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WIMBLEDON REUNION 2008


"The day dawned cold, wet and windy with no Speedway in sight when a letter dropped through the Haggis Letterbox,......"You are invited to the Wimbledon Reunion Dinner", the letter read. That sounded pretty good as I thought that it would be held somewhere in London until I read the rest of the invitation which said,.".........in Tenerife!" I considered it for a millisecond before booking a flight, packing my suntan cream and heading off for some winter sun and Speedway talk.

The Wimbledon reunion is an annual winter get-together organized by Dons' enthusiasts and WSRA members, Darrell & Sue Mason who live in Tenerife but retain their love of all things to do with Wimbledon Speedway.

This year, the 9th Reunion, had quite a WSRA International flavour to it with ex-Wimbledon, Wembley & West Ham Norwegian, Sverre Harrfeldt, plus our former VSRA President, Australia's Jack Geran, Brian Loakes from New Zealand plus former Dons' skipper, Trevor Hedge, ex-rider/promoter, Dingle Brown, Southampton's, Merv Hanham, Kings Lynn's, Ray Bales and a bespectacled guy from Scotland.

We met at Darrell & Sue's house in Adeje, where a huge red Wimbledon flag with yellow star hung in the garden and, at the restaurant, small Wimbledon flags adorned the tables. Darrell let us into  a secret, the small pennants were not genuine Wimbledon flags, as the red with yellow star belonged to Vietnam, but we didn't complain as it was a reminder of the good old days at Plough Lane and the Wimbledon Dons (or 'Wombles' as we were sometimes known!).

One  thing that every ex-Don agreed with, is that riding at Plough Lane each week was bad for your health. Nothing to do with the dangers on the track, but everything to do with the pre-meeting "warm-up" of bikes in the pits. At the luxurious Wimbledon Stadium,the luxury did not extend to the riders who had to use the pits which were in an enclosed space under the grandstand with low roof and almost no ventilation.

The Health & Safety enforcers would have had a field day had they been around at the time. Fourteen to sixteen, unsilenced 500cc Jawas, Japs & Weslakes would be fired up amid clouds of Castrol 'R' and Methanol and riders resorted to wearing scarves around their mouth & nose to combat the fumes. By the time your engine was "warmed-up" ready for battle, your throat was choking, your eyes watering from the fumes and your ears ringing with the noise of un-silenced Speedway exhausts bouncing off the pits walls and roof. No wonder so many former Wimbledon riders are now hard of hearing!

Fast forward to 2008 and Tenerife, and Sverre Harrfeldt is STILL on 2 wheels, but no noisy exhausts any more. Sverre had been in Tenerife before and, as he has difficulty in walking too far as a consequence of his serious leg injuries sustained at the European Final in Poland 'way back in 1968, he brought his bicycle with him on the 'plane from Norway and spent every day in the saddle. He covered over 130 kms. cycling around the sun-kissed island, a great way to keep fit and Sverre looked fit and well as though he could just jump on a Speedway bike again and ride in the Grands Prix. I wonder if he will use his bicycle when he comes over to our annual WSRA dinner on 1st March?

As a pre-season get-together in the sun, this reunion was ideal with thanks going to Darrell & Sue for their hospitality. They also donate a holiday in Tenerife as one of the raffle prizes at our big WSRA Dinner, so they are true friends of the sport.

Plans are already underway for next year's 10th Anniversary Wimbledon Reunion which will be on 31st January 2009, 5 years to the day since former Wimbledon rider and promoter, Cyril Maidment passed away at his home in Tenerife. It will be a nostalgic, but joyful occasion,....Now, where did I put my diary?"

BERT HARKINS