The recent NSSS meeting at Goulburn bought a memory forward in my mind when I saw the feature race winners given the chequered flag to do a lap of honour. I remember back in the ‘70s and 80s that almost every race winner at speedways I attended, so that’s Lismore, Grafton, Parramatta and Liverpool, was given this honour. I wondered if this was the standard elsewhere and was it still happening today?
So I posted questions on a number of Facebook pages. The majority of responses confirmed my suspicions that it had been the norm at most tracks but it seems that it was rare today. Many expressed the view that the practice was a victim of curfews.
So why did we have it back in the old days? I think there were at least 2 reasons.
Recognition being the first that comes to mind, recognition of a win. Not that a heat win was something big but it was still a win and a moment of focus for the crowd and for just a moment that driver was a winner and I bet he or she wanted that feeling of that flag in their hand again. Great to get a copy of the photo and give it to your sponsor or hang it on the business wall or at home. Heat races were also often more populated and a win over a field of 15 or more sedans say, may have felt like winning a feature. And I have seen many heats that were absolutely ding-dong battles that made that night’s feature seem like a procession. This doesn’t diminish a feature win as you get a trophy and possibly something else for that.
Time filling would I think have been another. Time to get the field for the next race on the track or even for officials to discuss issues or just get organised. Remember this was a time of manual lap scoring and timing and no radio communication for officials. Today most meetings are pushed along to finish by curfew, yet there are often delays and other time filling “entertainment” and these result in laps or even races being cut. A well-organised meeting could accommodate more recognition for heat winners, especially the less high-end divisions as speedways are leaning more towards the competitors paying as the crowds just aren’t coming through the front gate.
So should the lap of honour be back in for heat wins? There are many that would strongly argue against it as it would take up valuable time and possibly impact later races, that’s a valid point and at some tracks hard to organise due to the physical layout. But what of where it’s possible, it would add an extra incentive to heat racing, as instead of just what spot racers are starting in the feature (and often due to a low car count they’re in it anyway) they get that moment and that photo.
- Graham Mison