FROM the smell of purring engines in the pits to the thrilling theatre out on the track, there is plenty to stir the senses during a night at Wimborne Road.
Speed, spills and no shortage of bravery go into giving punters what they expect from a night at Poole Speedway, but what about that ever-present element, always there but seldom noticed.
Whether you are a novice or seasoned connoisseur of the shale sport, there is a reassuring and distinctive voice in the background to guide you through the drama – that voice belongs to Pirates stalwart Nigel Leahy.
Since 2007, the 58-year-old self-confessed speedway nut has poured the passion of his 44-year love affair with the Pirates into his race night announcements which have become synonymous with the evening’s entertainment.
“I started going down when I was 14 and became a regular for best part of 20 years between the 1960s and 1980s,” said Leahy. “With various things I didn’t attend as often in the late 80s but found myself back more and more in the late 90s during the Mark Loram era.
“It was then that I was invited to do the video interviews in 2001 before presenting the annual awards evenings. Eventually I was approached by Matt (Ford, promoter) and Mike Golding (former promoter) about doing the centre green and was happy to accept.
“For many years, I had presented matches down at the cycle speedway but nothing like the level of the Pirates. The first week or two was a bit nerve-wracking but I was still delighted to get my teeth into the challenge of it.”
From difficult-to-pronounce Polish names to riders who cannot speak a word of English, not a lot gets the man behind the microphone in a flap, particularly after a baptism of fire on his debut on the Tannoy.
“They had completed the first race but there was a bit of a delay,” he recalled. “It came through on the radio that the doctors were attending to someone who was poorly in the pits.
“I was confident I could cover that for a few minutes with announcements but it got longer and longer. I carried on until it came through that someone had collapsed with a heart attack and was being attended to by the paramedics.
“There was a 45-minute delay while they brought him back and stabilised him. Had he not been at speedway that night with those medics on site he would almost certainly have died.
“That was how I was greeted to the world of presenting, with such a massive drama that I couldn’t speak about over the microphone.”
Oxford-born Leahy moved to the Bournemouth area when he was eight and has resided in Poole since getting married. He was a director and general manager of a distribution company for 30 years.
Having always committed himself to much more than his matchday persona, his involve-ment increased after becoming “semi-retired” in 2009 and has no plans to stop working at his second home.
The labour of love blossomed behind the scenes with the management of various fundraisers and testimonials, his pick being assisting speedway legend Barry Briggs’s charity ride round different stadia in 2010.
“I still pinch myself when I think back to those years I spent as a child on the corners cheering on my heroes,” Leahy continued. “To be a part of that now, to mingle with the riders and have those relationships with people like Barry is what dreams are made of.
“The crowd always play a big part too. The bigger the crowd, the better. They can give you a lift and provide the wind beneath your wings. Without a doubt, I relish the opportunity to play to a bigger audience.
“I don’t see an end and there is no exit route for me. I love what I do and to me it is still a huge privilege.”