Joe Screen - Derbyshire's Speedway star
PUBLISHED: 12:57 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:06 20 February 2013
Alex Carlisle meets Chesterfield's Speedway Star, Joe Screen
The crowd is cheering, the commentators voice echoes up into the night sky accompanied by the rumbles and roars of single cylinder engines warming up. Floodlights illuminate a dirt track upon which four, five or sometimes six riders eagerly wait for the green flag. The colourful team liveries distinguished by sponsors logos on race suits, helmets and gloves all the riders have to protect them from the wall lining the oval track will soon become a blur. The fastest rider wins; for those who crash it may mean serious injury, broken bones or even death. For those who finish somewhere in between, its just another race.
Joe Screen is one native of Chesterfield who knows all about winning. He knows a lot about injury too, and a bit about the stuff in between. Born on 27th November 1972, Joe is now 37, though he says: When it comes to this time of year I feel more like 47 when the cold snaps at my injuries.
For over 20 years, from the age of 16, Joe has been a professional speedway rider Though I could ride a bike before I could walk, he admits gleefully. His list of accomplishments is impressive, to put it mildly, and few other riders have managed to remain at the top level of speedway for so long.
In 1993 he became the under 21 world speedway champion, admitting: I should have won it the year before, but my bike broke down. The year before that Joe finished second in the final for the World Championship. He won the British championship in 1996 and 2004, the elite league riders championship in 1992, and the British under 21 championship in 1990 and 1993. Team victories include honours in the elite league KO Cup in 1995, 2002 and 2005 amongst a whole host of others. Joe has also enjoyed success in grass track and long track of which he is a former British Masters champion.
It all started when Joe went along with his father when he was riding. Happiest when on two wheels, from an early age he knew hed be happy doing anything as long as it involved motorbikes. He can still fondly remember the 50cc scrambler bike he learned to ride on, recalling I would ride for hours in the fields near Crowe Lane by the old Trebor sweet factory, but its all changed now. Joe attended motocross trials and junior grass track and then at the age of 14 started to ride speedway bikes.
Joes passion for the sport remains as strong. Today he rides for the Poole Pirates and lives in Warrington, with his wife Lindsey, who he met at a speedway event. Together they have a young daughter, Jessie, who has just started school. When I ask him about his outside interests he describes himself as a family man. Certainly his philosophy of life seems to be go out and enjoy it. Training involves riding big scramblers with very big engines cross-country in North Wales referred to by those in the know as Enduro-riding.
Speedway motorbikes are very different machines to any other type of competition bike. For a start they dont have brakes! They also only have one gear but dont think this means they arent very fast. Nought to sixty takes just two and a half seconds and depending on the gear ratio set up, which can vary from circuit to circuit, they have a top speed of 140 kph. This is certainly fast enough when you are only inches from the next rider. The single cylinder, four-stroke engines run on methanol and use a simple carburettor. Unlike many other forms of motorsport there is little electronic telemetry used, except for the purposes of recording lap times. In many respects the bikes have, relatively speaking, stayed true to the simple form from which they began.
Speedway originated in Maitland, New South Wales, Australia during the 1920s. These days its very popular in the UK with some greyhound tracks still being used to host events. However, its fair to say that it is more popular in central and northern Europe. As a consequence Joe will often have to travel as far as Poland and Sweden to practise and has enjoyed success in the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark.
Closer to home, tracks such as those at Kings Lynn, Sheffield and more recently the Joe Screen academy at Buxton Raceway afford Joe the chance to give something back to the sport. Im there to offer advice and observe the riders and their techniques, sometimes you can find extra speed purely in the way you sit on the bike. Im known as a leg trailer, because I stick my left leg out a lot when sliding the bike. The secret to riding well is to be relaxed and calm on the bike.
Joes advice to any youngster who wants to follow in his footsteps or simply get involved is to get yourself down to the speedway. Joe adds sincerely, Top superstars will give you the time of day, the people involved in Speedway are a friendly bunch.
The sport seems to be one of the few that are undamaged or uncorrupted by money and politics which is something in the world we live in today! Joe tells me a tiptop competition bike costs around 6,000, which is next to nothing when compared with other motorsports. Perhaps the fact that riders like Joe, who are top class professionals in their sport, have to work outside the sport to earn a living helps.
Joe didnt speak about his other job, instead he related a long list of injuries hes had inside the ovals. Left collar bone broken four times, left femur, left foot shattered, and last but not least, braking three vertebra. Joe laughed, then ended: but none of them were my fault.