Picture courtesy of Steve Dixon
By Derek Barclay
With the Speedway season getting underway across the UK and Kent's opening meeting on Good Friday (14th April) not far away, the final fixture in the racing calendar has now been slotted into place with the SLYDE-sponsored Kings travelling to Manchester on Wednesday 5th July to take on the Belle Vue Colts.
The confirmation that the side based at the National Speedway Stadium are to compete in the 2017 National League [NL] - they'd been a winter of change at the venue in Manchester with a new promotion taking over and protracted negotiations with the City Council - it means that the NL has a confirmed 12 teams coming to the tapes when the country's third tier gets underway next month.
The optimism this expansion brings to the NL - with new entries this year being Plymouth and the Thurrock, Essex based Lakeside club - leaves Kent's team boss Chris Hunt in buoyant mood about the new season and the future of the sport at this level. The NL is certainly the league to be in at the moment. The extra clubs entering means that our fans at Central Park will get a great variety of sides visiting and of course we are again challenging for honours on three fronts - the National Trophy, the Knock-out Cup as well as the NL of course."
Before that there are the opening pair of two-legged challenges matches, taking on Mildenhall Fen Tigers (home leg on Good Friday, 14/4 and away leg on Easter Sunday, 16/4 in the appropriately named Easter Chase); and then new local rivals, Lakeside Hammers contest the Tunnel Trophy with Kent's home leg on the Easter Monday, 17/4 on the bank holiday afternoon at Central Park, followed by a first ever visit to the Arena Essex Raceway for Hunt's charges on Friday 21st April.
Hunt knows the importance of these opening salvoes of the campaign telling the SFM Sports Team: "The challenges are very important in letting the lads get back into the swing of things. It also gives me as team manager a chance to experiment a bit with the riding order over the first few meetings and find out which pairings work best together. I have an order in mind for the opening meeting but if it needs tweaking and some riders maybe feel more comfortable in different positions in the team, we have a chance to iron this out before the league matches start".
The confirmation of the Colts based at Belle Vue (with the plan to ‘track share' with another club ended with the sad demise of Coventry) has been welcomed by Hunt who, looking at the completed line up for this latest NL campaign says: "The fixture list is packed with some exciting and challenging matches stretching from April into September - we can't wait to get going".