The famous Winged Wheel of Reading Racers saw its first action since the track closure in 2008 (and a 4 team event in 2009) when the Racers tracked a junior side at Eastbourne on Saturday night against Weymouth in a challenge match. The battling Racers quartet were outclassed by Weymouth Wildcats who were superbly lead by rising start 15 year old Tom Brennan who scorched to a 9 point 3 ride maximum.
The Racers can curse some bad luck in the 14-21 reversal. Their top rider Luke Harris, scorer of an impressive 8 points in Eastbourne’s crushing 57-33 National League win staged beforehand, ploughed into Weymouth’s Connor Locke in heat 3 and was forced out of the meeting with a wrist injury at a crucial stage. Harris, who had looked smooth and impressive in both the first heat and his NL Eastbourne outings, was out-gated by Brennan and Locke in heat 3. Chasing hard, Harris looked to have the measure of Locke in the first lap when the Weymouth man fell on bend 3 leaving Harris nowhere to go. The subsequent collision and injury cost the Racers any chance of match victory.
Riders Quote's from Saturday 24th September 2016
Reading Racers V Weymouth Wildcats
"First of all, I couldn't thank the Reading promotion and fans enough for all the support they have given. It is people like those who will help vitalise the name of Speedway again back in Reading, I felt proud to wear the Racers race jacket and to be a part of a great team! To start off with what ended up being a bad night, I first of all felt a lot of pressure, being the captain and also riding for Eastbourne this season and the scores I have been putting in, I felt that I had to live up to that. I put my head down for my first race to ensure I was able to keep Reading challenging through the night and continued to have a good night following a paid 8 from the Eastbourne match. After my first race I was more pumped than ever to keep scoring and putting the points in for the team and the fans. I missed the gate from gate 4 and decided to chase the dirt, in fairness it pulled me around and I was challenging down the back staright until disaster happened and Connor Locke fell off in front of me. Unfortunately there was was nothing I could do and hit the floor head first. When I come back to the pits and told Colin I was out, I felt so gutted and like I let the team down, I was arguing with myself whether to continue or not because I was there to do a job and that job was for the Racers to beat the Wildcats!
It wasn't meant to be, but I've learnt a lot, I would happily wear a Reading Racer jacket again.. The team all pulled together and a big well done to Kyle, Naill and Craig for pulling together and they didn't disgrace themselves! A big Thank you to the fans for their amazing support and backing for both Eastbourne and Reading matches and again a big Thank you to the promotion and I will help and support The Racers to be back racing again soon! Hope to see you in 2017."
"I was proud to be asked to ride for the Reading Racers as it's a club I've watched on occasions when I was a kid. It was great to meet the fans that traveled to Eastbourne and I felt that they were all behind the team. The meeting was tough, as I hadn't rode a small tight track like Eastbourne all season, the racing was close and I really enjoyed heat 5 with Frenchy. I thought that I could get under him on the last lap but that didn't happen, the reaction from the fans on parade and throughout the meeting was great and to hear the air horns was fantastic. It was an honour to ride for The Reading Racers and a meeting I'll never forget, big thanks to Mat and Colin and all involved."
"Riding for the Reading Racers was something I thought would never happen especially since Smallmead had been closed for nearly ten years. But to be given the chance to ride for the Racers at Eastbourne by Emma Pike was a opportunity I couldn't turn down, as I know the type of riders who had worn that famous race jacket, which includes my good friend and former club captain Jeremy Doncaster.
Meeting the new promotion, management and fans of Reading I could tell there is a new buzz about bringing racing back to Reading. I hope with the opportunities that 2017 have to hold it will be the stepping stones to a new home and new era for the club. It felt good to be surrounded by such positive people at Eastbourne even when the original staging got rained off the four of us as team mates seemed to bounce off each other and have great team spirit, But on the rescheduled date I felt a bit of pressure being the most experienced rider to ride at Eastbourne out of the two sides and it showed in my first race by taking a fall going into bend three, however after that the next two rides I felt more comfortable each time I went out, Putting up the four points I scored for the Racers I felt pleased with it but considering I haven't ridden many small tracks in the UK this season with Mildenhall being the smallest before Eastbourne, it made me realise I need to mix up more next season of big and small.
Looking forward to 2017 the Racers look to be in a strong position with a good strong fan base and a forward thinking and positive promotion it can only lead to bigger and much better things for Speedway in Reading. I feel very lucky to play a small part in the big picture for a club stepped in history."
"Really proud to be asked to ride for the Reading Racers, It was great to meet everyone and the support was amazing from the team, management and the fans. It was the first time I had rode a 500cc around Eastbourne and I absolutely loved it, and to be top scorer for the team felt great, all the team gave 110%, shame about Luke Harris but he's a tough lad and he'll bounce back stronger. I would just like to say Thank you to Mat, Colin, Emma and everyone else involved and hope to see you all again next season."
READING RACERS 2017
Reading Racers Team 2017
The Racers No.1 and captain for the 2017 season will be Luke Harris! Luke rode for the Racers in our challenge match at Eastbourne last summer, and hails from Hayes, just down the M4 from Reading. This season he has secured a National League team slot with Cradley Heathens, and has made a blistering start to the new season with scores of 8+1 (from 4 rides) and 9 (5) from the No.4 berth. Luke is 18 and this could be a breakthrough season for him in the NL which will mean he will be an invaluable asset as he leads the Racers!
I just want to say thank you for the Reading Promotion for asking me to ride for such a prestigious club. I know we have a team capable of beating anybody this season and I can't wait to get going, and to wear the Racers bib! I look forward to seeing and meeting everybody at our first home fixture and I am looking to guide the team for a win!
Kyle Roberts will be another familiar face to those of you who followed our challenge match against Weymouth last year, and returns to ride for us in this inaugural year of the SDL in 2017. Although Kyle is just 17 he has competed across Europe and is part of the Chris Harris Racing Team, carrying the #137 identity. He has already proved to us his desire to race for Reading, and you will rarely see anyone put in more effort on track! He also joined us for our Christmas drinks and his dancing was even more entertaining than his racing!!
Kyle is another rider who will be riding for Peterborough in the MDL this season and scored of 4+2 (and an ef), in helping them to win their first match. He also scored 8 from 3 rides in a mini individual at Wolverhampton earlier this week.
“I am thankful to Reading Racers for once again asking me to race for them in the 2017 season and represent the Winged Wheel once again. Hopefully good things will come for the team this year and we’ll be racing quite a bit and hopefully get Reading back on the speedway map. We have a strong team this year and hopefully we will be strong as a team and work together and make this happen. I can't wait to ride, let's get them engines started and the Winged Wheel flying high once again”
We think you are going to like Kyle…!
Nick Laurence, whose previous experience includes riding for Bournemouth, Rye House and Mildenhall. This year he is starting the season at reserve for Lakeside in their 1st season in the National League. At 26 Nick is the “old head” in the Racers team but is keen to kick-start his racing career this year, and looks set to move forward. We are confident that his previous experience will mean he can give the younger team members some tips on away tracks that he has ridden before.
I'm really looking forward to being back racing in the National League this season for Lakeside Hammers, and also riding for Reading, I think this is a perfect opportunity to get Readings name back where it should be, there are some talented lads in the sides both at lakeside and Reading and I'm really looking forward to working with them all as the season progresses.
William O’Keefe has just turned 16 and is a member of the Young Lions Youth Championship run by SCB boss Neil Vatcher. He started on Grasstrack at 6 yrs old and was a British Championship runner up twice. Coming from Ipswich, William started Speedway aged 11 and our “very own” Jeremy Doncaster was a massive influence in his earliest riding days. Therefore William is very excited about representing the team that his mentor captained to 2 league titles! In fact he and his Dad Alan used to visit Smallmead regularly before its closure. William will also be riding for Peterborough in the Midland Development League and scored a maximum in his only match so far this season. This is exactly the kind of rider the development leagues are set up for, and we are very excited to have him in Reading Racers colours, so please get behind him and enjoy watching his progress!
We are pleased to welcome back Niall Strudwick. Niall is local to Eastbourne and rode for us there last season, as well as having been named in their National League squad in the past. He had a spell in the MDL in 2016 for Milton Keynes, and also made appearances for Belle Vue and Coventry, averaging 7.86 across all matches. Niall has successfully raced in America, and is well known in Speedway circles for riding as often as possible and going absolutely anywhere to do it! He has certainly showed us that he is keen to grab any opportunity to race for us this season to go alongside his return to the Milton Keynes team. You won’t find many keener to race and we are pleased to include him in our squad. You can find more info on Niall at www.niallstrudwick.com
Now it’s down to you to get behind this brand new Racers team! A fixture list will be released soon, once the final discussions have taken place, then we look forward to seeing some familiar (and maybe even some new) faces at our matches! Bring it on…
Q1. At what age did you start getting into bikes? A. I was first on a bike at the age of 3, which was a PW50, going around fields. I've been around bikes all my life due to my Dad being a Grass Tracker. My initial racing experience was when my Dad got me into BMX racing which I did until the age of 7 or 8.
Q2. How much of an influence has your Dad been in your career? A. My Dad has helped me come a long way, from getting me on a bike at the age of 3 up to now. I'm thankful for the money he's invested in order for me to do what I do best!
Q3. What engines do you prefer to use and who tunes them? A. I've always ridden GM's on the Speedway. Most of the top boys run them and you rarely ever see Jawas being used. Barry Allaway does my engines for me and does a great job!
Q4. Which are your favourite tracks? A. Well prepared tracks for starters! Every track is there to be ridden but coming from a Grass Track background then it has to be big, wide tracks!
Q5. What countries have you raced in? A. I have only been outside of the UK for racing once which was in Germany. I went there for the Longtrack 250cc Gold Cup. It was a really good experience and I hope to be able to race more in Europe one day!
Q6. What other interests outside of Speedway do you have? A. Not really a lot! Every once in a while I'll watch Football or in the winter I'll watch the AMA Supercross, which has some really good racing.
Q7. Who are your favourite Speedway riders past and present? A. Hard choices as there are so many good riders these days. Past would be either Lee Richardson or Tony Rickardsson, and present would have to be either Bartosz Zmarzlik or Tai Woffinden.
Q8. Give me your all time Speedway top 7. A. In no particular order: Tony Rickardsson, Darcy Ward, Nicki Pedersen, Greg Hancock, Tai Woffinden, Jason Crump and Erik Gundersen.
Q9. Who do you think will win the Speedway world title in 2017? A. It's such a tough GP this year. I would go for Jason Doyle.
Q10. Where do you hope to be in 5 years? A. My Dad and I have always said that if you haven't made it by the time you're 22-25 then that's your time in the sport. So I hope to be in my prime by then! Just to be successful and make all the hard work worth it. There's such tough competition out there but as long as we keep battling and progressing then in 5 years I'd love to be travelling the world doing what I love and having a good career.
NB. These questions were asked before the the news of Jason Doyle's injury.
Rider profile - Luke Harris