South Wales is becoming a major player in the UK for hosting world-class sporting events following the successful UEFA Champions League final, several of the 2012 Olympics football matches in Cardiff, and of course the Ryder Cup in Newport in 2010.
One major event that returns every year to the Welsh capital is the Adrian Flux British FIM Speedway Grand Prix which will take place in the Principality Stadium on Saturday 22 July. This will be the 17th year the SGP has returned to the Welsh capital and once again, thousands of thrill-seeking fans from across the globe will make their way to South Wales.
The biggest event in the Speedway calendar, the SGP was first held at the former Millennium Stadium on 9 June 2001 in front of over 30,000 fans. Now also the longest-standing third party event in the stadium’s calendar, crowds regularly top 40,000 with additional people drawn to the capital for the family-friendly Fanzone alone.
Phil Morris, originally from Cwmfelinfach and now living in Wyllie, became the first ever British FIM Speedway Race Director in 2015 when he took over the role from his predecessor, Tony Olsson. A former Newport speedway rider during the 2007 season at Hayley Stadium, he too believes that South Wales is proving itself as a world-class region for sporting events.
Alongside his Speedway duties which literally take him around the world during the season, Phil also runs New Tredegar-based food manufacturing company, Made in Wales, but with speedway hat firmly on, and speaking about the upcoming British SGP, Phil says:
“The FIM Speedway World Championship does indeed take us around the world – from Poland, to Czech Republic, Sweden, Latvia, Australia among other fantastic locations – but there is something special when we come to Wales. Cardiff is the benchmark that every other round is compared to. It’s the one everyone wants to win.
“I think Cardiff is so special because it’s such a close city. The proximity of the Principality Stadium makes the occasion – it’s right there in the city centre. You can be in a restaurant, a café, a bar or a shopping centre and step out into the action. The city is taken over by fans from all over the world, all of whom are in good spirits and help to create the carnival atmosphere. It really is a cosmopolitan event where demographics differ vastly. Don’t get me wrong, Wembley is amazing, but to get anywhere else is another journey.
“In Poland we race in the PGE National Stadium in Warsaw but Cardiff is the jewel in the crown of the Speedway world. People keep coming back time and time again, year after year, because they enjoy it.”
As for the impact on the region of events such as the Adrian Flux British FIM Speedway Grand Prix and the recent UEFA Champions League final Phil adds:
“These occasions raise the profile of South Wales and do wonders for tourism in the area - not only for hoteliers who sell out for the SGP every year, but shops, restaurants, cafes - it’s great for the general economy. And there are so many options for visitors; they can stay in Cardiff city centre, visit Cardiff Bay, pop to Newport, or head into the Monmouthshire countryside.”
The SGP this year will see Great Britain’s double series winner, Tai Woffinden, taking on reigning World Champion, Greg Hancock as well as 2012 World Champion, Chris Holder who has been hit by a series of injuries. Phil thinks it could be the closest SGP for a long time. He says:
“The season has been really interesting so far; we’ve had a different winner in each round, so it’s all to play for. It’s the strongest it’s ever been and all the riders are fighting, not only for the top three positions, but also the top eight to ensure they qualify.
“Patryk Dudek, who is racing in his maiden SGP series, is currently joint leader with Jason Doyle. Dudek has been really impressive, whereas we’ve seen the more experienced riders, like Woffinden and Hancock, struggling. The wildcard for this event, Craig Cook, has won his last two qualifications and stands a real chance. The track in Cardiff is suited more for British riders as it’s small and technical, so it could work to his and Tai’s advantage.”
So how does Phil manage running a business at home with travelling around the world for Speedway, and family life?
“I’m very lucky that I have a great team at Made in Wales who I trust and who do a first-class job at the day-to-day running of the business. I also have a very supportive family. During March to October I’m away for a week, home for a week, and throughout July and August I’m away for longer in Russia for the GP Challenge and then to Poland for the World Games – which is the equivalent of the Olympics. My family know that Speedway is close to my heart and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Advanced tickets for the 2017 Adrian Flux British FIM Speedway Grand Prix can still be purchased and start at just £25. Visit http://speedwaygp.seetickets.com. Family tickets and VIP packages are also available. Further information about the event can be found at http://speedwaygp.com.