Barkers testimonal plans revealed
Ben Barker has radically revamped his testimonial meeting plans to include teams from triple champions Workington, local rivals Newcastle and a select side representing the old Cleveland Park based Middlesbrough Bears.
The season-opening Four Team Tournament, on Saturday, March 23rd, replaces Barker’s original idea to stage a 20-heat individual meeting and now poses additional appeal to speedway fans from Cumbria and Tyneside.
Workington’s involvement could provide the Derwent Park club with its only chance to race together this year after last week’s shock decision to withdraw from the Championship.
The Comets claimed an unprecedented treble in 2018, winning the League, Knock-out Cup and Championship Shield but have since paid the price for success.
They were forced to race seven matches in just 11 days, the final four in barely 50 hours, at the end of October and the hectic schedule proved to be financially suicidal.
And when sponsorship, promised on the back of their triumphs, was not forthcoming their promoters were forced to reluctantly pull the plug.
Although manager Tony Jackson is adamant that the club will reform in 2020, he admits that Barker’s big day could be the only chance Comets’ fans might get to support their side in the foreseeable future.
“It’s such a terrible shame that Workington won’t be there to defend their titles this year and a tragedy for speedway as Derwent Park is a great track and one of my favourites.
“The idea of giving their fans at least one more chance to cheer them on in 2019 came to me and I’m obviously hopeful that as many Comets’ supporters as possible will take the opportunity to come across on the day.”
The meeting is likely to have an early afternoon start, in order to make it easier for travelling supporters to get there and home again.
Redcar’s local rivals Newcastle and a team representing the now defunct Middlesbrough Bears will make up the four teams contesting the meeting, which will have numerous other attractions both on and off the track (more details to follow).
Comets boss Jackson enthused: “I can’t see a problem in us taking part or any reason why Steve Worrall, Kyle Bickley, Bradley Wilson-Dean and Simon Lambert (all originally signed in readiness for the forthcoming season) wouldn’t want to ride.
“We could also call on former Workington riders with maybe Ty Proctor, who is also an ex-Redcar rider, also coming along.”
Proctor, who next season will ride for Sheffield but spent his two formative years in the UK at the South Tees Motorsports Park, would obviously be a popular draw for many Teesside fans who have memories of his thrill-making exploits in 2008 and 2009.
Barker has also hinted that not one, but two former national champions, both still at the top of their game, will be racing as guests to bolster the sides, while explaining:
“I’d like all the Redcar riders to take part and get some more pre-season practice so, in addition to the Bears, which I’ll probably lead alongside either Michael Palm Toft or Charles Wright, I aim to have a side representing the old Middlesbrough Bears, possibly under the name of the ‘Boro Bears’? “Whichever out of MPT and Wrighty doesn’t ride for Redcar will lead the other side, which I hope will be managed by Gary Havelock (Redcar captain between 2006 and 2012 and 1992 World Champion), who began his stella career with Middlesbrough.”