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Images from the 2022 German Speedway Grand Prix,
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Getting Up to Speed with Speedway Rookie Dan Bewley

Jul 292022

FIM Speedway Grand Prix racing is darn near as big as it gets in Europe in terms of two-wheel motorsports. Packed soccer stadiums with a custom dirt oval track plunked down on the soccer pitch, speedway racers battle wheel-to-wheel, bar-to-bar, and sometimes boot-to-boot at speeds approaching 80 mph, sideways, and with no brakes.

And it’s said that a 500cc Speedway GP bike, which has just one gear, can accelerate to 60 mph faster than an F1 car. So in other words – Whoa.

Monster Energy rookie FIM Speedway GP racer Dan Bewley is enjoying an interesting year to say the least on the world’s premier speedway circuit. From getting the call as a replacement racer for the FIM Speedway World Championship, due to Russian and Belarusian racers at FIM-sanctioned events being ruled ineligible to race because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to having his motorcycle – literally – break into two pieces in an epic race crash at the FIM Speedway GP in Prague this past May, Bewley’s for sure in the midst of one heck of a wild freshman ride this year in FIM Speedway GP.

Monster Energy was interested in Bewley’s story and had the chance to catch up with him recently. And here’s what Dan had to say…

Rolling back a few years, how does one get started in the sport of speedway racing, growing up in Great Britain? We hear you first developed a liking for two-wheel competition racing dirt bikes.

 

For me, I started off racing motocross, but a good friend of mine used to race speedway. He had a motocross shop and his sons raced, but they started doing some speedway, too. One of them, Richard Lawson, swapped over to it full time, and he said to me, ‘If you ever fancy a go, let me know.’ And I was curious, so I gave it a go and really enjoyed it. From there I just stayed with it, I’d just turned 16, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

 

Expand a bit more on your dirt bike career. Was that a course you’d hoped to take to follow in the roost of Great Britain MX greats like the Rickmans (Don and Derek), Dave Bickers, Jeff Smith, Graham Noyce, Dave Thorpe, and Jamie Dobb (pardon us if we missed anybody)? And from your generation, the likes of Tommy Searle, Dean Wilson, and Max Anstie?

 

All of my childhood, my dream was to be a motocross rider. I did watch a bit of GP stuff in Europe, but I was always about the American outdoor racing – and that’s what I watched most. (Guys like) Bubba Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Eli Tomac, Blake Baggett, all these guys were my heroes. I always dreamed of joining those kinds of guys, but I never really believed I was good enough, at least not until my last year on the 85s when I started to get some good results and believed a bit more. It would’ve been awesome to go and race outdoors in the US, but in the end, I’m not sure I was ever really good enough.

 

Ultimately, was there a fork in the road that led you from the bumps and jumps of motocross to the flat-laid sideways speed of speedway?

 

I’d just turned 16, and I was in my last year of racing 85s in the British MX Championship. I’d started to win a few races and was doing well, but I was only 4’-11”. I was just too small – 110 pounds, and I knew that I wouldn’t have been competitive on 250s at that size. I didn’t really develop until I was about 19 when I grew and got a bit bigger, so at that stage I wasn’t big enough. I tried speedway and fell in love!

So when did you turn pro, and what route did you take to reach the pro speedway ranks in Great Britain?

 

It all happened pretty quickly for me. I practiced a lot throughout the winter once I’d tried it, and I did some amateur meetings (aka races). I basically just took as many opportunities to ride as I could, not turning anything down, and just got my name out there, really. The big local team to me, Belle Vue Aces, were recommended me and then doors started to really open. Someone in the Edinburgh team had visa problems and that meant they had a gap in the team and they gave it to me. I wasn’t really ready for it at first, but after a month or so I started to score pretty well, and it all seemed to click for me.

 

You won the U19 British Speedway Championships in 2019, then backed that up with the World U21 Championship title in Poland that same year. Talk about that season of racing and how that helped you get into a position to race Speedway GPs.

 

It actually wasn’t the best season for me in terms of my riding development, to be honest. My head wasn’t all there because I’d had a big crash and broke my leg, and I was quite scared of doing it again because I came back before it was fully healed. That made me work on my craft a bit more. I learned a lot about the sport in that time and a lot of stuff about the bikes, set-ups, and all that other stuff that you need to get right. It probably all came a bit too easy to me before then, but that time taught me a lot about the other side of speedway, and it forced me to work a lot harder.

Last year, Great Britain won the 2021 FIM Speedway of Nations. Your fellow Monster Energy FIM Speedway GP racer, Tai Woffinden, was injured, and you got the call-up to represent Great Britain on the three-man team. You guys ended up winning it all, Great Britain’s first FIM Speedway of Nations victory since 1989. Talk about that event and what a big deal it was not only for you personally but also for your country.

 

It was pretty cool! Great Britain has always been seen as underdogs, really, and for a long time, I don’t think anyone thought we were a threat. We were just a one-man team with Tai, but now we aren’t, and I think we proved that to everyone. It’s really good progress for us. We showed we can mix it with anyone in the world – and now maybe we will be taken seriously. It was just cool to prove we can do it. I remember always watching the MXoN and supporting America because you knew GB wouldn’t win it, and it was maybe a bit like that for us in speedway, too, but I think that’s probably changed now!

 

That’s excellent. Also in 2021, you had a role in assisting Wrocław Club (Poland) end their 15-year PGE Ekstraliga Championship drought. And you also led Belle Vue to the SGB Premiership Grand Final. Talk about these events and how they helped further your speedway racing career, guiding it towards a possible spot in the ultimate – Speedway GP.

 

Being in those big meetings at the end of the year, when it’s against the strongest teams and the hardest races with the most pressure, it helps you a lot. You kind of see where you’re at, whether you can do it or not, and I think it helps you see how good you can be. For me, it made me believe in myself even more and just showed that I can do it when the pressure is on.

 

As fate would have it, in early 2022 FIM Speedway GP officials revoked the licenses of Russian/Belarus racers Artem Laguta and Emil Sayfutdinov, both of whom rode for Monster Energy, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With that, you were given the call-up to compete in the world’s premier speedway series. What was your thought process on the day you received notice that you’d be racing FIM Speedway GP this summer?

 

That was actually really tough because I was with Artem playing ping pong at the time I got the call! We were on a training camp with Wrocław and were chilling out, and he got the call first and his world fell apart a bit really. I felt worse for him than happy for myself, really, so it was hard to be excited when I could see how much that hurt him. Obviously, it’s cool for me, I’m really enjoying it, and it’s something I have wanted to be part of for a long time. But on the day itself, it was a weird situation.

 

That’s for sure, heavy. Talk a bit about your FIM Speedway GP season so far, and how it’s been moving up and competing against the absolute best in the world.

 

It’s been pretty good so far. I’ve shown that I’m on the pace, and I’ve been in the top three or four for qualifying in most of the rounds – and I topped it in Gorzow. I just need to translate that to the race now. The last three have been really good, and I’ve felt like I’m up there, but I need to carry my pace right through to the end and make sure I can do it at the end of the night.

 

One of the highlights this year, or lowlights depending on how you look at it, was that you had a bike actually break in half on what appeared to be a rather innocent-looking crash. Talk about the crash that was going through your head when you realized you’d broken your bike in half. 

 

For me, it was strange because I had no idea what happened! I got my breath back, looked up, and I was just in disbelief at what happened really. Luckily I was just winded and there was no big damage because it could’ve been much worse. Lucky escape.

That footage is bananas. We’re pumped you came through uninjured. … Talk a bit about the remainder of the FIM Speedway GP season and what goals you’d like to accomplish.

 

I obviously want to make the top six and qualify for next year’s series, which would be awesome. But I’m just going to focus on my riding and see what happens. I have little targets and I want to keep making semi-finals and, obviously, make my first final. And then when we get there, we’ll re-assess and see where we’re at. But it’s really just to keep getting better, keep showing what I can do, and hopefully make that first final soon.

 

Lastly, American dirt track racing, or ‘flat track’ over here, is a bit different. While we still have some pockets of speedway action (See: Costa Mesa Speedway), the American version of the sport takes the larger, heavier V-twin racers and puts them on half-mile and mile courses. Speeds reach 140 mph, 90 mph in the corners. Is that something you’d like to try someday?

 

100%! I actually bought a 450 dirt track bike at the end of last season to try and learn the sport a bit more, get the technique a little bit, and have some fun. I’d love to get better at it. I’m going to try and get over to Spain and do some more riding. And if I get good enough, it’s a dream to go over to the US and see if I can get an invitation to do a meeting of some kind. I just need to do a bit more riding and get it together!

 

Right on. Well, best of luck the rest of the way in FIM Speedway GP, Dan. We look forward to tuning in and following the Monster Energy-backed FIM Speedway GP racers throughout the rest of the season.

 

Thank you! And good luck to the USA in the upcoming Moto Des Nations (Sept. 23-25)! Monster Energy’s (Eli) Tomac and (Chase) Sexton have been on it this summer. Should be a great event over at RedBud MX!

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