he said “I leave my bikes there, wash them there and overall look after them there to be honest. I have all my toolboxes, suits and kit bags and that’s where everything is kept safe.
“I spent a little more time there last season because I didn’t have a mechanic, and I’m not the quickest of guys when it comes to doing stuff with the bikes so it might take me four hours to wash and prepare a bike by myself when Luke, my mechanic, could do it in four.
“It can be hard to spend so much time at the workshop because you of course would rather be spending it with your family, but it can be enjoyable to. It was a little bit stressful because I had a lot of meetings while I was doubling up with the Elite League and Premier League but being on your own and working hard on something you like means that time flies.
“The most annoying bit is when you ride for five minutes in a meeting and then spend so many hours washing and preparing bikes for the next meeting, or when everything is done and you’re just about to load the van and find something is cracked and it needs changing.”
At various points throughout the season the duo are likely to face a matter of two meetings in two days, which produces it’s own challenges to the pair as they strive to prepare the equipment to the highest standards.
“Normally you would take the bike out the van, take the covers off, take the clutch off and take the carburettor off and take the wheels off, then you start washing which takes about an hour or two to clean everything including chain covers and things like that,” he said.
“It takes a good eight hours to get it all sorted and that can be really hard when you have meetings back-to-back.
“There were a couple of times last season where I had to drive straight from the track to the workshop and wash it all in the dark before cleaning the rest in the morning, putting it all back together, and then heading off for another meeting.
“Normally Luke is good at getting up early in the morning and sorting things for me. When he worked with me in Denmark we would drive home from Sweden and he would do the first three hours and then I would do the rest, which worked well because he was so good.
“Many people in Europe have two mechanics which makes it loads easier because it can be so busy. That’s why I’m not doing the Premier League this season.”
Klindt and Corbett have worked together for six years, with the rider admitting the bond between rider and mechanic can be a strange one indeed.
“I can’t fault Luke really, he’s great,” he said. “I can be a bit funny with my mechanics really because I don’t want a lazy one, I don’t want one who is going to take over, and I want someone who cares for the bikes as if they are his own.
“When Luke gets to a meeting he wants people to look at his bikes as they are his, and not mine, and that’s a really good thing because he would be paid regardless of what they looked like.
“I’m really happy with Luke and Piotr, my mechanic in Europe, and I’ve got a really good team around me.”