Aside from his dislike of Wimbledon's new team leathers, the season has begun well for Joe Barnes – in racing terms at least. The Dons are scoring strongly and his own average is in double figures.
Off the track, one of his sponsors has pulled out at short notice, leaving a big hole in his finances and the purchase of a much-needed new bike has been put on hold. On the plus side, the editor of the Speedway Herald has asked him to write a weekly column and there is no shortage of invitations for individual meetings and guest bookings up and down the country.
He has every reason to be optimistic. This is 1978, speedway’s Golden Jubilee year and the newspapers are full of it. Special events are planned and there is a mood of celebration.
Beside the familiar logo of the sportswear manufacturer, Joe’s own face stared back at him, dressed not in racing leathers but in one of their new line of pastel-coloured polo shirts
Then an incident occurs that not only derails Joe's season but threatens to put an end to his racing career. It's a set-up, of course, but who would do such a thing and how can he get people to believe him?
As events run out of his control, Joe turns for help to a man he met two years previously when trying to prove the innocence of someone else. Now he needs the help of retired private detective Gilbert Reid to help him clear his own name.
And what of his major sponsor, the American perfume company Lubos? He relies on them to provide a major slice of his income but will they want to see their name associated with a tarnished sportsman?
In his efforts to salvage his reputation, Joe Barnes's journey takes him across London from Plough Lane to Waterden Road and White City, out to Reading’s Smallmead Stadium and as far north as Derwent Park, Workington. On the way, he's about to discover who his real friends are...
Joe opened the box and took out a small white bottle. It had been designed to look like a spark plug but was about twice the size, with a small grey cap
‘Pure methanol is practically odourless,’ the man said, ‘whereas nitromethane has a very unpleasant smell. What were you using – ten percent? Five percent? Even at those levels, the smell is unmistakable. You’ve been found out, the pair of you. And I hope they throw the bloody book at you.’
This was 1978, speedway’s Golden Jubilee year and Joe had made a strong start to the season…