Freelance Installations NORA British Upright Speedway Championship seed Darren Phillips (pictured) is looking forward to lining up alongside former Speedway World number two and World Pairs Champion Gordon Kennett who was a star man of the 70’s and 80’s.
Phillips said “I met Gordon last year at one of the Wightlink Warriors meetings when he was the team manager for Oxford. He’s a really nice bloke and I remember as a nipper watching his all-action style from the terraces and now I am pinching myself thinking about the prospect of actually being in a race with him. He will be a big threat and I will be definitely keeping an eye on his other races!”
Phillips took part in the Upright Team Series last year at Smallbrook and was one of the standout riders in those meeting, posting race winning times comparable with those being achieved in the main events by racers using the full modern specification laydown machinery. Darren added “I was pleased with how I went on the Island last year and it’s nice to achieve those winning times. I am really enjoying riding speedway again. I came back into it by sharing a bike with my son Ben at Scunthorpe amateur meetings about three years ago. We were sharing the bike in different classes and the machine would sometimes do twelve outings in an afternoon! We soon built another bike, so we had one each!”
An all-round motorcyclist, Malvern based Phillips now 50 and the owner of a successful sand and gravel business, started racing schoolboy motocross at a very young age and then followed his elder brother (Andy Phillips) into the Junior Grasstrack scene, where both siblings learnt the art of oval track racing with success. Darren remembers “We both raced Grasstrack and the natural progression was to move to Speedway when we were old enough. We used to watch Speedway when we were lads at Cradley Heath mainly. We were Speedway fans but didn’t support one particular club. The father of Cradley rider Simon Cross helped get Andy an opportunity at Wolverhampton and I followed him by getting a team place in the Junior Wolves squad around 1988. The Junior League was very competitive with strong teams who often had a main team rider at number 1. I actually didn’t race Speedway for too long and stopped racing at 17. Then three years ago it all started again! I really wasn’t sure how it would go but it has been good.”
Riding motocross in the interim years satisfied Darren’s two wheeled cravings and it wasn’t until his son Ben started riding Grasstrack that he was tempted to start racing the oval track disciplines again.
One of Darren’s highlights of the last three years was in the British Amateur Upright Championship at Scunthorpe where he won an epic final from the back in thrilling fashion. “I made a great start in the final but lost momentum on the first bend. Mick Skinner and Wayne Carter both went by me, so I was then in third place. I got by Mick and then set off after Wayne. We had a great race and I managed to cut back on him coming out of the final bend and snatched it on the line. Brilliant feeling and Wayne was superb afterwards. We go back a long way. Right back to those early Wolverhampton days and of course Wayne had a fantastic professional career coincidentally as a rider for the former Wightlink Islanders. It was a good day.
“I like to race and use the dirt. I will be racing more on the Grasstrack this year than Speedway, but really looking to the NORA British Upright Final in August. I enjoy riding the Smallbrook track and that back straight feels like it goes on forever as you go into the banking on the pits bend. The effort the promotion put into their meetings is fantastic and they involve the crowd as much as they can which is what it’s all about. I am also interested in seeing how Mark Simmonds goes, as we also go back a long way to our Junior Grasstrack days. I have seen Ian Barney in action recently at Iwade and he was going good and of course Wayne Broadhurst, Tim Curnock, Dean Felton, and Tony Atkin are class racers. The eight qualifiers will also add to the quality so it should be a great event. Fair Play!”
Darren Phillips never knows when he is beaten and has a fantastic all action style which will be a superb spectacle around the big, pacy Smallbrook track. An all-round natural rider and a fast racer who admits himself, as long as he is racing regularly, he doesn’t tend to need too much practice.
Yet another rider who is sure to be in close contention come Finals Day on the 11th of August.