No brakes, no fear, speedway is back

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YOU get the best impression of the breath-taking speed standing on the centre green.

At such close quarters, the power of the 500cc bikes is palpable.

The concentration of the riders as engines rev, green light blinks on, and tapes shoot up, all too evident.

Yes, a new speedway season is here, which means most Friday evenings you’ll find me at Armadale Stadium rooting for the Edinburgh Monarchs - a team that first raced at Old Meadowbank from the 1940s to 1960s before decanting to Powderhall, where they raced during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Loosing Powderhall Stadium to a housing development they flitted to their current home, Armadale Stadium, in 1997, after a year racing in Glasgow.

Speedway as a sport, however, has links with the Capital that predate all that. First staged in the city at the long gone Marine Gardens in 1929, the team, then The Thistles, was founded the year before.

Riding in Blue and Gold, the Monarchs have had their fair share of glory too, topping the league on no fewer than five occasions, 2003, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2015.

So it’s a proud tradition the current team find themselves expected to live up to, having won (at time of writing) their first two matches of the season - one home and one away - it’s a challenge they seem to be relishing.

A speedway match, for the uninitiated, is raced by two seven man teams.

As for those 500cc bikes, well, it’s important you know they have a fixed gear, NO brakes, and reach speeds off up to 70mph as they rocket around a shale track.

With four riders in each heat, all trying to hit the first bend in front, it makes a thrilling spectacle.

This year, Edinburgh once again has a truly international team - one American, three Australians, two Germans and an Englishman,

Five are returning riders and two are new to the club. Already both newbies have proved shrewd signings. 21-year-old Josh Pickering, discovered in Australia over the close season has made an instant impact in his first year racing in the UK. His ‘no fear’ approach making him one to watch. Similarly our new Yank, Ricky Wells, has already proved to be a class act and clever tactician, reading racing lines beautifully to pull off great passes,

The ‘old boys’ are pretty classy too. Captain Sam Masters is one of the top riders in the sport, the German Riss brothers, Eric and Mark, both have impressive achievements to their credit, while Max Clegg is the British Under-19 Champion and Mitchell Davey arguably one of the strongest No 7s in the Championship.

I have a feeling 2017 could be a good year to be a Monarchs’ fan, so get yourself down to Armadale and enjoy the action.