The speedway news over the last few months has been a depressing cocktail of delays, uncertainty and cancellations. But a chance meeting of eight speedway fans online has led to the launch of a Swedish E-Speedway league bringing a smile in the gloom to speedway fans across Europe.
We catch up with Chris Engren, team manager for Indianerna E Speedway, one of the new teams formed to take part in this E-sport league. It has been named Elitserien Speedway Challenge and is sponsored by Po-Bandzie, a Polish speedway portal, who in turn sponsor the game itself which is called Speedway Challenge.
Engren lives in Nyköping home of Griparna and his favourite Swedish rider is Oliver Berntzon (pictured) who featured in the club's championship winning campaign in Allsvenskan in 2019.
He met the other seven founders of the league after responding to an advert for riders on Facebook page Speedwayfans Sverige. The page's manager, Adam Holman, was looking for people to represent Sweden in a match against Poland at Czestochowa. The match was streamed live on You Tube with Polish commentary and has now had over 1400 viewings, giving you an idea of how popular E-Speedway has become in the Corona pandemic.
Sweden gave the hosts a shock before in the end losing narrowly, 47-43. But Engren was pleased with his performance, "you can always do better, of course, but to pick up 6+1 points wasn't bad," he reflects (see link below to watch the match in full).
From that point the eight Swedes hatched a plan to start a Swedish league but had no idea what was awaiting them around the corner - nearly 100 riders got in touch to say they wanted to be part of Elitserien and then chaos reigned as teammates fell out, arguments raged in chat groups, foreign riders threatened to boycott - all before the tapes had gone up for the first heat!
Now three rounds have gone and the six teams, with c 10 riders each, are going head to head in a more orderly fashion. The teams are named after the original speedway clubs in the real Elitserien - Dackarna, Indianerna, Lejonen, Masarna, Smederna and Västervik - who all race on their home tracks within the game.
"Being a captain and a rider can be tough sometimes, but it is mainly fun," he says. The club took their first win of the season in Round 3 away at Gislaved. But Engren is confident, "this is a team that can challenge for Gold," he said.
Just like their counterparts on the shale, E-speedway riders like Engren also have a busy international weekly schedule. He races in Sweden on Tuesdays and in Poland on Sundays with Unia Tarnow - WSCL. He races there with Indianerna's assistant captain, Edwin Lekander who was the first ever Sweden to be signed to a Polish Speedway Challenge team.
"Racing in Poland is completely different from Sweden," he says, "the quality of riders is really high."
And then there is the day to day running of the Eliserien to contend with.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to almost all sporting events, but for speedway fans in Sweden the Elitserien SC has been light in the Corona tunnel, a glint of freedom among restrictions - all from the comfort of your own sofa.
Check out the latest updates on their Facebook page- @elitserienSC - where posts reach out to over 2200 speedway fans.
Elitserien Speedway Challenge is run by Anton Carlsson, Chris Engren, Adam Holman, Felix Larsson, Gabbe Lu, Edwin Lekander, William Jarl Boiardt and Adrian Jervis.
They especially want to thank the league's sponsors, Po-Bandzie, and Indianerna E Speedway are sponsored by cre8ivedesignz design agency.