BOB RADFORD TAKES A LOOK AT THE ROBINS OF THE PAST WHO HELPED PUT THE CLUB ON THE MAP
MARTIN Yeates and I share Salisbury as our home city, having lived less than half a mile apart, and we have been friends for well over 40 years. Though his name is best remembered as a Poole Pirate or Weymouth Wildcat, he twice played a significant role here at Blunsdon.
He started out practising at Ringwood’s Matchams Park and Stoke, and soon came under the wing of Mike Broadbank who was a superb trainer of young riders – something Swindon foolishly made little use of over the years.
His first outings were with Eastbourne, and very early on he took the Arlington track record. The Eagles however had 10 riders for only seven spots in 1974 which really did no one any favours, so he moved to unfashionable Weymouth and soon became a top line National League rider.
With two single seasons at Oxford in 1977 and 1984 Martin could, and did beat anyone, anywhere. His fast starts earned him the nickname Trapper but he also had a spectacular style. Amazing then that in 16 seasons of racing speedway bikes, he never broke a single bone in his body.
In the early 80s Martin was often Swindon’s number eight and he beat the likes of Bruce Penhall, Kenny Carter and others around this track. Eventually he was persuaded to give the top league a shot, but reverted to the National League. Weymouth closed and moved the team into Poole where the Reg Fearman led promotion had seen the stadium in liquidation.
Yeates was a consistent top liner at National League level and his leadership made the switch from Weymouth to Poole a hugely successful move in every sense. Twice he won the National League Pairs event where his partners were first, Simon Wigg, and later, Simon Cross.
He also became the first National League rider to reach the Overseas Final of the traditional World Championship campaign in 1984. He could beat the best, but perhaps lacked the confidence to tackle senior level racing but to his credit did attempt to do so both at Poole and Swindon.
He bowed out of racing at the end of the 1987 season at the comparatively young age of 33 and became successful in business owning Salisbury Caravan Centre.
When the Poole promotional duo of Mervyn Stewkesbury and Pete Ansell took over at Swindon, Martin became team manager for two successful seasons.
When the leagues merged in 1995 Martin and fellow Salisbury businessman Pete Toogood took over the promoting reigns at Swindon. The robins were eleventh out of 21 in their first season, climbing fast to fourth the following year.
For Martin though the pressures of speedway were taking a toll on his main business, and he left the sport for good. Today, with his son and two daughters grown up, he and wife Jayne share their time between their Salisbury home and Spain.
Martin Yeates was a joker off track and was very effective at playing practical jokes and doing impressions. He gave a lot to speedway in his career, and was not only a popular figure around the country but also a very good rider and did a sound job in his tenure as a team manager, and later as Swindon promoter.
Today he and wife Jayne have retired, their son and two daughters are living their own lives so the couple split their time between their homes – one just outside Salisbury, the other in Southern Spain.