SUCH is the cosmopolitan nature of British speedway that when the Redcar Bears entertain the newly-formed Leicester Lions in a challenge match this Thursday (24 Mar), the visitors will include two Russian riders in their ranks.
Sergey Darkin has previous experience with Eastbourne, Coventry, Lakeside and Poole in this country but for his compatriot Iliya Bondarenko it will be his first outing for a British team in the UK.
Both are senior Russian internationals and team mates at Togliatti in the Russian League.
They are backed up by Aussie Richard Sweetman who was a prolific scorer with Birmingham last season and Yorkshireman Richard Hall, who has always shown a liking for the Bears track in recent seasons.
Another young Australian, John Oliver, makes a return to British Speedway after a few seasons away while Leicester also track two ex-Redcar Bears at reserve in the shape of Jamie Courtney and Jan Graversen.
Bears boss Brian Havelock said: “The Bears mean business this season and we will be keen to stifle the Lions’ roar from the off.
“The club has invested in strengthening our asset base during the close season and riders that we have purchased in the transfer market such as Aaron Summers, Peter Juul and Robert Branford will be keen to impress.”
The Bears team is a blend of outstanding experience and up and coming youth.
Former World Champion Gary Havelock is back to lead the team in his sixth successive season at the South Bank, Middlesbrough circuit and is joined at the top by Aussie Jason Lyons, who first rode in this country for Glasgow in 1990.
Compatriot Aaron Summers was a team-mate of Jason’s at Birmingham last season and has already declared his intention to aim for the number one race jacket in the team as the season makes progress.
Young Dane Peter Juul returns to Teesside after a popular late season spell with the Bears in 2010 while the Bears carry real potency with Great Britain squad member Adam Roynon at reserve while his fellow reserve Robert Branford enjoyed an outstanding debut season last year with the Buxton Hitmen in the sport’s Third Division.
Absent for this encounter will be Czech Republic international Matej Kus who has a prior commitment abroad but canny Havelock has booked Stuart Robson as a guest. Stuart now with Newcastle won the prestigious Silver Helmet individual meeting in Redcar Speedway’s final fixture of the previous campaign.
Bears from: Robert Branford, Gary Havelock (captain), Peter Juul, Jason Lyons, Stuart Robson (guest), Adam Roynon, Aaron Summers.
The match is on at the South Tees Motorsport Park from 7.30pm.
Full club details on www.redcarbears.com with results and news updates also on the club hotline 09068 555 801 (calls charged at 60p per minute).