TRIBUTES have been paid to the former Coventry speedway promoter and team manager Colin Pratt who has died at the age of 82.
Colin had been fighting illness over the last year and he passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning.
His career saw him take on virtually every role in the sport dating back to his riding days, when he reached the 1967 World Final and he became a giant of speedway administration especially in the Midlands as well as having a successful stint as England team manager.
Colin spent over a decade in charge of the Bees’ great rivals Cradley Heath but, despite the strong on-track rivalry, there was always a mutual respect as the two clubs often shared the same beliefs over how the sport should progress.
After winning the Elite League title with Bradford in 1997, Colin became promoter at Coventry in 1998 as the long-term successor to the legendary Charles Ochiltree, who passed away later that year.
Colin worked hard to uphold the traditions established by Charles in keeping Coventry Speedway at the forefront of the sport – both in terms of success and overall organisation of the club, essentially making sure things were ‘done right.’
During his time at the helm, he made numerous rider signings who would enjoy lengthy careers with the club, and also ensured there was a firm focus on developing young talent.
Initially Bees suffered several ‘near misses’ in their bid for the league title, although they did win the Craven Shield in Colin’s third season, but his subsequent team management partnerships with Peter Oakes and then Alun Rossiter led to some of the club’s greatest-ever achievements.
Between 2005 and 2010, the Bees won three Elite League titles, two KO Cups and two more Craven Shields, including the unforgettable Treble campaign of 2007.
Colin also kept the big events coming to Brandon with the successful stagings of three British GPs (1998 to 2000), the World Team Cup, the Speedway World Cup in 2007/08 and GP Challenge in 2009.
He relinquished his role with the Bees in August 2012 shortly after overseeing the World Under-21 Final taking place at Brandon, but many people will not be fully aware of the part he still played in saving the 2014 season.
By this time, Colin had taken on a role overseeing stadium matters for owner Avtar Sandhu, with the speedway club having been sold, and after major track issues at Brandon in the early part of the year it was Colin’s work which was vital in ensuring the speedway and stock car seasons could go ahead.
He spent a successful stint as co-promoter of Swindon, teaming up again with Rossiter for another league title in 2017, and having re-located to Norfolk he then oversaw Peterborough’s elevation to the Premiership and helped lay many of the foundations for the Panthers’ highly successful 2021 campaign.
Campaigners battling to bring back the Coventry Speedway said sadly they did not see Colin around the tracks that year due to his illness, but he always kept in touch with the sport and was a firm supporter of the efforts to bring both speedway and stock car racing back to Coventry.
They added he took the time to be involved in meetings with Sport England over recent years as other clubs’ futures have been threatened by developers.
And they said Colin became the first inductee to British Speedway’s Hall of Fame earlier this year and his lifetime dedicated to the sport was worthy of wider recognition.
“We send our thoughts and best wishes to his family and friends – and we can be certain that his contribution to Coventry Speedway, and the sport in general, will never be forgotten.”