Despite the traumas of the last week of the season, 1998 must go down as the
Bees most successful year in a decade, with two final appearances and the highest
league position since the title win in 1988.
The signing of the American pair, Billy Hamill and Greg Hancock, captured the
publics imagination, and their points scoring made the Bees a force to be reckoned
with wherever they went. Hancock is positive overall about the clubs progress during
his time at Brandon.
"Generally its been great. Ive enjoyed the two years Ive had at
Coventry Ive had a warm welcome, the fans have been excellent, weve has
a good team and a good working relationship with the management."
Some of the racing at Coventry this season has been superb, especially once the new
track bedded in, with the matches against Ipswich reaching an intensity never previously
seen in the British league. Hancock enjoyed the challenge of these meetings, but maintains
the view that the all-conquering Witches were beatable this season, given the right
"Weve had some really tough matches against Ipswich, and theres a lot
of hype about them as well because there were the favourites for the year after they
brought in (Tony) Rickardson and (Tomosz) Gollob as a top two, and theyve had a
stronghold on the whole league.
"But theyre not unbeatable, and I think theres a lot more hype than
actual riding ability. So I think they can be beaten, although I cant take anything
away from their success. I just dont think the gap is as big as everyone thinks it
If Ipswich have been Coventrys bogey side in 1998, a much happier state of
affairs has been the almost total domination over local rivals Wolverhampton. Perhaps
surprisingly, Hancock has some sympathy for the Bees near neighbours.
"Its nice to beat them as much as we have, but its not good for them
to have such poor performances theyre a relatively successful team through
and through, and to see them have as tough a time as they have had is not good, because
theyre always right there pushing at the top. But guarantee it that the way (Chris)
Van Straaten and (Peter) Adams work that theyll be back with a vengeance next
The key factor in the Bees magnificent K.O Cup semi-final success over Wolves
without the injured Brian Andersen, was the sensational debut of the 18 year old Swedish
whizzkid Andreas Jonsson, and Hancock has no doubts that the Bees have one of the
sports brightest young stars on their books.
"I rate him very highly the kids definitely the prospect for the
future. I think hes going to be the guy who will turn the tables for everyone,
especially for Coventry. Hes going to be the one to watch hes got all
the talent in the world, he works hard and hes got so much to learn and so much
still to come. Hell definitely be Swedens next hope."
As always, the sport is now in silly season made with all sorts of rumours
flying around about potential formats for next season. A novelty in any decision making
would be to listen to the riders, and Hancock is certainly not a fan of the current
"Id like to see it revert back to seven man teams, and Id change the
format back to the old style as well. I think this nominated rider thing has made it tough
its exciting for all of us, but its especially tough for the younger
guys who are trying to make up points at the lower end of the team. Id just like to
see them put together a format and a system that theyre going to stick with and
stick with for a long time so that everyones not left wondering whats going to
happen the next year."
Regarding Hancocks own plans for 1999, theres good news for Bees fans:
"Im very happy to stay with Coventry. Obviously it depends on the Cradley
situation, but under the circumstances I think its safe to say that well be
open to talks with anyone and everyone at the end of the year. But Im quite happy to
stay here, and Im sure that Billy and I will both be welcomed with open arms if they
want us back."
The one major disappointment for both Hancock and Hamill this season has been the loss
of the World Championship to the Tony Rickardson steamroller. Hancocks solid but
unspectacular campaign netted him sixth place overall, but Hamills clash with Jason
Crump in the last round saw him slip to ninth and elimination from next years
series, although he has since been re-instated as a permanent wild card. And the Hancock
message is simple Dont write us off.
"Well definitely be having a big push next year its going to be
really tough, but weve has a very hard year this year. It hasnt gone to plan
but well keep pressing ahead, we ant to win and we want to be on top all the time.
We want to keep Team Exide on top so I guarantee that well be pushing all the