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  • Writer's pictureRob Dyer

Upright Racer Tony Atkin Keen On Taking A New Title

The fourth seeded rider in the NORA British Upright Speedway Championship is another experienced all round oval track specialist namely Tony Atkin (pictured). A regular racer on the Isle of Wight, Tony joins fellow seeds Gordon Kennett, Ian Barney and Wayne Broadhurst in the meeting scheduled for 11th August at the Smallbrook track. Meeting co-ordinator Lee Coleman caught up with the Chester based stalwart to find out some more:

Lee: How did you become involved in track sport? Were you a fan on the terraces?

Tony: Yes, I was a fan, and I still am! My speedway team was Ellesmere Port and every Friday I’d be there on the terraces right up until they closed in 1985 which was a real shame. They were my team, and I loved the sport. I wanted to race and started speedway at Stoke during a period where there were far more competitive riders in the British scene than team spaces. I had second halves at Stoke in those early days, but things didn’t go as well as I expected or wanted it to which led to my racing priorities turning to Grasstrack.

Lee: Of course, that led on to incredible success on the Grasstrack scene, which you must take great satisfaction from?

Tony: Yes, I am very pleased how my Grasstrack career has developed. I look back with pride at the success I have had, and I continue to really enjoy racing on the grass. It has a different feeling to racing speedway. On grass I only need to concentrate on my own racing and that releases the pressures of a team environment. That said, I have also loved racing speedway and now looking back I feel I had a good career. There was more pressure racing professionally for a team with the responsibility of not letting anyone down. As I said, it’s slightly different when racing on the Grass tracks.

Lee: You are being modest Tony. You had a great speedway career which many others would love to have had. It must be satisfying to look back on those highs, especially after the early frustrations.

Tony: Yes, I got offered the chance of a lifetime by Wolverhampton Wolves to race for them in the top league. Coincidentally one of my first team-mates back then was fellow upright competitor Gordon Kennett. It really was ‘pinch me’ time as we all knew Gordon was an ex-World number 2! Also, in ‘94 the captain of Wolverhampton was the reigning World Champion Sam Ermolenko. Riding with those guys week in week out was too good an opportunity to pass up. In hindsight, maybe starting in the second division would have been better for points but how could I not accept that gilt-edged chance? And I am so glad I did. Although at the time it was tough going in the hardest league in the world, looking back I did alright really.

Lee: Looking back, what would you say are the highlights of your speedway career?

Tony: There have been so many enjoyable moments and I have been privileged to gain team spots in a few different teams and leagues. I would say from a team point of view I enjoyed Bradford the most in 1995, my seven or eight seasons with Newport were great and in later years I loved racing for Buxton. Bradford was an amazing experience, and I was treated very well there. At Newport I had a fantastic time and made some great friends both on and off the track. Buxton suited my life circumstances at the time perfectly and I loved the track and the people.

There were some great times throughout all the seasons I have been involved however scoring paid 13 at Poole in the BSPA Cup, while lining up against the likes of Leigh Adams in heat 15, brings back fond memories. Beating one of my heroes in Sam Ermolenko at Newport is also a race I’ll never forget. I also had some great times in the Newport side with Niels Kristian Iversen during his early years in the UK.

I also enjoyed the indoor ice racing at Telford. Having been a spectator there and watching from the stands it was great to race there. In fact, I loved racing on the ice. Different technique to speedway and grasstrack but great fun. I am proud to have also won the British Open Ice Championship too.

Lee: So that brings us to the NORA British Upright Championship in August! How are you preparing?

Tony: My work keeps me fit and I feel great for my age! I have been self-employed running my cleaning business for the best part of 35 years which allows me to manage my time around my racing. All my bikes are superbly maintained completely by my close friend Steve ‘Buddy’ Simmons who does everything for me and has done for the best part of the last 8 to 9 years. We go back as far as 1992/93 and make a great racing team. Buddy is Nick’s dad so well known to Island speedway fans and I believe he may be doing a little bit for Wayne (Broadhurst) as well.

We spent a day practicing at Scunthorpe the other weekend and I rode my upright bike, and it was fantastic. I really enjoy practicing and was very pleased with how the day went. We are both really looking forward to the event and I will be giving my best to finish on the rostrum, as high up the steps as possible! To add a British Upright Individual shale title to my other awards on Ice and Grass would just be superb so I’ll be giving my best shot!

Lee: Thanks, Tony, those past 90 minutes have just zoomed by. I know it will be a brilliant meeting with Barry and Martin putting together something for everyone in typical Island fashion. It’s going to be a night to remember for sure.


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