Speedway: Teenage sensation may turn his back on Britain
Sunday 04 July 2010
Tai Woffinden, speedway's latest prodigy, makes his British Grand Prix debut in Cardiff next Saturday, but the 19-year-old – born in north Lincolnshire yet raised in Perth, Australia – admits this could be the first and only time he races on "home soil" in GB colours if the national governing body, the British Speedway Promoters' Association (BSPA), continue to interfere with his international itinerary.
Handed a lucrative wildcard for this year's series, having twice been a non-starting reserve at the Millennium Stadium, the Wolverhampton Wolves captain has so far produced a modest return: 22 points from five races, with a creditable semi-final in Poland two weeks ago. But before the 10th annual showpiece in Cardiff, the Scunthorpe-born Elite League rider has vented his frustration over what he feels is a lack of compromise by the authorities during the domestic calendar.
He is still angry over the non-negotiable decision by the BSPA that meant he had to ride at Sheffield two months ago in the first British semi-final, less than 24 hours before official practice at the Swedish GP in Gothenburg. "I had to put my helmet and kevlars over my jeans and T-shirt, otherwise I'd have missed it," he says. Woffinden is not afraid to switch allegiances to the country where he spent most of his formative life. Even if it meant initially forfeiting his wildcard entry. "It's my life and I have to do what is best for me," he said. "[Changing nationalities] is always niggling in the back of my mind.
"There's a possibility to do that in a couple of years. I would lose my Grand Prix spot if I chose to represent Australia. But at least then I wouldn't have to have all this nonsense – like making me late for a Grand Prix. It's typical British speedway; they don't want to help the riders out at all. It seems as though they want to make it harder.
"I hope [the BSPA] know how hard it is to be good at speedway, given all the travelling and logistics involved, because when they do something like that, it doesn't make life any easier. If you want an English rider to do well, everything needs to run smoothly."
Woffinden's only regret next weekend will be the fact his father Rob, a former speedway rider who died from cancer in January, will not be there. "Dad had a massive influence on my career," said Woffinden. "He was with me pretty much every day for the last five years. He became more of a friend than a dad. Everything I know now, whether it's in speedway or life, came from him and my mum."
The British Speedway Grand Prix is on Sky Sports 2 from 4.30pm next Saturday.
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