The Ben Fund Bonanza at Leicester opens the British Speedway season on Sunday (2.00 pm) and this year the meeting is also the first outing for the Great Britain team under their new manager Alun Rossiter.
Rosco has taken the opportunity to have a look at some of the less experienced contenders for his side with Richard Lawson and Kyle Howarth included alongside the obvious top names such as Tai Woffinden, Chris Harris and Craig Cook.
They race against the Rest of the World in a match on the old 14-heat format with 8 riders per team. The riders of both sides will then contest a second half of four heats and a final for the Ben Fund Bonanza Trophy.
Organiser Paul Ackroyd again stresses the importance of the event. He said “2013 proved to be a very difficult year, with several riders suffering extremely serious injuries. Due to the support of the previous Bonanza’s and track collections, the Fund was able to react swiftly and efficiently to be able to give the necessary assistance as required.
“A snapshot of the type of help we gave last year was: assistance towards home adaptations, purchase of a wheelchair, assistance for former (veteran) riders suffering serious illness and financial support was given to more than 50 current riders. In total we spent £120,000.”
Several of the former riders now in wheelchairs will be attending the meeting. Garry Stead is of course managing the Rest of the World team and also expected are Neil Hewitt, Graham Miles who is now WSRA president, Steve Weatherly, Joe Owen and possibly former Belle Vue captain Alan Wilkinson.
GREAT BRITAIN: Tai Woffinden (Captain), Richie Worrall, Chris Harris, Danny King, Craig Cook, Kyle Howarth, Richard Lawson and Ben Barker
REST OF THE WORLD: Bjarne Pedersen (Captain), Josh Grajczonek, Adam Skornicki, Cameron Woodward, Ty Proctor, Patrick Hougaard, Nick Morris and Morten Risager
Sunday’s International at the Jordan Road Surfacing Stadium between Team GB and a Rest of the World side will mark the first occasion that Tai Woffinden will wear the captain’s armband since being appointed to the position by Team Manager Alun Rossiter last month. The British World Champion, who makes his Leicester track debut, will form a strong opening partnership with the Belle Vue rider Richie Worrall. At three and four Rossiter has elected for an experienced pairing in Chris Harris and Danny King. The two rode together for Birmingham last season and wearing the number five race-jacket is the fastest rider to circumnavigate the Leicester circuit, Craig Cook who holds the track record and on past performances as a visiting rider he has few equals. Partnering Cook is Kyle Howarth who was a winter signing for Coventry. At reserve is Richard Lawson who receives his first call-up to ride for his country at senior level. The Lakeside rider won the 2013 Pride of the Midlands Trophy at Leicester and alongside Lawson at reserve is Ben Barker who was selected for Team GB’s World Cup squad last season.
On the opposite side of the pits, the Rest of the World team is managed by Gary Stead and the side comprises of four Australians, three Danes and a Pole. Leading out the team will be the vastly experienced Bjarne Pedersen who will be partnered with Josh Grajczonek who rounded off a successful season with two league championship medals with Poole and Somerset along with a gold medal in the Premier League Pairs event. One of the sports’ most entertaining riders is Adam Skornicki, the 2008 Polish National Champion, who lines up alongside the Eastbourne captain Cameron Woodward.
For Leicester fans it will be their first glimpse of Patrick Hougaard since he signed to ride for the Rapid Solicitors Lions. The former Peterborough rider will ride alongside Ty Proctor who was scoring well for Wolverhampton before an injury adjourned his season last year but is now fully recovered and keen to pick up from where he left off. Finally, at reserve are two riders who know what it feels like to win races at the JRS Stadium. At number seven is Nick Morris, a potential match winner who rides the track as well as any visitor and Morten Risager, who was in the Ipswich team that won the Premier League Fours’ in 2011 at Leicester.
“The format of the meeting will move away from the traditional fifteen heats. Instead, the two eight man teams will race over fourteen heats and there will be more scope for the team managers to try to gain an advantage. Whoever wins the toss of the coin, that team will have choice of gate positions on the start-line in the first heat but then the gate positions will alternate for every subsequent race thereafter. In addition, there are no fixed gate positions so tactics should come into play for the team managers who will have the opportunity to decide where best to deploy their riders on the start-line. For example they may decide that a certain rider favours an outside grid whereas his partner may prefer to ride the inner lines so that may be how the team managers position their pairings for a particular race” explained the Lions Press Officer, Alan Jones.
Supporters heading for the meeting on Sunday will be given the opportunity to have their photo taken with World Champion Tai Woffinden.
Tai is making himself available between 12.00 noon and 1.00 pm on Sunday inside the stadium, and anyone who wants to be photographed with him will be able to, for a contribution to the Benevolent Fund.
After the main international team event, each rider will compete for the Ben Fund Bonanza Trophy. The four heat winners from the qualifying races will meet in a Grand Final and immediately afterwards the sixteen race jackets worn by the riders will be auctioned off in front of the two home straight stands and the money raised will go to the Speedway Riders’ Benevolent Fund.
The meeting starts at 2.00 pm and the stadium ticket office will be open at 12 noon on the day. Normal Leicester Speedway admission prices apply for this meeting with the exception of the family ticket which will not be available for this event.
The one remaining fixture in the National Trophy competition has now been agreed. The Leicester Lion Cubs will visit Kent on Monday 9th June with a start-time of 6.30 pm.
There are fixture date amendments for the senior team who will now race against Eastbourne and Poole on the following dates.
The visit of Eastbourne to Leicester on Thursday 15th May has now been moved to a new date of Saturday 26th April. The Poole Pirates, who were scheduled to race at the Jordan Road Surfacing Stadium on Thursday 24th April, will now race against the Lions on Bank Holiday Monday 26th May with a start-time of 3.00 pm.
There is also a change to the original fixture at Poole. The Rapid Solicitors Lions, who were due in Dorset on Wednesday 11th June, will now race at Wimborne Road a week later on 18th June.
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