Fence designer renews safety call

AIR fence designer Brian Osborne today admitted even his invention might not have saved speedway star Lawrence Hare from injury.Lawrence, known as Lol – who lives in Ipswich but rode for Exeter after stints at Ipswich Witches Oxford and Edinburgh – was paralysed in a crash at Newport on April 14.

By Tracey Sparling

AIR fence designer Brian Osborne today admitted even his invention might not have saved speedway star Lawrence Hare from injury.

Lawrence, known as Lol – who lives in Ipswich but rode for Exeter after stints at Ipswich Witches Oxford and Edinburgh – was paralysed in a crash at Newport on April 14.

He had a major operation at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport last week and can move his arms, and his accident prompted calls to make speedway safer.

Brian, from Somersham, rode for Ipswich in the 1960s, then Boston, Kings Lynn and Scunthorpe, and is friends with Lol.

He has also promoted the sport and is now a mechanic, while his son David rides. David was also injured and is currently off work, after damaging his kneecap at Peterborough.

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Brian invented the first air fence to be approved by the Speedway Control Board and the Promoters' Association.

It was used at Kings Lynn last year, and Brian said: "It seemed to cut down the number of injuries because there were no insurance claims during the time it was in place."

He said people had written to thank him after the air fence saved them from serious injury.

But he said: "Installing an air fence at Foxhall would be a step in the right direction, but I'm not saying it's the complete answer.

"It might not have prevented Lol's injuries, or even David's. I wasn't there to see Lol's accident, but riders can also be injured when they hit the ground, and I heard the damage was done before he hit the fence. You'd have to study a video of the race to see.

"Accidents will always happen, even if you put riders in Michelin suits. Racers still go fast and don't think of the danger when they are competing, only afterwards. The real racers take extra risks."

He said he designed the air fence after thinking about the idea for years, and it was finally made by Lakeland UK last year.

It is made of 70 air bags, and each takes a minute to inflate, then the fence has to be fixed in place and a 12-inch high kick board installed.

Brian said the lengthy process was the reason Kings Lynn has not used the fence again this year.

Most tracks only have about a day to prepare for a speedway meeting.