Newport Speedway has been around for more than 90 years and is one of the most iconic motorsport venues in the UK. It is located in Newport, South Wales, and is easily accessible by road or rail. It is also within walking distance of the historic Big Pit. Many consider the speedway to be an essential part of any motorsport fan’s bucket list, and for good reason!
With the Covid restrictions becoming less stringent, people are now able to meet at large events, including sport events. Newport Speedway is no exception and on Saturday 28th May, the iconic track held a special celebration event to reopen its doors following the Covid suspension. The event, entitled ‘Sideways to Mainstreet’, was a sell-out and saw the entirety of the 12-lap British Championship race streamed live on the internet.
The Historic Track
Newport Speedway is a 12/8-lap motorcycle speedway race track located in Newport, South Wales. The stadium was built in 1928 and has been the centrepiece of motorcycle sport in Wales ever since. There are a few other tracks in the country, but nowhere near as historic or as well-known as Newport. It is considered to be one of the three ‘Big Three’ speedways in the country alongside Leicester and Plymouth, and for good reason!
Even before Covid, the popularity of motorcycle sport in general and speedway in particular in South Wales was at an all-time high. The region is home to the Yamaha Motorcycle Grand Prix, which was first held in the country in 1923, and has been staged annually ever since. The World Championship also came to the region in 1923 and has been held there ever since. The British Grand Prix, an important championship race for many years, was held at the Olympic Stadium in London until 1987 before making a home at Silverstone.
The stadium has a capacity of 13,000, with 4,000 of those seats being in the grandstand. On Saturday 28th May, the majority of those seats were occupied by motorsport enthusiasts who attended the special event to see the first ever 12-lap motorcycle race at the venue in more than 90 years. The entire stadium and grounds were also equipped with additional sanitising stations, as well as new safety measures, ensuring that everyone felt confident and at ease while watching the action unfold on the track.
The New Covid Measures At Newport
Following the Covid restrictions being lifted, the question on everybody’s lips was ‘is Newport open?’ The short answer, as you would expect, is ‘yes’. The iconic track has taken extensive measures to ensure that nobody puts anybody else at risk of contracting the virus and has seen its gates open to the general public for the very first time since the pandemic began.
Even before the pandemic, the authorities had been scrambling to find the correct formula for allowing people to engage in ‘normal’ life while still adhering to social distancing protocols and minimising the risk of infection. The ‘grand reopening’ of Newport in May was the culmination of many months of negotiations between the motorsport community and local authorities, and the fact that the track has stuck to its initial premise of safety stands as a testament to that. During the initial stages of the pandemic, when people were still adhering to more strict measures, the track kept a careful eye on the developments around the world and implemented stringent protocols to ensure that everybody, fans and participants alike, maintained their health and safety.
As a direct result of those measures, spectators, participants, and staff are now able to attend matches and engagements, including the upcoming British Championships, which are being held as part of the Road Cycling World Cup in Manchester, without fear of infection. The British Road racing series has returned to its roots with a series of ‘home’ races in the UK including the Tour of Britain, which starts and finishes in London and visits various provincial towns and cities along the route. The week-long event is a celebration of all things British and will feature some of the best racing teams in the world as well as a plethora of local talent. In addition to the Tour of Britain, the British Superbike Championships will again crown a champion in 2019, with championship races taking place throughout the year. With the right circumstances, it is entirely possible that we could see a return to pre-pandemic spectator levels at Newport, at least in the immediate future.
What Next For Newport?
With the current status of motorcycle sport in the country being largely positive, with the advent of the summer season bringing more opportunities for riders, teams and clubs, the focus will now shift to the future development of the sport in the UK. It is expected that the governing bodies, the British Motorcycle Racing Board and the Motorcycle Association, will look to stage more major events, including the annual ‘twin peaks’ GP, in the country.
Alongside the twin-centre format, it’s also possible that the authorities could look to expand the programme overseas. The speedway world is a competitive one and there are many lucrative opportunities in other parts of the world, with the lucrative Indian and Chinese tours, for example, offering major pay-rises and allowing motorcycle fans to follow the sport they love from afar.
For now, though, the focus will be on reestablishing the country’s most cherished motorcycling tradition and ensuring that everybody, including the thousands of people who attended this year’s special event, can enjoy the thrill of victory and the unique experience that is speedway at its best.