The FIM Speedway GP of Great Britain – Cardiff track was given the thumbs-up as eight British Premiership and Championship-level riders battled it out on the Principality Stadium circuit on Wednesday afternoon.
Riders invited by British Speedway Promoters Ltd took some practice laps, before racing 12 heats as the Cardiff track saw its first action of 2023.
Great Britain SON2 rider Drew Kemp was joined by veteran King’s Lynn and Scunthorpe star Simon Lambert, plus Danyon Hume, Connor Mountain, Jordan Jenkins, Nathan Ablitt, Luke Harrison and 16-year-old sensation Ashton Boughen.
And the track was widely praised by its test stars as Speedway GP global promoter Warner Bros. Discovery Sports and track builder Speed Sport, led by three-time FIM Speedway world champion Ole Olsen, make final preparations for Britain’s biggest indoor motorsport event this Saturday.
Hume was delighted with track conditions. He enthused: “It’s mint. To be invited here to test the track is an honour. We went out and spun some laps and the track was holding up brilliantly.
“If it’s like how it is now, it’s going to be fantastic on Saturday. I think they have done the right thing in sending us here to turn the track over, so that everyone knows what to expect on the day.”
Lambert was pleased to get his first chance to get sideways in Cardiff at the age of 34. He said: “It was an unbelievable experience. The track was great. To come here and see the setup ready for the weekend was great. It would be mega to be part of the event one day, who knows? But it’s a dream to say I have ridden here. I think the track was brilliant today. Obviously, we are only the guinea pigs testing it. There are no ruts, it’s smooth and it’s good, and I tried lots of different lines.”
Kemp appeared in last year’s FIM SGP2 of Great Britain – Cardiff and was pleased with the vastly improved conditions. He said: “It was good. Obviously, I rode it last year and it wasn’t ideal in SGP2. Today they have done a really good job. It was smooth and really good fun to ride. I’m sure it will be good for the Grand Prix boys.”
Jenkins was delighted with his first taste of the Cardiff track. He said: “It was unbelievable. It was nothing like I had ridden before.
“It was a good experience, and it was good to be invited to an event like this and have a taste of what the top boys are used to week in, week out. I enjoyed it today and I tried a few things.
“I had never ridden an indoor or temporary track. I had a bit of practice and made a couple of changes on the bike, and then I felt like we were on the setup. The starts were really consistent the whole way across, and the track was always smooth today, so that was good.”
Teenage sensation Boughen loved his first Cardiff laps as he made a smooth debut on the Principality Stadium stage.
“It’s my first time here and it’s looking good,” he said. “It’s smooth and we had some good racing. It was an experience being in the stadium. Hopefully I will be here again in the future. I loved it.”
Track builder Olsen declared himself happy with Wednesday’s test event and says his team will continue to work hard on the track, ensuring it is in tip-top condition for Friday’s Qualifying Practice and Saturday’s FIM British Speedway GP.
He said: “I was very pleased with it. We had 12 heats on it, and it was quite satisfactory. This is how we used to have it and I look forward to a good meeting on it.
“We are now going to rip and repack it as we do normally. We will water it and keep working on the track with watering and packing throughout the day and make sure it’s ready on Friday for Qualifying Practice. After that, we will do the same again. Then it will be ready for the race.
“I am very excited. I think we can expect a fantastic meeting. Of course, the riders will control that, but I know they all want to win. It’s a big event and Cardiff is something special. If you win in Cardiff, you have done something really big. I look forward to exciting racing, but hard fighting. They do fight hard these days.”
Olsen admits building tracks for world speedway’s biggest events comes with a weight of expectation, especially after the challenges he and his Speed Sport team faced in 2022.
“I feel a lot of pressure – every time!” he said. “I have done for all of the years I have built it. This is an organic material. Last year, it was 40 degrees in the Principality Stadium, and it was just really hot in here. The moisture was just ridiculous.
“Water is always the key to it. We need to put plenty of water on, but not too much because then it gets too soft.
“The material has been tightly controlled. We have re-sieved and screened it all. All the material that came in is nice and it has come out well.”
Building the FIM British Speedway GP track is a technical and logistical challenge as 180 lorry loads were delivered to Principality Stadium, with all of these loads arriving via a single entrance over three relentless days.
Olsen says some extra time to build the 2023 track has also helped his team. He added: “The schedule has been very nice. We had a day more and it makes a difference. It means we can do our bit because there are so many loads that have to come in at the same time.
“We have four entrances for the lorries in Warsaw. Every one of those deliveries in Cardiff has to come up the Dragon’s Mouth. It’s very difficult to get all that material and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports’ staging equipment up the same tunnel in that short space of time. But the cooperation has been fantastic with all of us.”
Tickets for the FIM Speedway GP of Great Britain – Cardiff are still available online until midnight (UK time) on Thursday, as well as from the WRU ticket office between gates three and four on Friday and Saturday. Catch the best riders in the world under the iconic Principality Stadium roof and secure your seats HERE NOW.
PHOTO: Paul Burbidge