OXFORD promoter Jamie Courtney has spoken of his pride in the WSRA Oxford Chargers powered by SD Timmo Car Sales, after they won the National League title by defeating Leicester Lion Cubs by 34-32 in a curtailed meeting at Oxford Stadium on Tuesday night. Chargers became the first Oxford side to win a league title in 18 years.
Courtney also revealed how close he was to cancelling the meeting after a heavy shower on Tuesday afternoon – on top of torrential rain early on Tuesday morning, that had already been cleared off the track.
He said: “I don’t think many people see all the hard work that goes into track preparation. A big thank you to all the track staff and volunteers for working so hard to get the meeting on. If anyone who saw the rain that we had at around 1.30pm on Tuesday afternoon, they would have said: ‘That’s it: we’re not going to see any speedway tonight.’
“I was halfway through sending a message to the boys to tell them we were going to cancel the meeting.
“But I then remembered that I’d said to myself on Monday night that we’d do whatever was in our powers to get the meeting on with a good, safe racetrack. And I stuck to my guns and we managed to get the track back into a raceable condition. It held up and it was safe, and fair play to the riders from both sides, who rode it very sensibly.
“Also, credit to the BSPL (British Speedway Promoters Ltd) for their decision on Monday, to make it a one-off final at Oxford, so everyone knew where they stood. That was actually requested by Leicester, and fair play for them wanting to see the title decided on the track.”
The meeting was marred by a crash by Leicester’s Max Perry in the aborted attempt to stage Heat 12, which wasn’t caused by conditions, but simply by four riders giving it their all into the first bend, knowing there was still only two points between the teams with just two races to go. Perry sustained various injuries, including a broken wrist and a broken ankle, and is currently in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Courtney added: “I’m a bit gutted that the meeting ended like that. It was such a pity to see Max Perry depart in the ambulance, and while he was receiving full care and attention from our excellent medical team, the rain came in and then got heavier and that was that. Otherwise, we would have got all 15 races in.
“The accident was just that. Max was going for it on the first bend and you can never knock a rider for trying, especially when silverware is on the line. I send my best wishes to him from both myself and behalf of the club, and I wish Max a speedy recovery.”
Courtney came in as promoter, alongside stadium leaseholder Kevin Boothby, during the latter stages of 2021 and oversaw the re-construction of the stadium prior to the return of speedway to Oxford Stadium in April 2022 after a 15-year absence.
In 2023, Oxford’s second season back in speedway has seen both Cheetahs and Chargers vying at the top of their respective divisions, with team manager Peter Schroeck and Courtney assembling two extremely competitive teams.
Courney said: “I’m over the moon, because the last time Oxford won a league title in 2005, I was a rider and this time around, I’m a promoter. It makes me feel pretty old, because I was almost exactly half the age then as to what I am now!
“The fans have been terrific and given us such good support. Not just the Cheetahs, but the Chargers have been so well supported.
“Ironically, the final was our lowest crowd of the season for the Chargers, but I don’t blame anyone who missed the meeting. It’s been very wet recently, the forecast wasn’t great, there’s been a lot of rain-offs and even the most optimistic supporters were expecting to turn up at the stadium and then find out that the meeting could not go ahead.
“A big shout out to everyone who assists us at Oxford – the sponsors, the volunteers, the track staff, the media, everyone.
“When you look at a speedway club, there’s so many people involved, many volunteering their services, and without them, the club could not exist. Everyone involved in this club deserved us to win the National League title. We did have this empty feeling after the defeat at Glasgow for the Cheetahs, and the season for the Cheetahs ended there-and-then, but winning the National League is something to be proud of.
“Well done to the WSRA Chargers – I’m very proud of them and so pleased for each rider that they’ve ended the season with a gold medal to show for their efforts.
“It’s also fantastic that we’ve got a trophy that we can take to our End-Of-Season Party a week on Friday (November 10). All the Chargers apart from Luke Killeen are due to be there, since Luke flew back to Australia on Wednesday morning, after he and his father drove back to Manchester after the meeting on Tuesday.
“We all get stressed out before going on a normal flight. Luke was on a flight to the other side of the world, so fair credit to him, because he had the additional stress of riding and not wanting to come off and get hurt but was still competing for every point.
“But it was a real team effort and I’m delighted for every one of them”, concluded Courtney.
PHOTO: Team manager Peter Schroeck and promoter Jamie Courtney are presented with their medals by Bert Harkins, chairman of the World Speedway Riders’ Association, the title sponsors of the Oxford Chargers (PIC: LES AUBREY)