Speedway first took place in Scunthorpe on May 3rd 1971. Despite a host of problems ran continuously, albeit at two locations, Quibell Park and Ashby Ville, until May 13th 1985. Then on 27th March 2005 league racing returned to the town on what is now know as the Eddie Wright Raceway.
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The Quibell Park Years
From 1971 until 1978 operated out of Scunthorpe's main athletics and cycling stadium, Quibell Park, on Brumby Wood Lane.
Two hundred ton of shale was laid on the top of the 400 metre running track on a weekly basis and the first meeting took place on May 3rd 1971 when up to 4000 paying customers saw the Saints defeat the Hull Vikings 39-38 in a challenge match.
The promoters were former riders Vic White and Ivor Brown and they ran twelve home challenge matches and one at Boston that season with the Saints winning eight and drawing three of the meetings whilst using riders who were loaned from other clubs.
19-year old Geoff Bouchard, who normally rode for Long Eaton rode in all meetings (as did Roger Mills, Stuart Jay and Phil Whitaker) claimed five maximums and was the holder of the track record after the opening night with a winning time in heat 6 of 79.6 seconds.
1972 saw the Saints move into the British League Division Two but they failed to produce a competitive side, finishing 13 points adrift at the bottom of the seventeen team league with just five wins.
With plenty of changes to the line-up Phil Bass was the only rider to reach 200 points for the side whilst Brian Maxted and Terry Kelly were the only two to get their averages up to the six mark. On the management side Brian Osborne quit as a rider to join the promotion team mid-season.
1973 started with six thrashings for the Saints in their first seven meetings after Ray Watkins smashed his thigh the night before the season was due to open.
Another woeful season looked on the cards but the club signed former World Finalist Ken McKinley, Ian Hindle and Dingle Brown. The trio helped lead the club off the bottom to finish above both Rayleigh and Berwick in the eighteen team league.
1974 once again saw a grim start to the season for the Saints as Hindle left to join parent club Belle Vue and Rod Haynes also moved up to the British League with his parent club, Sheffield.
McKinley, now aged 46, dropped a point-and-a-half from his average but still led the team with an eight-point plus average until the late season addition of Tony Childs saw the club climb above Weymouth and Sunderland at the bottom of the table
The Saints future looked bleak when the council refused permission for them to race on Sundays instead of Mondays and also declined to assist the club financially after substantial losses in the previous two seasons.
Incredibly there was a modicum of success on track as the Saints climbed to 13th out of 20 in the league and recorded their first 'on-track' win away from home in 53 attempts in the league (1974 had seen a win awarded after a result was changed after the season had ended).
Childs once again led the averages but Keith Evans had a breakthrough year whilst Andy Hines and Colin Cook performed superbly in their first full seasons. One sour note was when McKinley left the club mid-meeting after protesting about the state of the Quibell Park track.
A early season fallout between the promotion and Tony Childs saw the rider leave the club but it did lead to Keith Evans finally agreeing terms. However, whilst Evans had an excellent season, the club were missing a strong second heat-leader. Andy Hines had another good season but Colin Cook went backwards and the club could only finish one off the bottom.
Another season of relative success as 5 teams finished below the Saints in the 19-team National League.
For the first time the Saints had three riders finish with an average over seven as Nicky Allott, Arthur Browning and John McNeill led the team from the bottom of the table after the side picked up just two points from their first eleven league meetings.
The last meeting of the season was set to be the last ever at Quibell Park before a move to a new purpose-built track at Ashby Ville. The damage to the athletics track had led to it losing its 'prestigious' rating and the only way to regain it would be for the Saints to leave the parkland arena.
With the £100,000 Ashby Ville stadium not ready for the new season the Saints were allowed to stay at Quibell Park for one more year.
Off track Ted Hornsby and Jim Street joined Brian Osborn as promoters whilst on track the team struggled to replace John McNeill. McNeill returned after a while but by this time Arthur Browning was injured and when 'Big Arthur' returned his form was inconsistent at best. The Saints finished second bottom, just above Barrow
Yet another winter of uncertainty with the strained relationship between Brian Osborn and Scunthorpe Borough Council seemingly at breaking point. After just three meetings at Ashby Ville the Speedway Control Board closed the track until the end of August whilst improvements were made.
It meant running a number of double headers to complete the newly named Stags fixtures whilst on track the side were dismal and finished ten points adrift in the National League. One major factor was new heat leader Arthur Price's ability to nearly halve his starting average.
1980 saw Richard Judge join as a co-promoter and the Stags improved to 13th out of 20. Phil White, in his fourth season with the club, took his average over nine whilst Arthur Browning and Nicky Allott gave the club three genuine heat leaders again.
Kevin Teager, Rob Woffinden and Ian Westwell were also regulars but the team really needed another decent second-string to allow Woffinden to ride at reserve.
Phil White and Arthur Browning moved on and with the country in recession the team that took to the track was lacking a number one.
Kevin Teager added over two points to his average but with Mark DeKok as third heat-leader the club were cast adrift with Workington and Milton Keynes at the bottom of the league table.
Just six wins and a draw did see them finish third bottom but a whopping fifteen points adrift of Stoke who finished two places above them in 15th.
The Stags were third bottom again but nearly doubled their previous seasons' points tally and were just five points Milton Keynes who finished five places above them in 12th.
Wholesale improvements to the line-up saw Mike Wilding, Nigel Crabtree and Derek Richardson sign whilst Rob Woffinden, Julian Parr and Ian Gibson made significant improvements on their starting averages. As was often the case the team started slowly but five wins on the trot (including at Oxford and Edinburgh) saw a marked improvement towards the end of the season.
Bar far the best season during the 1971-85 era as the Stags were unbeaten at home in the league and finished fifth despite Wilding, Teager and Woffinden moving on. In came Andy Fisher and Rob Hollingworth whilst Mark DeKok was effectively replaced by 16-year old Winterton lad Kevin Armitage mid-season.
Most riders made significant progress whilst seventh in the averages at the end of the season was Armitage on 5.29, a figure that would have been third heat leader in many of the previous seasons. However, with Britain in the midst of a recession crowds didn't increase and there was still wrangling with the council over unpaid rent.
With continuing financial problems Tony Nicholls joined Richard Judge at the helm of the club whilst number one, Nigel Crabtree, moved to Stoke. The Stags welcomed back Rob Woffinden and he joined Julian Parr, Andy Buck and Derek Richardson in averaging over 7.50.
Despite Paul Evitts leaving the club, after being withdrawn from a race, Mark Burrows stepped in to join Kevin Armitage and Ian Gibson at the bottom end of the side and, whilst the season didn't match the previous one, a tenth place finish was the second best by a Scunthorpe side.
Sadly in the December former Promoter and sponsor Ted Hornsby died.
Tony Nicholls took over the sole running of the club and the outlook for the club had never looked brighter. There was a large stretch of spectator cover on turn one, a stock car fence was installed and Eric Boocock had been employed as Team Manager.
The side retained the top four from the previous year and Steve Finch dropped out of the top flight to create a strong top five. Sadly, on track the team struggled to fire on all cylinders at once whilst the club was also losing money at an alarming rate.
When the meeting on 20th May didn't take place the writing was on the wall and two days later there was an announcement that the club would have to withdraw from the league.
Former speedway mechanic Rob Godfrey visited the Trelawny track whilst on holiday in Cornwall. He soon formulated plans for speedway to return to Scunthorpe at the now under-used Quibell Park but the council rejected the plans and a search was started for a new site.
A Scorpions' team was entered into the second-half East Riding Cup at Hull. They raced 10 meetings and eventually won the league using riders like Rob Hollingworth, Ben Wilson, Richard Hall, Benji Compton and Richie Dennis.
The side also competed in a junior four team tournament at Hull, finishing 2nd and raced a Conference League Challenge match at King's Lynn. They lost 54-35 to the Malcolm Vasey-led Boston Barracudas with Chris Collins scoring 14+1 for the Scorpions.
The search for a new home was over as North Lincolnshire Council offer a 10-acre plot of land on Normanby Road. A long lease was signed and at the end of May Rob Godfrey and his co-promoter, Norman Beeney, started to build the track.
Once the track was complete it was then a case of building the pits, all of the fencing, installing toilets, a track shop, a bar and gravelling the car park and pits. The track opened with a practice session on Sunday September 19th and the sessions carried on throughout the winter.
Easter Sunday, 27th March, saw over 1500 people brave the Arctic conditions to see the Scunthorpe Telegraph Trophy won by Danny Norton. The crowds kept coming back as the Scorpions finished a creditable eighth out of twelve in the Conference League, just six points behind third-place Weymouth.
Norton was joined by Wayne Carter, Richie Dennis, Benji Compton, Byron Bekker, Ashley Johnson and Grant Hayes as the mainstays of the team. Late in the season the British Under-15 Champion Josh Auty joined the side.
The summer saw two stands built. They at least provided shelter until they could be terraced.
Wayne Carter, Richie Dennis, Benji Compton, Byron Bekker, Josh Auty and Scott Richardson returned. Andrew Tully and Tai Woffinden joined them and the team swept all before them.
Woffinden and Auty set the league on fire with ten point averages in their first full seasons whilst Carter and Dennis would be number ones in many teams and Tully rapidly developed into a heat leader standard rider.
With the league title decided by playoffs for the first time the Scorpions won the quadruple of league, cup, Trophy and Shield whilst Compton and Paul Cooper (coming in for the injured Carter) won the CL Pairs.
The club needed another year in the Conference League, as the stadium needed further investment, before applying to enter the Premier League.
With Auty, Woffinden and Tully joining Compton as doubling up riders the ten-man squad system was fully utilised. British U-15 Champion Joe Haines came in for Carter who had to retire through injury but the remainder of the side was retained and once again they swept all before them.
They won all three major titles and claimed the Fours title from Plymouth on their own track. In fairness it was perhaps one year too many in the Conference League as the side regularly thumped opponents at the newly-named Eddie Wright Raceway.
Promoter Rob Godfrey, with Kenny Smith (who replaced Norman Beeney as co-Promoter the previous season), changed the race day from Sunday afternoon to Friday night (because of the number of Sunday tracks) and were accepted into the Premier League.
From the off the racing produced was undoubtedly some of the best in the country. The team won 15 and lost 15 in their first league season to finish a creditable 10th out of 16. They finished fourth in the PL Fours at Workington and lost in the Quarter-final of the Young Shield.
A very impressive first season back in the second tier of British speedway
The club captured Wolverhampton's GB international David Howe, Jerran Hart and Simon Lambert to replace Richard Hall, Emiliano Sanchez and Ben Powell but after a bright start in the Premier Trophy form started to elude several riders. In the end Byron Bekker was replaced and after two further changes the club ultimately settled on Ritchie Hawkins. From that point the Scorpions' season improved and they finished the season strongly. Although they were once again 10th they were just five points behind 5th, having won 13 and lost 13 of their league fixtures.
Three semi-final appearances (Trophy, Knockout Cup and Young Shield) set a new bar for the club whilst the Saints side did well in the newly-named National League with a very young side. However, the season will ultimately be remembered for the sad loss of 'King' Kenny Smith, the club's co-promoter and team manager, on Monday 13th July, just two days after he bravely led his side out for one last time. He, and his contribution to Scunthorpe Speedway, will always be remembered.
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