The begining of the 1982 season had looked very ominus indeed for the Falcon's. Missing from the line up of the previous year were Exeter's No1 Rob Maxfield who had moved across to Ellesmere Port. Also missing was Martin Hewlett, who's emergence onto the scene in 1981 hadn't gone unoticed and he opted to move to Swindon. And if that wasn't enough of a headache for Peter Oakes, John Williams decided to call it a day and retired.
Even if there was sufficient funds and ample time, filling the gaps in the team were of great concern, after all, an average of 23 points a match had been wiped off the team sheet.
Peter Oakes plugged the holes as best he could. Firstly he brought back John Barker who had moved to Milton Keynes the previous summer, rode one match then broke his wrist. Next signing was Bob Coles, who had been loaned by Weymouth the previous year for a short spell to counter the Barker departure. That was it, from there on in Peter had to hope for the best and pray that the rest of the side could somehow come good.
And make no mistake, a prayer was needed. Keith Wright had to make his return from the broken leg that had curtailed his previous season and Dave Brewer from the leg injuries which restricted him to half a dozen outings only in that same year. Barker had to come back from his busted wrist, and even with a crop of promising youngsters around, it needed some kind of miracle to field a strong side.
Exeter 1982 (L to R) Andy Campbell, Keith Wright, John Barker, Bob Coles, Les Sawyer, Chris Hunt, Dave Brewer and Keith Millard.
As it was, something of a miracle did occur in the rise to stardom of Andy Campbell and Keith Millard, who together, virtually double handedly saved the Falcon's from total disaster.
As the season started, the Falcons looked fine. They clobbered Boston and Milton Keynes at home, narrowly lost away at Keynes, got a beating from Newcastle (but then everyone was expected to cop that at Brough) and ran past the seventies for the next home match with Glasgow.Les Sawyer was racing better than ever, Barker was well on the way back to his very best and Andy Campbell was already showing that he was laying claim to the most improved guy around for the year. Coles was his usual solid self in the mid-section and Keith Millard looked more than just promising.
They couldn't quite master Weymouth in the KO Cup but they were only eight points adrift on aggregate, and against title contenders that was not bad going. So things didn't look quite so bad as had first been thought. But if Peter Oakes thought his prayers had been answered, he was about to be in for a nasty suprise.
First signs of a problem began when Dave Brewer suffered a leg injury, yet still remained in the team. Then Les Sawyer got a crack in the collarbone in May and was out until mid-June. At the same time, John Barker had a bang but was only out for a couple of matches. While Sawyer was out, John Williams made a comeback, scored seven points and then promptly retired again. Elsewhere, promising junior John Barclay took himself off to Rye House. Keith Williams, good at home but bad away, decided to go away completely and moved to Glasgow.
Just when it seemed things couldn't get any worse, John Barker was again injured with a broken wrist, and despite trying to make a come back in August, his season was over. Next on the never ending downhill slope was Les Sawyer who dislocated a shoulder in August and promptly ended his season and at about the same time, Dave Brewer's continuing leg injury forced him to end his seasonMark returned to the saddle soon after, but was then promptly dispatched with broken ribs. Just for good measure, Mike Semmonds also suffered injuries to his ribs in September.
Yet, despite all these mishaps, and at a time when the Falcon's might well have been truly rooted to the bottom of the League, they suprisingly found themselves in the top half of the table. The fact that they were was duly down to the fact of Campbell and Millard, Nos.5 and 8 respectively in the averages the previous year. They stretched themselves into new born giants. Campbell became the No.1, as befitted the one of the pair with the greater experience. But Millard, practically doubling his average from the year before in what was his first full senior season, came under the heading of a revelation. And lest anyone thought this former school-boy grass track champ was merely a throttle buster around the big strips, his top home score around the wide open ranges of Exeter was a paid 21. His top away score, around the narrowest of confines of the Crayford mini-strip a full 20. Both riders easily topped 400 points in their official matches and both were watched closely by British League clubs.
While they deservedly stole the major honours, it would be quite unfair to fail to record there were other bright youngsters popping up. Steve Bishop would seem to be the best of them, and Mark Reeve would have surely got better barring those injuries, and certainly looked worthwhile. Semmonds started well but was struggling visibly on the away circuits due only to lack of experience, and the late showing of Alun Rossiter (paid nine in two away matches) would seem to demand more chances.
Barker and Sawyer were both in the big time when they were sidelined. Coles remained reasonably steady as the old head and top second string. Keith Wright must rank as disappointing for even after his speedy return from Glasgow, he never looked the part away from home that he showed at Exeter.
It goes without saying that Falcons away record was their undoing. They won only once, 48-47 at Oxford. The amazing thing is that even with their chapter of accidents, they won all but one at home! Only Mildenhall and Newcastle prised the points out of Country Gound, and then by a mere handful of points each.
Elsewhere in 1982
The British Final belonged to the Grahame's, as Andy Grahame (14pts) wins from his brother Alan (13pts) and Kenny Carter(12pts) was third. Kenny Carter however went on to win the B.L Riders Championship at Belle Vue. His 15pts beat runner up Shawn Moran 14pts and Hans Nielsen 13pts was third.
Les Collins won the Inter Continental Final staged in Vetlanda scoring 13pts on his way to beating Kenny Carter (11pts) and Dennis Sigalos (10pts). Dave Jessup had scored 13pts to win the Overseas Final ahead of Kenny Carter (12) and Bruce Penhall (11), but it was to be Bruce Penhall (Pictured Left) who was crowned World Champion after dropping just a single point in his five races to beat Lee Collins (13pts) and Dennis Sigalos (12pts).
The USA win World Team Cup scoring 34pts to beat Denmark (24), W.Germany (18) and Czechoslovakia (17) and made it a double by winning the World Pairs Title. Dennis Sigalos and Bobby Schwartz scored a perfect maximum 30pts to easily beat runners up England (22pts), only the second maximum score recorded since the event was officially recognised back in 1970. The only other team to achieve it was Poland back in 1971.
And just to put a final stamp on the dominance held by the USA, American Dennis Sigalos (14) won the somewhat dissapponting Embassy British Open title in front of a poor attendance athite City. Runner up was Hans Nielsen (14) with Kelly Moran (12) in third spot.
Joe owen wins the N.L Riders Championship scoring 14pts to beat Steve Lomas 12pts and Bob Garad 11pts. Karl Kier is crowned World Long Track Champion. In the final he beat Muller, Weisboch, Gigenreiner and Peter Collins and Peter Carr was crowned British Junior Champion, he scored 12 to beat N.Hagon 12 and Simon Cross 12
B.Vue (46pts) win the B.L Championship from Cradley Heath (40pts) and Ipswich (34pts) after Hull had pulled out of the B.L after a dispute with the owners of the track making the number of teams in the League drop to an all time low of 15.
Newcastle win the N.L Fours Title scoring 17pts to beat Mildenhall (15), Middlesbrough(13) and Rye House (3) and then went on to win the N.L KO Cup as they comfortably beat Ellesmere Port 118-74 on aggregate.
Cradley (Pictured Right) put aside their League dissapontment and beat B.Vue 81-75 on aggregate to win the Speedway Star KO Cup and made it a double when they beat Ipswich 83-73 to win the League Cup.