As the British Speedway Grand Prix returns to Cardiff, our senior consultant, Andrew Weltch, author of the history of Speedway in Wales, looks at the arrival of the sport in the city 90 years ago.
Top-level speedway has become an annual fixture on Cardiff’s sporting calendar, and as the 2018 Adrian Flux FIM British Speedway Grand Prix gets under way in the Principality Stadium on Saturday [July 21st], it will be 90 years since the sport arrived in the city.
Cardiff’s first speedway meeting took place at the end of 1928 – on Boxing Day, at the old White City Stadium on Sloper Road.
The spectacular sport of dirt-track motorcycle racing had arrived in the UK that year from Australia, and proved an instant hit, with promoters soon establishing tracks – generally in existing greyhound stadiums – around the country.
Some 25,000 specators were reported to have attended Cardiff’s first meeting – apparently a record for an opening event – and were treated to “sensation after sensation” according to a local news report.
A mixture of local riders and established visiting stars (or “cracks” as they were known back then) entertained the crowd, and – despite several crashes – there were no serious injuries.
The sport became a popular attraction in the city and ran at White City through most of the 1930s, returning again briefly at a new stadium in nearby Penarth Road in the early 1950s.
Those pioneering meetings must have been very different from the slick, TV-friendly product of today’s Grand Prix series, yet the essence is the same – four bikes, four laps, a short oval dirt track. And, of course, “sensation after sensation”.
Andrew Weltch is author of Speedway in Wales (Tempus Publishing, 2002).