Mildenhall Speedway ready to stage GB U21 Championship event
- Credit: Derek Leader
The 2022 speedway season gets underway at Mildenhall Speedway, proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue & Recovery, with the staging of the Great Britain Under-21 Championship Semi-final on Sunday (April 10).
A field of 16 of the nation’s top young speedway talent will be in action, aiming to secure qualification for the August final at Birmingham by finishing in the top six.
For the home fans all attention will be on the Fen Tigers’ Jason Edwards who is aiming for a fifth successive GB U21 Final – a stat made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Essex-born racer is actually still in his teens!
Edwards holds the record as the youngest ever qualifier for the final of this long-established championship event aged just 15 and a half. Now 19, he will be looking to emulate his semi-final victory of last season and get to the final.
Speaking to supporters at a recent Fans Forum, he said: "It's ideal for me to be opening my racing season at West Row with this individual event, though the way I look at things is that any meeting is a good one.
"I hope to qualify and continue my trend of improving my performance each time in the final itself - having narrowly missed out on getting to the title-deciding race in 2021."
Edwards has two colleagues from the Fen Tigers’ triumphant 2021 National Development League squad lining up alongside him in Sunday’s field in Nathan Ablitt and Sam Hagon.
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Both have moved onto pasture new in 2022, with Ablitt riding in the NDL with Belle Vue Colts and Hagon part of the division's new side, the Oxford Chargers.
Belle Vue actually have the most number of competitors in the field with Ablitt, Archie Freeman and the McGurk brothers, Harry and Sam. The latter is one of six former or current British youth champions included – Hagon is another (250cc national youth champion in 2019) and fellow former Fen Tiger Ablitt himself has two GB youth titles to his name.
The third ex-Mildenhall man is the cream of Devon, Plymouth’s Henry Atkins. A Fen Tiger pre-pandemic in 2019, Atkins is now 21 years of age and this will be his last chance at success at this highest age limit in the Young Speedway set-up.
He has the distinction of being the sport’s youngest ever national champion, having been just 10 years of age when he took the inaugural 125cc crown in 2011.
Plymouth Centurions’ teammate Ben Trigger is the current GB Youth champion in the field, taking the 500cc title in 2021.
Completing the sextet of GB Youth title winners is a rider who can also boast world titles at schoolboy level.
Berwick’s Kyle Bickley won the third of his national titles in 2016 at 500cc class, having previously conquered the continent, winning two FIM Longtrack Gold Trophies (2014, 2015), the de facto youth World Championship.
The list of national champions doesn’t end there as a rider making his competitive British Speedway debut this year, Luke Kileen, was the 125cc champion of Australia in 2020.
British passport-holder Kileen is in the Oxford Chargers’ line-up for 2022 and looking to make an impact in the NDL and on Sunday in the GB Under-21 set-up.
Scotsman Gregor Millar, who has impressed previously when visiting West Row with club side Armadale Devils, is also in the field, while completing the list of current NDL riders are Leicester Lion Cubs duo Vinnie Foord and Mickie Simpson.
The rest of the riders currently ply their racing trade in the regionalised development divisions, the Midland & Southern Development League [MDSL] and Northern Junior League [NJL], and as well as trying to achieve qualification to a level they’ve not reached before, they will be hoping to put themselves in the shop window.
Kai Ward is another rider from Devon and last year was a team mate of Simpson’s at Leicester; while Leicestershire is the home county of Jacob Fellows, who rides in the MSDL this term for Birmingham Bulls.
Representing the NJL will be Kyran Lyden, who had the experience of riding in the semi-final last year, at Redcar in his native Teesside.
Two reserves who will step into action if necessary are from opposite ends of the country: Alex Goldsborough is another from the north-east, while James Laker hails from Sandwich in Kent and captains his home county club Sittingbourne Crusaders in the MSDL.
The action gets underway at 3pm on Sunday at Mildenhall Speedway, Hayland Drove, West Row, Mildenhall, Suffolk, IP28 8QU.
Riders: Nathan Ablitt (Belle Vue Colts/Poole Pirates); Henry Atkins (Plymouth Centurions & Gladiators); Kyle Bickley (Berwick Bullets & Bandits); Jason Edwards (Mildenhall Fen Tigers/Redcar Bears); Jacob Fellows (Birmingham Bulls); Vinnie Foord (Leicester Lion Cubs); Archie Freeman (Belle Vue Colts); Sam Hagon (Oxford Chargers); Luke Kileen (Oxford Chargers); Kyran Lyden (Redcar Cubs); Harry McGurk (Belle Vue Colts); Sam McGurk (Belle Vue Colts); Gregor Millar (Armadale Devils); Mickie Simpson (Leicester Lion Cubs); Ben Trigger (Plymouth Centurions); Kai Ward (King’s Lynn Lightning). Reserves: Alex Goldsborough (unattached), James Laker (Sittingbourne Crusaders).