Full throttle to world summit

Norman Fox meets a Briton surpassing all on the speedway track

At this curious, once-every-four-years time, when suddenly modern pentathletes and double-trap shooters make headline news, back in the pithier world of sports people pay money to watch, a Briton could be about to become a world champion.

At this curious, once-every-four-years time, when suddenly modern pentathletes and double-trap shooters make headline news, back in the pithier world of sports people pay money to watch, a Briton could be about to become a world champion.

In spite of rising attendances fuelled by Sky coverage, speedway and its riders still receive scant media attention. The Poole rider Mark Loram goes to the final Grand Prix of this season's world championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland, next Saturday needing only to finish in the top six to become the first British world champion for eight years. If he does, he hopes people beyond the faithful fans will take notice, but he is not counting on it. Even so, he says that "in no way" will he run down Olympic competitors as being unworthy of the greater attention they receive. "I know what it takes to get even that far".

For the 29-year-old Loram, the trip to Poland will be like commuting to the office. He is one of those riders with the stamina, enthusiasm and need for a decent income who competes both for a British team and one in Poland (Czestacowa), where in many towns speedway exceeds football in popularity. This time, however, he is riding entirely for himself, aiming at the ultimate achievement in a nomadic career which has seen him represent seven British clubs.

He has given them all value for money with his spectacular style, which regularly defies the old criticism of speedway: "First to the first bend wins". The rider who has given him greatest encouragement is his best mate, Gary Havelock, who also rides for Poole and was the last British world champion. Havelock says: "Mark has had such a tremendous year he deserves to be world champion. He's got the talent but he's also one of the most exciting riders in the world."

The pair began racing together as teenagers in junior grasstrack. Loram admires Havelock's "mental strength, especially when coming back from injuries". Loram has had his share of those, even in this rewarding season. He took only a week off after dislocating a collarbone, cracking a shoulder blade and damaging knee ligaments, before riding in a grand prix meeting in Pra-gue. Typically, he caught and passed the current champion, Tony Rickardsson.

The world championship used to be held in a single night, but Loram is grateful for the change to a GP series. "With a number of races as opposed to one you have a chance to overcome the bad luck: engine failure, dodgy refereeing decis- ions, accidents." His cumulative points mean that, in theory, he can go to Poland in the knowledge that he would have to suffer a lot of bad luck not to become champion.

He is familiar with the track. "It's not like going to a strange place, but on the other hand it's going to be familiar to a lot of the other riders as well. But the thing about Poland is that they do what they want with the tracks when they like and how they like. Normally it's good, but if their local rider, Tomasz Gollob, still has a sore shoulder they're going to make the track as easy to ride as possible." Earlier in the year Gollob suffered the most common injury in speedway, a broken collarbone; except that it happened in a car crash.

Loram says: "I'm going there to finish on a high note by winning the last round, but in speedway you can never underestimate anyone. You have to respect everyone, but there are the obvious names like Gollob and Rickardsson."

More than anyone, the Swede Rickardsson is after some revenge. At the Danish Grand Prix earlier this month he crashed and the referee excluded him from the rerun. He blamed another rider, but said his title defence was over. Loram says: "Yes, he's bitter about that, but we all have the same problems at some timeor another."

Loram's phlegmatic attitude to those problems contrasts with his dramatic, and belated, success. "Maybe I've matured and had the right way of thinking a bit too late. It would have been nice to have had it a couple or three years ago, but I'm fitter than I've ever been and I'm thinking about my riding better than ever before.

"I don't know the reason for that - I suppose it's just in the cogs of life. But the style in which I ride is just natural for me. I suppose it's in my genes. In world championship events you sometimes have to be a bit cautious, but you're in the entertainment business. People don't want to see races in which riders throw in the towel. I've never done that, no matter how far behind I am."

Not a bad rebuke for the England manager, Dave Jessup, who has said that if he feels Loram is holding back in today's World Team Cup at Coventry because Poland is on his mind, he "will not hesitate to replace him".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine