Speedway mourns former Robins ace Lee Richardson
GREAT BRITAIN speedway international and former Swindon Robins star Lee Richardson died on Sunday night after crashing during a Polish League match.
Richardson, 33, was due to captain his current Elite League team Lakeside Hammers when they host the Swindon side on Friday. The fixture is expected to go ahead as a mark of remembrance.
His death is the most high-profile in the sport since Tommy Jansson was killed in Sweden 36 years ago.
Richardson was a true gentleman of speedway, for whom the old cliché ‘no one had a bad word to say about him’ was palpably true.
Swindon Robins team manager Alun Rossiter said: “He leaves three very young boys, it's very sad. Lee was an absolute role model. Very professional in the way he went about his business.
“He was immaculate on the track and off it. I must admit the tears have been flowing.”
Reigning world champion Greg Hancock tweeted: “Unreal news. It doesn't seem real and another innocent one is gone. Our thoughts are with the whole Richardson family. RIP Lee.”
Richardson, a former Grand Prix star and World U21 Champion, raced for three seasons with Swindon between 2005 and 2007, winning the Elite League Pairs Championship alongside Leigh Adams in 2005.
The Hastings-born rider remains Team GB’s record point-scorer in the Speedway World Cup, having amassed 240 points across ten tournaments for the Lions.
His stellar British career took him to Reading, Poole, Peterborough, King’s Lynn, Coventry – during which spell he was crowned Elite League Riders’ Champion – Swindon, Eastbourne and Lakeside.
In 2012, his schedule saw him competing at the highest level in three different countries – Britain, Poland and Sweden.
He was racing for PGE Marma Rzeszow at Betard Sparta Wroclaw in Poland’s Ekstraliga on Sunday when he crashed into a safety fence during his opening ride. He was taken to hospital in Wroclaw but is said to have died on the operating table from internal injuries.
Swindon co-owner Gary Patchett has written a wonderful tribute to the man known universally as Rico in Friday’s Lakeside v Robins’ progamme.
Patchett said: “It was an honour and a profound privilege to know and work with Lee Richardson. Put simply, he was one of the finest riders that I ever had the opportunity to work alongside and without a shadow of a doubt a man of great professionalism and integrity.
“I had only just got involved with Swindon in 2005 when Rico and Leigh Adams won the Elite League Best Pairs on a damp, misty evening at Peterborough. I remember thinking at the time ‘I’ll have some more of this as soon as you like’.
“He rode with great distinction for the Robins for three seasons and I will always regret never being able to bring him back to ride at Blunsdon. He was always very philosophical, though. ‘That’s speedway’, he’d say.
“Lee always gave 100 per cent wherever and for whoever he rode. He was an ever-present in the Swindon 2007 team that reached the Grand Final against his former club, Coventry. He was regularly the top-scoring Brit in Sweden and Poland and rode with great distinction for Team GB.
“My fondest memory of Lee is a personal one. After the 2006 Grand Prix at Parken, Rico, his lovely wife Emma and I went for a drink at a bar close to the stadium. I don’t think Lee had a meeting the following day in Poland and was ready to let his hair down a little. We spent some time chewing the fat and the conversation between the three of us moved on to families.
“For some reason, and I don’t think I will ever know why, I told them both that my parents had decided on my name before I was born and that if I’d been born a girl then I’d have been named Bridget. Can you imagine that? Bridget Patchett!
“From that day onwards Lee always called me that and those not in on the joke always looked on strangely when they heard it.
“Lee and his wife Emma always looked like a film star couple and had been childhood sweethearts. They have three beautiful sons, Josh, Jake and Jenson. They are great kids and a tribute to their dad.
“Rest in peace, mate. We’re going to miss you.”