THE Isle of Wight’s Wightlink Warriors are the first team in the new Nora Speedway League to unveil their 2023 line-up – with many of last season’s favourite’s back to excite the Smallbrook faithful.
With the season provisionally set to start on Thursday, June 22, June, the Nora League’s structure will see six-man teams race over 15 heats and Island fans will be able to welcome back Ben Morley, Henry Atkins, George Congreve, Arran Butcher, Rhys Naylor and ‘old-hand’ Wayne Parker when the tapes go up.
Returning team manager Steve Piper said: “Wow, what a line-up the promoters have secured as we embark on the innovative Nora Speedway League.
“It’s my job to now fit together this six-piece jigsaw to achieve optimum output, but that doesn’t worry me at all. I know all these lads from last year and you couldn’t have picked a better bunch of racers and entertainers. Rest assured I will be in regular contact with them all as we build towards our season launch and they will be getting total support from myself and the club management as we look for trophies in the new era.”
Wightlink Warriors co-owner Barry Bishop added: “Whilst 2021 was good and 2022 even better, we are delighted that we will have proper team speedway in the new season and in fairness to the riders who participated in many of last season’s events we wanted to offer them even more track time in 2023. They have been loyal to us and it was only right that we reciprocated. Add in the fact that these guys have become firm favourites with our supporters, it looks like a winning combination all round.
“We are currently planning 13 home meetings for the summer and a fixture list will be released soon, however in addition to the Nora Speedway League meetings, we will still offer Flat Track, Uprights, Pairs, Handicaps, Women’s events and more. It will be another busy year for sure, but that’s just the way we like it!”
It will be full-on summer programme of track sport at Ryde’s Smallbrook Stadium as the Wightlink Warriors management plan to deliver another varied programme of action that will introduce matches in the newly announced Nora Speedway League sponsored by Nora 92 who manage off-road motorsport in the UK.
The provisional calendar sees the first meeting set for Thursday, June 22, when the main event will be a full team challenge against a side representing the Rye House Rockets (for The Vince Mapley Memorial Trophy) with the usual pre-meeting demonstration races for the ‘keen-as-mustard’ youth riders, as well as a six-heat improvers fixture featuring riders of Wizards / Warlocks standard.
In total 13 meetings are planned over the holiday period with two meetings in the week commencing July 17 (on both the Tuesday and the Thursday). That ‘two-in-a-week’ period will permit the highly popular Nora British Women’s Championship to be condensed into two rounds which should make participation easier for some riders’ who found last season’s three separately spaced rounds a struggle.
Outlining his thoughts on the 2023 season, Barry said: “Martin [Widman – co-owner] and I have been assessing feedback on 2022 and we believe we have been able to respond with a meaningful and exciting programme for this summer that will appeal to participants and supporters alike and, of course, we are thrilled to be able offer team speedway via the new Nora Speedway League.
“The response from our fans has been so positive since we named our riders last week and it is now ‘full steam ahead’ as we put the finishing touches to our events that will also feature the wonderfully entertaining Handicap Racing, Flat Track Racing, the Nora Upright Championship, the Nora British Open, a one-off Island Masters meeting and plenty of track time for those looking to progress their speedway experience within the body of our main events.
“With the great news that Wightlink will be restoring the later Fastcat service to the mainland, we hope to highlight to mainland fans what our regulars already know – for a family friendly, affordable night out, Warriors can’t be beaten.”
As before, the demonstration races for the youth riders and up-and-comers will take place before all meetings and commence at 6.15 pm, with the main parade at 6.45 pm and racing starting promptly at 7.00 pm.
The fixture list below is subject to change at short notice, with updates posted on the club website and Facebook page as soon as possible.
Thursday, June 22 – Warriors v Rye House (Challenge) plus Wizards fixture
Thursday, June 29 – Warriors v Plymouth (Nora League) plus Flat Track
Thursday, July 6 – Cradley v Warriors (Nora League at Smallbrook) plus Wizards fixture
Thursday, July 13 – Nora Island Masters Open Championship plus Flat Track
Tuesday, July 18 – Speedway Pairs Championship plus Nora Women’s Championship Round 1
Thursday, July 20 – Nora British Open Championship plus Nora Women’s Championship Round 2 and Final
Thursday, July 27 – US Style Speedway Handicap Event plus Nora Upright Championship Qualifying Round
Thursday, August 3 – Warriors Knock-Out Cup (Nora League) plus Nora British JAP Engines Final
Thursday, August 10 – Nora Upright Championship Final plus Wizards Fixture
Thursday, August 17 – Awaiting Confirmation plus Flat Track
Tuesday, August 24 – Warriors v Sittingbourne (Nora League) plus Wizards fixture
Thursday, August 31 – Warriors v Cradley (Nora League) plus Flat Track
Thursday, September 7 – Reserved – Warriors Knock Out Cup Final (Nora League) or Handicap Meeting plus Wizards Individual
Dates for the Warriors away meetings at Sittingbourne and Plymouth will be given in due course.