TREBLE-WINNING Buxton Hitmen have unveiled their new-look line-up for the 2011 season.
A number of riders moving up into the higher leagues from last year’s septet, and a reduced points limit to contend with, meant the 2011 team was only finalised 24 hours prior to Sunday’s press and practice day.
This year the Hitmen will be without last year’s number one Craig Cook, who has moved up to riding in the Premier and Elite League, as has Nick Morris. Lewis Dallaway has retired from the sport, while Jonathon Bethell, who was due to return, requires surgery on a shoulder injury.
“It has been tough getting the team together this time as we had to replace nearly half the team due to various reasons,” commented team chairman Jayne Moss.
“With the close season’s rule changes that affect team building, it has been an exceptionally difficult winter when it came down to putting the team together.
“However, everything slotted into place on Saturday with the final places in the team being filled.”
From last year’s all-conquering team only captain Adam Allott and Australian Robert Branford return. Allott, from Buxton, brings a wealth of experience on and off the track to the team, having ridden for a number of years.
Branford, meanwhile, is in only his second season of racing in the UK and looking to improve on last year’s performances, when he started off as a rookie and ended the season scoring double figures in pretty much every match. He will also race for Redcar in the Premier League.
Joining the returnees are former Hitmen Ben Taylor and Dean Felton. Taylor, who will line up at number one, missed the whole of last year due to a wrist injury which required surgery.
Felton is another with a wealth of experience, having started his career with Buxton in 1994 and enjoyed several spells with the club since. He has also ridden at a higher level.
Newcomers to the Hitmen this year are Luke Priest, John McPhail and Ryan Blacklock. Priest, who is fighting fit after serious injuries in previous years, is aiming to improve on his performances from last year which were affected by work commitments.
McPhail, from Jedburgh, has ridden for a few years but has not held down a regular team spot until now and will line up at reserve alongside rookie Blacklock, who has a wealth of experience at motocross and is making the switch to speedway after watching the success of mate Craig Cook.
Mrs Moss added: “Blacklock is very much a rookie in the speedway world, having never ridden in a competitive match before and has had limited track time, however he has plenty of experience of motorcycles and should improve as the season progresses.”
The Hitmen take to the track for the first time this year against the Travel Plus American Touring Team at Hi-Edge on Sunday April 17 (3pm start time), before travelling to Wolverhampton on Tuesday April 19 to face the Dudley Heathens in the first leg of the National Shield.