World Championships 2003 - Report
(2003 Web-site Archive)
Seven teams contested the World Team Cup at Astley on Saturday, with first blood going to Poland, as England's Lee Aris shed a chain in heat 4, but managed to scoot round to avoid being lapped, and secure a vital point. The very next race saw Poland's Lukasz Nowacki forced off the track by two opponents, but astonishingly English referee John Whiting excluded the Pole for leaving the track, to put England 1 point ahead. The remainder of the match consisted of a titanic battle between England and Poland for the top spot, with the other five teams competing for third place. Nowacki's exclusion proved to be a key factor, as England went on to retain the World Team Cup, beating Poland by just one point. A late surge by Scotland saw them overtake Australia to take 3rd place.
World Team Cup (sponsored by Eagle School of Motoring, Astley) result
England 71 Poland 70 Scotland 52 Australia 48 Wales 44 Ireland 32 Holland 31.
The Individual Championships took place over all three days at both tracks. 72 riders contested a series of qualifying matches to arrive at a 16 rider line-up for the final at Bury on Sunday, . There was no shortage of controversy in the qualifiers, as the two senior English referees made numerous exclusions to foreign (mainly Polish) riders, which was widely criticised by riders, officials and spectators from all competing nations. Consequently, 11 English, 1 Australian and just 4 Polish riders lined up in the final. Astley & Tyldesley's Pawel Kozlowski scored 15 in his semi-final to become the first A & T rider to reach a World individual Final, (although A & T team manager Mike Hack rode in the 1981 final long before the A & T club was founded.) Przemek Binkowski scored 13 in his semi-final but crashed out in a run-off, whilst former A & T rider Tomasz Wlodarczyk was excluded from his last race after a Poole rider fell, and was cruelly denied a place in the final.
The controversy continued in the final as in the very first race Lee Aris was clearly impeded by a faulty starting gate, but English referee Bob Prince failed to re start the race and Aris did well to salvage third place from the race. Some controversial decisions made during the match stoked the crowd up and the referee was struggling to maintain control. The racing was very fast and as the riders entered the last round of races, it was still wide open as to who would win. At the end of the 20 races, six riders were separated by just 1 point. A three man run-off was necessary to determine the winner. The unlucky Aris lined up against defending World Champion Dave Hemsley and Polish star Lukasz Nowacki. Aris sped away from the tapes, with Hemsley and Nowacki busy tieing each other up. The World title looked a certainty for the popular Wednesfield rider, but behind him Hemsley fell and brought down Nowacki. The race was stopped and there was uproar in the crowd as once again referee Prince excluded a Polish rider. In the re-start, Aris again led from the start, but Hemsley chased hard and passed Aris on the third lap before impeding him as he attempted to cut back. Hemsley then pulled away to win the World title for a record third time. This was followed by the unprecedented spectacle of an English rider winning a World title on an English track and being loudly booed and jeered by most of the crowd, although the venom was also being directed at the referee.
Kozlowski scored a total of 10 points to finish 12th, which should have been more but for a harsh exclusion in his last race, when a Southampton rider fell. The top Manchester based rider was Stoke's Terry Norman who scored 13 to finish 7th.
World Individual Final (sponsored by Formulated Polymer Products, of Ramsbottom) result
1st Dave Hemsley (England & Poole) 16, 2nd Lee Aris (England & Wednesfield) 16, 3rd Lukasz Nowacki (Poland & Rawicz) 16.
The Astley & Tyldesley and Bury clubs put on a terrific festival of top class cycle speedway racing over the weekend, which was widely praised and enjoyed by all present, but sadly the main talking point at the end of the weekend was the performance of the two senior English referees and the large number of exclusions handed out to foreign (mainly Polish) riders.