Tuesday December 14, 2021
Members of the Swindon Speedway management joined day time track staff past and present to honour two legends of the club as they announce their retirement from the sport.

The track team of Ron Russell and Rod "Punch" Ford have prepared the Abbey racetrack since 2007 and both called time on their work for the club and the sport when news broke that the Robins would not be returning to track action until 2023.

To mark their retirement, Club Chairman Terry Russell presented Rod and Ron with beautifully handcrafted Swindon Robins breastplates bearing their names.

Rod Ford, known throughout the speedway family as Punch, celebrated his 80th birthday earlier in the year, coinciding with his 50th consecutive year of service to Swindon Speedway.

Punch was there at the very first meting at the Abbey back in 1949 and was encouraged to join the track staff by his great friend, the late Ray Morse, the Clerk of the Course for many years at Swindon, in 1971. Since then, he has worked alongside the likes of John Smith, John Hector, Gerald Richter and Ron Russell. A man of huge strength and character, Punch has taught so many people the art of repairing the unrepairable, repurposing what would have been scrap and solving the apparently impossible. Those who have worked alongside him over the years will know that it is a brave person who will try to match his work output.

He's witnessed nearly all of the greats around Blunsdon, and in a 2007 interview for the Blunsdon Blog identified Erik Gundersen as being his favourite rider for sheer speed and Leigh Adams as the most stylish he'd ever witnessed.

Of track preparation, Punch's view was that you can't take short cuts. The secret to a great track is in careful preparation and how you can work with the prevailing weather, rather than against it.

One thing is for sure, the track staff who gather to get the track ready for the 2023 season will notice a huge loss with Punch's departure.

Ronnie Russell joined the Swindon staff as track curator, taking over from Gerald Richter. A larger than life character in all ways, Ron has battled ill health over a number of years and feels that now is the right time to step aside. One of Ron's final major projects was to oversee the dramatic transformation of the racetrack at Swindon's Abbey Stadium immediately prior to the 2019 season. Bringing in turns 1 and 2, widening the whole track and adding new drainage transformed the racing at the Abbey, with many supporters describing the racing as the best they had ever seen at the Wiltshire track, as the rampant Robins plundered both the League and Cup competitions.

Speedway has been Ron's life since he was a young man growing up in East London, helping out at Hackney Stadium. In more recent times he was involved in promoting the sport at Lakeside and Rye House before settling at Swindon where he helped forge one of the closest knit teams of trackstaff in the country.

Like with Punch, his presence around the track will be sorely missed by all who know him.

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