Can you believe it’s only 3 weeks until our season opener at the National Speedway Stadium? This week we speak to the man who finally brought the league title back to Manchester after 29 years, CEO Mark Lemon.
Sun newspaper writer Phil Lanning chatted to the Australian about his remarkable 2022 season…
MARK LEMON was close to tears and said it was “emotion beyond belief” as the ATPI Aces clinched the Premiership title at Sheffield.
It had completed an incredible rollercoaster of a few months for the gritty Australian.
Just a few months earlier, he had masterminded Australia’s Speedway of Nations win in Denmark, just hours after the heartbreaking passing of his father.
Lemon, 50, now embarks on the tough task of defending that league title but he is ready for anything at the world’s most famous speedway club.
He said: “I’m honoured to be at the most iconic club in the world. I remember growing up and seeing pictures of the likes of Peter Craven and Ivan Mauger. To bring the title back home was a great feeling, to do that for the fans.”
Lemon has a sensational track record since becoming boss. There’s been four Grand Finals and only one season missing out on the Play-Offs.
He added: “It was elation beyond belief. I just didn’t think it could happen. So much hard work went into the title win.
“Matej (Zagar) and I go back to 2016 when we had our dreams dashed by a single point at Peterborough while both at Reading in the Grand Final.
“It was our fourth final at Belle Vue, I couldn’t bear to lose another final.
“There was so many people we have to thank, especially our owners Tony Rice and Robin Southwell. Our sponsors and partners like ATPI and Rentruck, just incredible backing for so many years.
“The fans had waited 29 years for this moment. It was great to see them celebrate. They deserved it, they’ve been great.
“We’ve had ups and downs and years when we’ve worked really hard and it’s not happened. That win made it all worth it I think.”
It rounded off a season of incredible highs, lows and heartbreak for Lemon having won the Speedway of Nations with Australia just a couple of months earlier.
His tears on the podium as the champagne flowed were down to losing his dad Graeme just 48 hours earlier.
‘Grazer’, ‘GJ’ or ‘Lemo’ had fought Prostate Cancer and Parkinson’s but after a 13-year battle with illness finally succumbed aged 83.
For Lemo junior, it was the most gut-wrenching rollercoaster of sentiments on the biggest of stages.
He admitted: “Was it the pinnacle of my career, as a manager yes. My career as a rider and manager are light years apart.
“It’s such a hard one for me to say, to be called a World Champion is great. But at the time I was pretty much dying inside.
“I don’t know if anything somewhere was pulling strings but on that night everything just fell into place.
“I seemed to make the right decisions and the boys rode exceptionally well.
“From when the boys went over the finish line it was just a rollercoaster of emotions.”
Now Lemon is ready to go again with another strong side for 2023, adding: “We are feeling confident for the new season. I’m happy with the side but it’s always a long few months when anything can happen. But it will always be exciting and never dull!”
*Peter Craven Memorial, National Speedway Stadium, March 20, 7.30pm.
Image: ©Taylor Lanning