PREVIEW Thursday 30th March 2017, 4:00pm
It’s finally here! After a long cold winter speedway is back as we launch our 21st season at Armadale with the Harrison’s Scottish Open Championship.
I can almost sense it, the roar of the bikes, the smell of methanol in the air; it’s good to be back. What a meeting we have to come back to as well. The Scottish Open is a favourite in the calendar of many and it is a pleasure to see it re-introduced.
The Open had perhaps fallen out of favour a little previously due to the inconsistent nature of getting riders to commit but this year what a line-up the promotion team have constructed. Realistically I can see anything up to 12 or 13 potential winners with all 16 being capable of playing the spoiler role.
Number 1 in the riding order is Sheffield and Somerset star Josh Grajczonek. Graj is now well and truly established as one of the top men in the second tier of British Speedway going into his 10th season on these shores. Someone who originally struggled round the tight confines of Armadale Josh is now an excellent visitor and will be hoping that this is 3rd time lucky as he makes this a hat trick of Open appearances having scored 9 and 7 points in his previous efforts.
It will be a baptism of fire for number 2 in the line-up our Aussie newcomer Josh Pickering. Josh has impressed everyone with his keenness and attitude since arriving on these shores and appears to be no slouch on the bike either. Everyone in attendance at last week’s practice session will have been impressed with his natural looking ability and style and he certainly knows where the throttle is. This will be a good way for Josh to get some racing experience round his home track before the league season starts next week.
Third in the field is Glasgow star Richard Lawson. Lawson would be first to admit he has an inconsistent record at Armadale but he appears to have turned the corner recording 2 double digits scores round the Dale last season. He appears to have started the season well having romped to victory in the BEN fund Bonanza at Ashfield a few weeks ago and while in a field of this class he may not be seen as one of the favourites he certainly is a dark horse and no one would be surprised to see him on the podium at the end of the night.
Completing the quadrumvirate that will take to the track to launch our season is another man coming east from Glasgow in Aaron Summers. Another track expert at Armadale and with Ricky Wells now in Monarchs colours many would say Aaron will take over the mantle as the most difficult visitor for our top men to overcome. Spud was a beaten semi finalist in the last running of the Open back in 2014 and he will no doubt be looking to go one step further at least this year.
Fifth in the line-up is ever popular Swede Ludvig Lindgren. Few will forget Lindgren’s guest appearance for the Monarchs last year as he raced to not one but two maximums in a double header against Plymouth and Redcar. If Lindgren shows that kind of form again tomorrow night then he is another that will take some stopping.
Moving onto number 6 in the riding order and the second of the Parsons Peebles Monarchs that will be taking part it’s our German wunderkind Erik Riss. This will be a big season for Erik as he focuses mostly on speedway after securing his second world longtrack championship last season. The youngster is ready though and anyone watching must have been impressed as he raced to 5 points in the best pairs competition in Torun last weekend with no less than Chris Holder among the scalps he claimed.
Lucky number seven is Berwick’s captain Kevin Doolan. Doolan who celebrates a testimonial this season is another ever popular rider who classes Armadale as one of his favourite tracks and the experienced Aussie will be in the mix come tomorrow night another who would be classed as a dark horse for the title.
Number 8 is the only replacement to the initially announced field and remarkably it is the man with the most Armadale experience in the line-up it’s Mathew Wethers. Matty is currently unattached and will be looking to put his name in the shop window with a strong performance to make promoters sit up and take notice. Matty will equal the James Grieves record of 9 open appearances in the Armadale era and was a finalist as recently as 2011
Many people’s favourite to lift the title rides in at number 9 it’s Monarchs captain and number 1 Sam Masters. Sam is of course the reigning champion and will not be looking to give up his title without a battle. Sam is coming into the season after a successful winter in Australia where he was crowned Australian Champion for the first time. Sam appears to have carried this form into the season with strong performances in his meetings so far.
If there has been one name that has generated buzz for someone who will be the main danger to Sam retaining the Jack Young Trophy it comes at number 10 with returning hero Justin Sedgmen. Sedgy will be making his first appearance at the Dale since the 2015 playoff final second leg and he is keen to impress. With a winter of worry behind him in regards a team space in the UK now being resolved with Justin lining up for Belle Vue he will be relaxed and out to take the trophy home with him.
Eleventh in the line-up is another Parsons Peebles Monarch Max Clegg. Max is well and truly renowned as an Armadale specialist and is another who will be looking to take some notable scalps and get his season kick-started with a strong showing. Max has said this is the biggest season so far in his career and a confidence boosting showing on Friday will go a long way towards him making it the success his talent deserves.
Completing what will be a tasty heat 3 in at number 12 in the draw is the Monarchs other newcomer this year Ricky Wells. Wells is a man that many Monarchs fans have wanted to see in the Blue and Gold for many years and that wish is now reality. The American appears to be in midseason form already having reached the final in the BEN Fund and Cumberland Classic individuals as well as a second place in Berwick’s season opening individual. There won’t be many that would bet against him adding to that tomorrow night.
Hoping it won’t be unlucky for him is number 13 in the line-up Mark Riss. Mark is now well settled with Edinburgh having joined mid season last year and is looking to kick on and make a mockery of his 4.00 starting average this season. Another who will be looking to tomorrow night to bed in and get some track time Mark will be hoping to emulate the improvement younger brother Erik made in his second season when he added 1.5 points to his average.
Another name creating buzz before the event tomorrow night is 3 time former winner and 2003 league winning legend Rory Schlein. The Roo Boy will go into tomorrow night looking to equal the record of four open wins currently held by Peter Carr and this is well within his reach. Rory will be a more regular visitor this season as he settles back in to life in the second tier having joined a powerful looking Ipswich line-up.
The penultimate man in the line-up and final Parsons Peebles Monarch is the retuning Mitchell Davey. Mitchell is hoping to make a triumphant return to this level after a horrific leg break back in 2013 and all at the Monarchs are delighted to see him make this step with us. Mitchell is ready for the challenge ahead and is another who may just surprise tomorrow night.
Completing the line-up is experienced Dane Ulrich Ostergaard. Ostergaard is another popular visitor to Armadale and is known for upping his game when the big occasion awaits. Ulrich finished on the podium of the last running of the Open in 2014 and as a former PLRC Champion cannot be discounted from repeating the feat this year.
So an exciting line-up for what is sure to be 22 heats of enthralling action at Armadale tomorrow night. I know I can’t wait and I hope to see you all there.