From Mossley to Melbourne
As the new speedway season roars into action next month, About Tameside has recently caught up with one of the borough’s former riders, Mike Hampson – once the sport’s Conference League Riders Champion (CLRC).
Mike, formerly of Mossley but now residing in the sunnier climes of Melbourne, Australia gave us an exclusive on his impressive racing career.
How did you first become involved in racing speedway?
As a family we had watched Belle Vue speedway since I was a kid. I had always been interested in bikes and as a teenager I was hooked on BMX. One day when I was 15 or 16, I came home from school and announced to my dad that I wanted to start doing BMX racing, join a club etc. It was at that moment my dad said, “Why don’t you try speedway instead”, and that’s where it all started.
We bought a second hand Jawa speedway bike, a set of former World Speedway Champion Peter Collins’ old leathers from the man himself and my dad convinced a helmet shop in Manchester called Skid Lids to sponsor me with a helmet.
My first ride on a speedway bike was on a beach in Southport in the winter, we went there a few times and that’s where I started to learn to get the bike sliding sideways. I progressed to practice and training days at Odsal and Stoke before being given an opportunity to practice after the official meetings at Belle Vue. It was there where I got my first opportunity to ride for Belle Vue Colts which is their junior team.
What teams did you ride for?
During my career I rode for Long Eaton, Belle Vue, Hull, Sheffield and also for Buxton. It was whilst riding for Buxton at Mildenhall that my speedway career came to an end in 1997. I was unbeaten in my first four riders but in the final heat my fellow team rider collided with a Mildenhall rider and was catapulted into me bringing us both crashing to the ground. He sustained a broken leg, and I sustained a dislocated wrist and a broken scaphoid.
Although I continued to ride after my injuries had healed, I was not enjoying it as much as I used to, and the decision was made to pack up my racing leathers in 1997.
Who did you look up to or who influenced you during your racing career?
Kelly Moran, one of the top American riders was a good help in my early days.
Speedway is an exciting but also dangerous sport. Did you sustain any injuries?
Yes, speedway is very dangerous, these bikes are 500cc and have no brakes! Over my career I sustained a dislocated left wrist, broken scaphoid in my left hand which now has a pin it, broken left collarbone and broken left ankle.
What were your best moments of racing?
I think winning the CLRC in 1996 was probably the highlight of my racing career but when I was riding for Long Eaton, our team finished runners up in the league for two years in a row, narrowly missing out to Glasgow twice. The second time went down to the last meeting of the year away at Glasgow, we had to win to take the league championship. We led for the first half of the meeting, but Glasgow slowly but surely pulled off the win.
But overall, I just loved the racing, in close contact with a competitor, having a good on track duel with plenty of passing and then after the chequered flag acknowledging the rider afterward no matter who won and getting the crowd up on their feet cheering for their home rider, brilliant, loved it.
What are you doing nowadays?
I live in Melbourne, Australia with my partner Julia and 2 dogs where I run my own uPVC double glazing installation company which I established in 2008. I am heavily into riding downhill mountain biking which is becoming really popular here in Australia and over in Tasmania where I have ridden a few times. I have a dirt bike for bush riding in the cooler months over here and then in the winters I go snowboarding, in New Zealand, Japan, Canada and even here in Australia! Victoria and NSW both have 3 snow fields each where you can go and get your adrenaline fix in winter.
We also own a caravan and have been on some epic road trips across Australia, the first was to Lake Eyre which is the lowest point in Australia, 15m below sea level, our second trip was to Uluru (Ayres Rock). Australia has some stunning natural scenery, but you have to do a lot of driving to experience it. The longest one-day stint of driving I have done over here was 13.5hrs from Melbourne to Kangaroo Island.
Do you still follow the sport of speedway?
I still follow the Monster Energy Grand Prix series with a passion. The hardest thing about living in Australia is the time zone we are in compared to Europe where most of the speedway racing takes place. They have speedway events on over here, mainly in North Victoria which is unfortunately a 6.5 hr drive from where I live, bit too far to go to watch a home meeting!
One incredibly unique record held by Mike was his five track records in the same speedway meeting at Buxton. In the 90’s riders had five races throughout the meeting, he broke the track record in his first race and then again in each of his four following races beat the previous time set! As well as the Buxton track record Mike also held the fastest time at the Mildenhall track at one stage.
Mike’s father Derek and his young nephew Zach are both avid Belle Vue fans, regularly attending the racing at the National Speedway Stadium in Gorton.
About Tameside would like to thank Mike Hampson for speaking to us from his life in Australia.
Words and Photos
Howard Murphy and the Hampson Family