Have you ever wondered how does a day of the speedway rider starting in TAURON SEC look like? Now, you have a chance to find out. Along with Bartosz Smektała, we're taking you behind the stage and reveal all the secrets.
When do you start thinking about the meeting?
Depends on the time I have. Speedway season is constructed in a way that one meeting is often chasing the other. Today we're here and the next day, we're going somewhere else. We usually have a long road ahead and right after the meeting, we just have to get into bus and keep on going.
So let's assume you have a bit more time, don't need to go to another meeting right away. How do you prepare then?
I watch videos from different meeting that has already been taken at particular track. I'm always trying to analyze this footage and draw some conclusions. If I have already had a chance to compete at this track, I open my notebook and check the setups I've been using before. I make my own notes, so I can always refer to it. I often do so, but on the other hand, it doesn't always necessarily work.
What about your packing for the meeting?
That's my mechanics' role. I know it takes some time, everything needs to be properly arranged in the bus. Then you have to check whether everything's packed for sure. Whenever I have such a chance, I'm always trying to help, but quite often I come when it's all set and done.
Have you ever forgotten anything?
Can't recall such a situation. We're always prepared in one hundred percent, because everyone's responsible for their part of this job. When I open bus's door, I always check whether helmets, shoes and my bag are packed. I don't know the exact division of work in my team, but they do realize everything has to be packed and that's their duty to make sure it is so.
What do you do during these trips?
Usually I just sleep, especially when it's a long road ahead. Sometimes I read or scroll my phone. That is always a right moment to once again watch some old matches and get to know something more about the track we're about to race at. Like I said, I also look into my notebook and analyze these notes. I'm always capable of organizing my time well.
When you're arriving to the stadium, first thing you need to do is to unpack, right?
Exactly. Luckily, we don't have that many things as you may think, so it's not so disruptive. Usually, there are three bikes, tools box and other accessories used during racing.
Do you rather like pack or unpack?
To be honest, I have never wondered about it. I think there's no big difference, we just have to do both.
Then, practice comes. You always tend to use it?
Sometimes, I prefer to let go, but in the case of the last round in Chorzów, practice session will be extremely important. It's a one-day track, so you need to get familiar with it, check its geometry.
How much does this practice session help when it comes to preparing for the meeting?
Everything depends on how much this track can change before the start. For example, in Guestrow, practice was very helpful, because thanks to it, I chose the right engine and god a good score. In Toruń, it was completely different. We had got the best setups at practice, but then rain fell down and track slightly changed. It's not a secret it caused me some trouble. If I hadn't done practice, I would have probably started this meeting better, because then I wouldn't have suggested with solutions I had seen as the best during the practice.
What do you do after the practice, while you still have some time before the start?
I'm trying to rest. If there's a need, I often sleep as well. Except that, I clean my helmet, goggles and other elements of my equipment, slowly getting ready to start. Each time I also care about a right and valuable meal before the meeting.
What do you usually eat then?
Definitely I'm trying not to eat random things, but on the other hand, I don't have my favourite or permanent meal. I'm always trying to make it light, that would make me feel well during the meeting.
And what about your mechanics? What do they do?
Usually, they just take care of my equipment and I must admit they have plenty of work to do, because after a practice, you need to prepare and secure bikes. Meanwhile, they get the power they need, just like me. We're always trying to eat a lunch together, drink some coffee. After we regenerate, moment comes to get the bikes set and watch carefully what's going on the track. Time is flying really fast.
Before the meeting, you prefer to hide in your pit or walk through the pits and chat with your colleagues?
Depends on a day. Sometimes, it's better to hide, especially when I come to the stadium tired after an other meeting. Then I usually go to my bus to take a rest. When I'm fresh and well-rested, I like to sit in the pits, look what's going on at the track. I don't have any particular, permanent way of behaving before the meeting.
What about fans and journalists wanting to talk with you?
I always like to have a chat, but it all depends on the time I have. Sometimes, we have autograph sessions and then my schedule gets really tight. There's not much time left for a chat, because I still need to go on the track, talk with my mechanics, warm-up, dress etc., but I'm always trying to find time for fans and journalists.
When do you get into the full concentration mode before the meeting?
I think it's around two hours before the first heat. No matter what the meeting is, I always try to be in the pits, getting ready to start. However, it does not work in a way that others can't come to me and have a chat. With every next minute, I just keep on focusing more, but still receive incentives from surroundings (laugh).
How does your warm-up look like?
I like to do it individually. I don't make any special exercises, though. I just stretch and get ready to start.
Do you have any rituals thanks to which you feel better prepared to the meeting?
Before going out to every heat, I do a fist bump with boys from my team. It is an obligatory thing we cannot omit. Fist has to be bumped and it's just out of any discussion.
How does your behaviour change when the meeting finally starts?
I'm always trying to be the same man. I can't say that all of a sudden I become someone different. It's obvious that some of behaviour comes from the things taking place at the track, including failures, but I do my best to keep it out of my attitude.
But you can get mad too, right?
Of course. I'm only human. In speedway, there is a huge adrenaline and a tough rivalry. Emotions are buzzing, but I'm trying to stay calm.
During the meeting, you prefer to combine with your bike or you just put all your faith in mechanics when it comes to preparing the equipment?
I really enjoy working with my bikes, but usually that's what I do during the winter. I come to my workshop and get my bikes set. I really enjoy doing so. During the events, however, I don't have much time for such things, I focus on my duties. I need to make sure that all the accessories, which I use during heats, are cleaned and prepared to the other starts. I trust my mechanics, because I'm not able to control everything during the meeting. In my team, there's always my dad with me and he keeps his finger on the pulse. Everyone's doing their work great.
What about the meeting itself, watched from your perspective?
In fact, I spend not much time at the track, it's just few minutes if we sum all the heats up, but I'm trying to treat it as a one long race, which lasts for three hours, sometimes even more. I keep my full concentration from the very beginning till the very end not only at the track, but also in the pits. I can't be interested only in racing itself, but need to do so with all the other stuff. Through the whole time, I have to watch how does the track behave and analyze whether it's changing a lot. My task is to pass this information to mechanics to make them implement the right changes. Only after the meeting, I can take a big breath.
How tired is a rider after such meeting?
It us surely a huge tiredness, but it's hard for me to put it on any kind of scale. Everything depends on a meeting, but I can't deny that these kind of tournaments take a lot of effort. Perfect situation comes when the results are good - then, tiredness mixes with a smile on one's face and it's way better to come home.
But then, additional duties are added - press conference and lots of journalists. I'm sure, you like it a lot as riders, who are so tired after the meeting...
I don't have any problems with that. I do realize it's just part of my job, so there's no need to complain and say that it bothers me. Being on a press conference is not that bad, because it means I did my job well and got myself into the top three. No way that a smile can get off my face.
I expect that right after that, you're all about packing things quickly and run home.
Definitely, but firstly I need to fill all of my duties. There's no other way.
Do you tend to analyze your performances a lot?
I'm always trying to see what was good and what didn't go well - to be smarter in the future, but quickly forget it too. I draw concrete conclusions and try to separate it with a thick line. I can't think about it all the time, another meeting is coming and you need to prepare to it.
Do you enjoy this lifestyle of a speedway rider?
If I didn't like it, I wouldn't race. I like what I'm doing and it gives me a huge pleasure. Naturally, it can be a bit exhausting, but that's the way I chose. Trips are the hardest, living on the road, travelling around Europe in just couple of days time. Luckily, you can get used to it. The most important is that racing gives me a huge satisfaction.
Soon, Bartosz Smektała is headed to the great final of TAURON SEC, which will be held at Silesian Stadium in Chorzów (Poland). After three rounds, Pole is fourth overall with only a one-point loss to Mikkel Michelsen (3rd) and five to the leader - Grigorii Laguta. Will "Smyk" be able to reach for the Euro Championship medal? The answer comes on 28th of September, 2019.