SPEEDWAY STAR NEWSDESK
A SHEFFIELD boss Simon Stead is expecting to see the crowds come flocking back to Owlerton in 2020.
The Tru Plant Tigers have assembled an attractive looking line-up for their elevation to the Premiership and will be led by three-time World Champion Nicki Pedersen.
Stead admits it’s an exciting season in prospect and says the Sheffield locals should take full advantage.
“I think the team we’ve got at Sheffield is definitely play-off material and obviously in Nicki we’ve got what I think is the club’s most exciting ever signing,” Stead said.
“We know things haven’t quite gone to plan the past couple of seasons and we’re determined to give the Sheffield supporters something to cheer about.
Perfect timing for Alfie LFIE Bowtell says his return to the National League with Plymouth comes at the right time in his career.
He said: “I’m really pleased to be joining Plymouth and a forward-thinking promotion. We quickly agreed terms on a deal and I’m looking forward to racing for them next season.
Bowtell, second in the NLRC of 2018 when he was racing for the Isle of Wight, missed out on the third tier this year but has now signed for the Gladiators as their new No. 1 in place of the retired Ben Wilson.
“I think I missed the extra meetings in the National League last season, and that certainly slowed my progress down racing in just the one league.
“Plymouth are a great club who have high ambitions to go into a higher league, and it would be the perfect tonic to help them win the league.
“The knee is now 100 per cent right and I’ve been busy training in the gym and will be fitter than ever come March.”
Bowtell insists he is still keen to secure a Championship berth, having raced for Eastbourne in 2019 – but like many recent NL graduates, the way has been blocked this winter.
Holder boost J
ACK Holder warmed up for this weekend’s Australian Championship with a fine win in the Jason Crump Cup on Boxing Day.
The new Sheffield signing notched 12 points in the qualifying heats to book his place in the A Final alongside 2018 Australian Champion Rohan Tungate and German racer Erik Riss.
Belle Vue man Brady Kurtz joined them with victory in the B Final but couldn’t stop Holder as he flew from gate three to claim a third title in just under six weeks.
The likes of Bowtell, Danyon Hume, Nathan Greaves and Ryan Kinsley have all achieved averages of over three, but appear to be the victims as teams complete their sides with assessed 2.00 riders – which should be a concern for the league.
Bowtell said: “I’m still looking for a spot with a Championship side but I’m prepared to wait and see what offers come my way.
“Full credit to the promotion for not only taking the step up to the Premiership, but also for putting together such a competitive team.
“I really do feel we’re in for such an exciting season and after the crowds dipped a bit last year for one reason or another, I expect to see Owlerton really busy on a Thursday night this year.”
Supporters will have another opportunity to snap up season tickets at Owlerton Stadium this Saturday (January 4) between 10.30 am and 2.30 pm.
Tickets for An Evening With Nicki Pedersen on January 23 will also be available for £15.
ISLE of Wight chief Barry Bishop wasted no time after National Development League plans were confirmed at the AGM – and their team is already complete.
The Warriors have quickly unveiled their solid septet as they aim to finally get into the play-offs, having knocked on the door since their return to the third tier.
There are plenty of familiar faces within the side with big-hitter Ben Morley joined by experienced Scott Campos and returning Connor Coles, back after two seasons away from Smallbrook.
Last year’s Rider of the Season, Connor King, will line-up at reserve along with new signing Macauley Leek whilst teenager Chad Wirtzeld steps into the main body of the team after an impressive debut campaign.
And Bishop says they were keen to keep the ethos of the side who came agonisingly close to reaching the top four last year after a strong finish.
Bishop said: “Obviously it’s been a busy few weeks, but once the rules were confirmed at the AGM and we knew the points limit we were keen to get cracking with our plans.
“We’re delighted to have Ben Morley back at No. 1 for a third straight year, and having Connor Coles return to the side is excellent news as he was a very popular
Holder’s Australian season couldn’t have started any better. He won the inaugural FIM Oceania speedway solo title at Gillman Speedway in November, followed by victory in the 2019 NSW speedway solo championship at Kurri Kurri three weeks ago and topped it all off with his Boxing Day glory.
And the 23-year-old believes lining up against all his Australian Championship rivals will stand him in good stead as he gears up for the first round at Kurri Kurri on Saturday (January 4).
He said: “It was nice to win it, considering it was a really strong line up that is very similar to the Australian Championships. So to come up against them and see where you’re at with them is good.
“It was a really strong line-up so I was pleased to get the win, but now the trophy I really want to win is coming up so hopefully I can continue my good run and become Australian Champion.
“I can’t wait for them to start, it’s a pretty fun and hectic week travelling around Australia with the family. Of course I think I can win it otherwise I wouldn’t be out there just to make the numbers up.”
Holder also admitted after a testing 2019, he can’t wait for a ‘new challenge’ with the Tru Plant Tigers in 2020.
“We’ve got a really good team on paper, and we all know each other pretty well so it should be a fun year. I’m really looking forward to the new challenge,” he said.
Report: JOE APPLETON
Warriors ready rider for us previously.
“We were keen to keep the ethos of the team which almost made the play-offs last year because the team spirit was as good as we’ve ever known it on the Island.
“Connor King deserves to be back after the progress he made last year, and it’s a big year for Chad Wirtzfeld stepping into the main body of the team, but we’re fully behind Chad and won’t put any pressure on him at all.
“Obviously Scott Campos came back to us midway through last season and brings a lot of experience, and Macauley Leek is a rider we think can improve at reserve, so we’re happy with how things are looking and excited for the season to start so we can see the boys in action.”
Cub Lawlor LEICESTER have added Joe Lawlor to their National League side – despite his move to Championship rivals Redcar.
Lawlor was popular with the Lions’ crowd when he joined the senior team in the second half of last season and played his part in their double triumph.
He switched to the Bears earlier in the winter after Leicester elected to pair Dan and Joe Thompson at reserve this year, but the 19-year-old will now still have involvement at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena.
Promoter Stewart Dickson said: “When Joe first came in for the Lions I think he was a bit over-awed by being in the same team as people like Scott Nicholls, big British Championship-type riders, and it took him a while to get going.
“But he had an excellent Grand Final in the Championship, which I’m sure he was very pleased about after he’d left Glasgow before turning a wheel for them!
“It’s never easy to come in during mid-season, but he did it and got two medals with us and I was pleased to see him get fixed up with Redcar, which I do think will suit him.
“I’m actively looking for sponsorship in the Plymouth area and I would welcome any businesses who would be interested in helping me out in any way.”
Gladiators head into the New Year with one space remaining to complete their side, having added Arran Butcher at reserve as their sixth signing shortly before Christmas.
SOMERSET boss Garry May insists the Championship’s new format remains a level playing field.
Ten extra league fixtures have been created for each club by having a second home and away clash within northern and southern sections, meaning some teams will tackle each other four times while facing opponents from the other half of the division only twice.
But May believes there will be no stronghold in either half and argues it “is the best way” of delivering the meaningful fixtures fans are after.
“I don’t think there will be an imbalance,” he said.
“Northern tracks will have good riders and so will the southern clubs, I don’t think it will make much difference.
“We couldn’t have done Edinburgh, Glasgow, Berwick twice, it wouldn’t have been good financially but the fans wanted more meetings so this was what we came up with.
“Hopefully it will be good for crowds and more people will travel.
“There is the £5 off for certain clubs as well (a reciprocal discount for season ticket holders at Swindon, Somerset, Poole and Eastbourne on visits to each other’s clubs) which is good for the fans who like to get around different tracks as well as the away fans.
“We need to get speedway going again and this is the best way.”
6 speedway star January 4, 2020
“But I always said it might not be the last we saw of him at Leicester, and he’s pleased to get the opportunity to join the Cubs. Racing in both leagues will certainly help his development.”