Words: Hayley Bromley
Image: Hayley Bromley
Belle Vue will have two representatives in Saturday’s National League Rider’s Championship at Leicester, each vying for the ultimate individual honour in British Speedway’s third tier.
Colts captain Matt Williamson and heat leader Lee Payne are fielded in an all-star cast at the Jordan Road Surfacing Stadium which features at least one rider from all twelve of the NL clubs.
First contested in 1994, the NLRC has yielded a number of sensational winners over the years with some of the biggest names in the sport having laid claim to this coveted piece of silverware.
Such riders as Jon Armstrong, Jason Garrity, Craig Cook and world champion Tai Woffinden provide a small sample of the talent to contest this trophy, with Ben Morley the most recent winner.
Sixteen individuals in total will compete over the course of twenty heats, with the top scorer after his five programmed rides ultimately crowned the 2016 National League Riders’ Champion.
While a powerful field, co-promoter George Carswell says he has every faith in his two riders to be successful. It’ll be far from an easy meeting though, particularly at a venue neither are familiar with.
He said: “It’s a tremendous honour for a rider to win the National League Riders’ Championship. It’s competitive and has a rich history that includes some of speedway’s most recognised names.
“Dan Bewley was initially scheduled to ride in this match but due to the ongoing nature of his recent injury his doctors will not sign him off as fit to ride, therefore Lee Payne will ride in his place.
“Lee of course is delighted to have the opportunity to compete. We put him on standby earlier this week just in case the situation with Dan was in doubt and he was more than happy with that.
“He’s definitely up for the challenge, as is Matt Williamson. It’s a very strong field assembled this year but I’m confident that both will hold their own and I think they can each do very well.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them won it, or at least made the podium! Leicester is a neutral track that’s been known to be a ‘gate-and-go’ place, but both of these lads are excellent gaters.
“There’s quite a few guys that haven’t had much experience of Beaumont Park, our riders included, but the likes of Max Clegg – who rode for them a few years ago – will certainly be tricky customers.”
NATIONAL LEAGUE RIDERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 17TH
MAIN FIELD: Tom Perry (Birmingham); Lee Payne (Belle Vue); Ben Morley (Rye House); Nathan Greaves (King’s Lynn); Ryan Blacklock (Buxton); Luke Bowen (Kent); James Shanes (Kent); Ashley Morris (Cradley) Ben Wilson (Stoke); Mark Baseby (Isle of Wight); Mitchell Davey (Coventry); Robert Branford (Rye House); Max Clegg (Cradley); Matt Williamson (Belle Vue); Dan Halsey (Mildenhall); Jake Knight (Eastbourne)
RESERVES: Jack Parkinson-Blackburn (Birmingham); Ryan Kinsley (King’s Lynn)