For Upright Seed Dean Felton It's Back To A Track Where He Produced Some Of His Best Scores
Dean Felton’s excitement at being offered one of the seeded rider places in the Freelance Installations NORA British Upright Championship soon became obvious as meeting coordinator Lee Coleman found out as he started to chat with the former Wightlink speedster.
Felton (picture courtesy of Karl Fiala) said, “Even though August is still three months away, I’m really looking forward to it. I made sure I entered as soon as I could. Then to be told I would be one of the seeded lads, well that came out of the blue and I realised how serious this event would be. I have my license and have been practicing already at Leicester and will do a few more soon. Hopefully I will have a GM SR machine to add to my Weslake and will be well set for the final on 11th August, so can’t wait! I want the night to be a big success for everyone and if I am competitive and do myself justice, I’ll be happy too.”
Felton of course spent the best part of a couple of seasons as an Island rider so is very familiar with the track and has fond memories of his time at Smallbrook. He said, “I joined the Isle of Wight in 2010 after struggling for the first part of the season with Mildenhall. I was trying everything at West Row but struggled big time. I was let go and the opportunity came to race for the Islanders, and it worked out great. I think I got 11 points in my first meeting which was a big relief, and I loved my couple of seasons there. I had my highest ever score in one meeting representing the IOW - 18 paid 19 is a nice memory to look back on. Great times.”
A Wolverhampton fan, ‘Deano’ started racing for the Wolves’ British League Division 2 team in 1993. He added “The depth of the rider pool in those days was a lot more than it is today and it was quite difficult to break into the junior teams let alone the main teams. I was a Wolverhampton fan but knew I would need to get a team spot in the new Division 3 which was introduced in 1993. I introduced myself to Chris Morton one night at Stoke and asked for a trial at the newly opened Buxton track. Chris was involved there as team manager and took my details. Then a day or two later I received a phone call from Chris, and he asked me if I’d ride for Buxton in their upcoming Scottish tour! I jumped at the chance, did well on the tour and then scored a maximum at Buxton in my first home match. It felt great to be given a first team spot and do so well. I was with Buxton for three seasons or so and then got the chance to step up a league with Long Eaton. Great experience being in the same side as guys like Carl Stonehewer, Brent Werner, and Martin Dixon. They won the Fours during my time with them, and I had my ‘John Terry’ moment with them on the rostrum as a non-riding reserve!”
Now 52, he looks back and feels he reached the peak of his career when he joined the Berwick Bandits for a couple of seasons from 1999-2000. “Those were the years I feel I was riding at my best. Although I still lived in the Midlands, I felt like Berwick was ‘my town’ and felt privileged to represent them. It wasn’t my favourite track before I joined them, but I am so glad I did. I loved everything up there, the people were superb, and I stayed with some fabulous families as I often went the night before and stayed over after home meetings before driving home.”
As well as racing for many years, Dean has also contributed to speedway in a non-riding capacity in more than one area behind the scenes. He has been the UK mechanic for flamboyant Polish racer Adam Skornicki. “I helped Adam for about ten seasons. I have also helped Kenneth Bjerre and Hynek Štichauer too, but I was with Adam the longest.”
In addition to the rider support above, he arranged and organised a meeting at Buxton in 2013 to help pay for their air fence which were made mandatory around that period. Dean added “Buxton weren’t the richest club in the world, and they were going to struggle to find the funds to buy the fence. They gave me my first real racing opportunity, so I wanted to give something back to them. The meeting went well, and we had some great riders taking part, with Sam Ermolenko headlining. It was pleasing to help. In all happened within about three months of dreaming it up and if I could change one thing it would have been to give myself a few more months to arrange!”
Dean has many ideas on how the sport in the UK can improve and follows the Polish Leagues closely. “I have been to watch some meetings over there and it’s incredible. The support is so tribal, and the fans identify closely with their riders. I’m not sure how they would cope with their riders racing for other teams in their country like we have over here, but they don’t have to worry about that do they?”
“Speedway for me is a team sport which happens to be raced on motorcycles. Team sports need to have credible identity with their fan base. And the night out must be entertaining for the entrance fee that’s why I love what I am hearing about the entertainment on the Island and I’m looking forward to the experience and contributing to it”.
In the last few seasons Dean has participated in the Veteran 4 Valve Upright Championship at Lydd in Kent with multiple rostrum places. His perseverance was rewarded with a win in the event in 2020. “I enjoy racing in the Vets, and it was good to become the Champion a couple of years ago after a few years trying. I missed a couple of years but will be entering again this year, along with my uncle (Dave Harvey)”. There is no doubt Dean’s enthusiasm for the British Upright Championship on the Island has driven him to step up his preparations well in advance of the event. His speed, track craft and experience of the Smallbrook circuit will have him down as a contender for the title. Yet again, it was superb to hear his wish for the whole event to be a success for everyone concerned, a theme being echoed by all the other seeded competitors who all want a place on the Finals night rostrum. Not too long now to find out!