Another new chapter opens for the Reading Racers this Easter Weekend as they continue the Development League era at a new home at Swindon's Abbey Stadium.
Since being resurrected to compete in the Southern league in 2017 they have spent the last 2 seasons as tenants at Eastbourne. But after an unref
usable offer to run their home matches less than an hour away from their spiritual home, they take to the Blunsdon shale on Easter Monday in their first match this season as their 6 heat contest follows the Swindon v Ipswich Premiership match.
After being Champions and runners up in the last 2 years the Racers again look to be one of the favourites in a 7 team Midland & Southern League. They line up against the Isle of Wight Wizards this Monday with new captain Nick Laurence leading the team after rejoining the Racers part way through last year. With more National League experience than his team mates, he's very much the "old head" in the team who looks to help and advise the younger riders.
At no.2 15 year old Sam Norris makes his league debut, and while some may think this makes him an unknown quantity, he has impressed enough people to be handed the no.8 jacket at NL Mildenhall and the Reading management have no reservations about tracking the youngster.
The no.3 jacket is taken by 2018 Racer Jamie Bursill (18), who himself has landed a reserve slot with NL team Plymouth Gladiators. After rapidly rising from a very raw rookie in 2017 Jamie will look to be a big scorer in this league in the coming campaign.
Another returnee is 18 year old Rhys Laker, who endured a tough debut season in 2018 but earned himself another shot this year and is keen to turn his enthusiasm into points.
Waiting in the wings for future call ups are the last 2 members of the Racers squad Jamie Couzins and Kieran Douglas, both with National League experience from last year, and both determined to impress this season with a return to the higher tier in their sights.
The Wizards will line up with Berkshire born Jamie Sealey (29) leading the way, himself looking to get back in the NL. 30 year old Grass Tracker Ben Ilsley wears the captain's armband in his second season with the Wizards, while their new big addition is 15 year old Chad Wirtzfeld, a much fancied youngster who is also riding in the Island's senior team. Chris Watts completes the line up, another in his second year with the team and looking to push himself forward into National League contention. The Reading management team are suitably excited about the coming season and with home matches being staged on Readings proverbial doorstep, they have high hopes of seeing many more Racers fans making the trip this year, especially with the first 3 matches not only taking place on Mondays- the club's traditional Race night - but also on Bank Holidays.
In an extra link with the past, the announcer for the Racers match on Monday will be Dave Stallworthy, who went from being a fan in the 70's to having several spells as match presenter at Smallmead between 1989 and 2008.
With the Swindon Robins being the Racers' "old foes" back in the glory days there is some irony in the fact that the Wiltshire club are now offering a lifeline to their neighbours, but the Reading bosses are confident the Racers fans will accept the hand of friendship as gratefully as they themselves have, and join them in enjoying an exciting 2019 season. Monday's Premiership match starts at 7.30pm, with the Racers expected to be on track around 9.15.
Monday's Teams: Reading Racers; 1. Nick Laurence (c), 2. Sam Norris, 3. Jamie Bursill, 4. Rhys Laker.
Isle of Wight Wizards; 1. Jamie Sealey, 2. Chris Watts, 3. Ben Ilsley (c), 4. Chad Wirtzfeld.