PREVIEW: Battle of Britain round one kicks off this weekend

The elite Cycle Speedway team racing calendar gets underway this weekend, with round one of the Battle of Britain series commencing on Sunday. Ipswich’s Whitton Raceway and Poole’s Harbourside Park are the venues, for what should be 4 excellent matches.

The South East & East team won the elite men’s series on points difference in 2017 over close rivals the Midlands. Both sides beat each other once and defeated all others to tie on points, only for the SE&E to clinch it on count-back. However, this year, any such tie would see a playoff on a neutral track.

The two rivals meet early again, with the Midlands taking the trip down the A14 to Ipswich. A fine team racing spectacle is sure to be on offer, last year’s matches at Leicester and Kesgrave were highly enjoyable for the neutral.

The South East and East are likely to stick with the main bulk of riders that worked so well together in 2017. HSBC UK Elite GP champion Josh Brooke leads the group, but they also have Great Britain internationals Lewis Osborne, Ashley Hill and Charlie Rumbold in their top 8.

Midlands team manager, Wayne Aris has one of the largest pool of talented riders to pick from. This Sunday, national champion Myke Grimes joins Great Britain riders Chris Timms, Lee Kemp, World junior champion Brandon Whetton and former European junior champion, Ricki Johnson.

Last series, both encounters between the two sides were decided in the final race, don’t be surprised to see a similar conclusion on Sunday.

No inch was given between the Midlands and SE&E in round one last series. Photos by Les Brewin.

The Midlands junior squad ran away with the title last series, but will be weakened this year, as Brandon Whetton steps up to elite men’s class in 2018. The South East and East have many fast up and coming juniors, underlined by Suffolk’s Pierce Bacon and Lewis Brinkoff both reaching the podium in last weekend’s HSBC UK Elite GP in Sheffield. It’s a match that could go either way and neither side will want to give away points so early.

The North and Scotland make the long trip down to Poole for their round one fixture against South West and Wales. Both sides were hindered by their inability to get their best riders on the track at the same time in 2017. Former GB boss Dave Murphy has taken over from Nicky Evans as the elite men’s team manager, he will be boosted by the inclusion of Polish flyer, Dawid Bas, who currently resides in Dorset, and rumours of European champion, Lukasz Nowacki, joining his squad.

European champion, Lukas Nowacki (leading), could come in to the fold for SW&W this series. Photo by Graham Robins.

The North and Scotland need more of their top riders to support their young team. Three times national champion, Andy Angell, is back in full flow this season and Hull team mate Adam Stephenson is also on the comeback trail with the national championships on their home track in August. Scottish number one, Mikey Hewitson, is another talented and experienced rider, as is former Sheffield rider Pawel Idziorek, who is now racing for Astley & Tyldesley.

Whether team manager, Mike Hack can track any of those 4 riders, alongside their talented young squad and new recruit, the vastly experienced Steve Harris, remains to be seen. If he can, with Murphy doing the same in the South West and Wales, the elite men’s Battle of Britain will develop into a spectacular and close-run competition.

The elite junior class is already just that, with all 4 regions having their fair share of the best young riders around. Like the fixture in Suffolk, the South West and Wales and North & Scotland encounter will be well matched and sure to kickstart the new series with a bang.

The junior series also sees the introduction of a full 18+2 nominated heats formula.

The action begins for the elite junior class at 1pm on Sunday, taking place at Whitton Sports Centre, Ipswich and Harbourside Park, Poole. The elite senior class swiftly follow at 2:30pm – hosts are expected to run a tight ship with timings, where circumstances allow, and ensure a quick turn around between the two meetings.

Tomorrow we speak to SE&E’s Josh Brooke about the new series.