Devastated and despondent: Efforts to get speedway on at Eastbourne are dashed

Eastbourne Speedway have turned their full focus on planning for the 2021 season.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 10:02 am
Updated Monday, 28th September 2020, 10:04 am
Eastbourne Eagles in competitive action in August last year - now hopes of getting speedway on at Arlington this year have been dashed / Picture: Mike Hinves

The club saw any lingering and realistic hopes of running Speedway at Arlington this year disappear when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a tightening of Covid-19 restrictions on Tuesday, September 22.

Eastbourne HG Aerospace directors and management are devastated that there can be no Speedway racing at Arlington Stadium this year but are stepping up work on preparations for next season.

Director Ian Jordan said: “We have already started planning for 2021 at both Championship level with the Eagles and our junior team, the Seagulls, who will ride in the MSDL.

“We will be doing everything we can to ensure that when we come to tapes next spring we offer fans a super night out at the Speedway with great racing in a stadium that has seen big improvements during this summer with a complete electrical rewire and upgrades to the driveways and car parks etc.”

Jordan said they were devastated about not being able to get plans to stage some competitive Speedway at Arlington this autumn over the line but the Prime Minister’s statement killed all hope.

He said: “Since last season finished on September 28, 2019, we have worked literally non-stop on plans on and off the track for 2020.

“Everyone involved is I think mentally exhausted and pretty despondent right now that we could not deliver something tangible, for supporters.

“We feel massively disappointed for all of our riders, our sponsors and our supporters and I and we can only apologise that in this instance we have not been able to deliver.

“These are exceptional times, only a few clubs have been able to race with crowds, and only then in recent weeks and with strict regulations and limits.

“Having been personally involved with one of those who have managed some action (at Plymouth) it only makes the disappointment at Eastbourne harder for me to swallow.

“It did become very apparent though even down at Plymouth on Tuesday afternoon and evening (September 22), as news filtered through of the changes, that the window of opportunity was rapidly being shut.”

Jordan said the feeling of frustration was increased because there had been a summer of significant and substantial investment by the Arlington Stadium owners, “for which we are very grateful”.

“The substantial investment into the infrastructure of the stadium at Arlington in these incredibly difficult times by Eric and Margaret Dugard is something everyone should wholeheartedly welcome and we thank them for that on behalf of us all at Eastbourne Speedway,” Jordan said.

He also said that Eastbourne Speedway, under the Promotion and Management of Eastbourne Eagles Limited (Les Fineing and Ian Jordan as Directors and Trevor Geer as Promoter) were now tenants of the stadium owners, as are Spedeworth Motorsports in respect of stock cars and banger racing.

“In 2019/2020, we were sub-tenants of Arlington Stadium and had an agreement with Arlington Stadium Limited (Martin Dugard and Jon Cook) who themselves had an agreement from the Stadium Owners (Eric and Margaret Dugard).

“Martin and Jon (as Arlington Stadium Limited) have now left that role and we thank Martin and Jon for their support of us since we took over the Speedway promotion and also thank Eric and Margaret similarly, and wish them all well,” he said.

The Stadium has been readied for the resumption of racing after months of Covid-19 planning and form filling, especially by the Stadium Health and Safety Officer, Barry Johnson.

Arlington Stadium is now fully certified in all aspects and is ready to stage its first Stock/Banger Car fixture on Wednesday, October 14.

“We will keep our fingers crossed for all Stock/Banger enthusiasts and Spedeworth, that they can still go ahead with that and other planned fixtures,” said Jordan.

He added that it needed to be made crystal clear that the two sports have completely different regulatory bodies and it does not necessarily follow that if one runs the other can also.

“We would need approval from the BSPL/SCB/ACU and that can be a process that takes a few weeks,” he said.

“We could only start that process with full Stadium certification, which we now have.

“The other logistical issue is that Spedeworth have priority of dates, which we fully understand and endorse meaning that we could only consider running after they start, which they are doing at the first realistic date available to them.”

Jordan said it would have been necessary for the Eagles to run in daylight, effectively limiting the club to Sundays October 18 and 25.

He continued: “We could only run to National Development League rider level, similar to meetings staged at Plymouth and Scunthorpe and youth/development level.

“The only Eastbourne HG Aerospace riders we could use therefore are Tom (Brennan), Jason (Edwards) and Drew (Kemp) and comparable NDL qualified riders.

“However, Tom, Jason and Drew and many other likely candidates to race are already booked into the British Under-21 Championship at Berwick on Saturday, October 17, so asking any of them to make a 400-mile plus dash down to Arlington the next day, with clean bikes and kit in mid October with weather extremes, would be wholly unrealistic and unfair.

“The following weekend sees the staging of the televised Speedway of Nations, so even had we got everything lined up, we had literally run out of time.

“We look forward to 2021 with optimism and positivity, in whatever form it may take during this Covid-19 dominated period.”