SOMERSET will have an earlier start to their season than originally anticipated, after accepting an invitation from the Leicester Lions for a challenge match on Monday, March 26.
The added fixture gives the Rebels the opportunity to get some extra race time together before their opening home meeting of the season on Good Friday and comes 48 hours before the Rebels’ practice day.
Accepting Leicester’s invite, Somerset promoter Debbie Hancock says: “It is always good for teams to take in as much track time as possible and this challenge meeting has the added attraction of our world champion, Jason Doyle, returning to one of his former clubs, so we were happy to accept the invitation.”
The presence of the world champion at Beaumont Park, the home of the Watling JCB Lions, should encourage a big turn-out, as Doyle was their number one in both 2014 and 2015, joining them from Somerset when his visa restrictions permitted him to ride for one club only.
The Lions are headed by one of Doyle’s GP rivals, Slovakian Martin Vaculik, and they have also drafted in former GP rider Hans Andersen to join 2016 British Champion Danny King in a solid looking team that includes former Rebel and onetime Plymouth captain Kyle Newman.
Leicester boss Simon Stead said: “This is a wonderful way for us to open the season at Leicester. To welcome Somerset with the World Champion is amazing.
“What Doyley has achieved is remarkable and his battles with the likes of Martin Vaculik and Hans Andersen will be great to watch.
“It’s great for us to get the team together for a meeting before we move into cup and league action. It will help us get to know each other.”
Meanwhile Somerset boss Garry May has no fears over new recruit Jack Holder’s fitness for the start of the British season.
Holder, who joins the Rebels from parent club Poole for the 2018 campaign, suffered a broken collarbone when he crashed during a challenge meeting at Cowra, New South Wales earlier this month.
After crashing in heat four he was forced to withdraw from the Team GM Australia side that went on to beat Woody Woodpeckers and underwent surgery to pin the bone.
May commented: “I understand everything went fine with the operation and there is sufficient time between now and the start of the season for Jack to recover fully. He himself is certain he will be ready to start his Rebels career.”
Whilst the countdown to the start of the season – Somerset’s second in top-tier British racing – continues, the Highbridge-based club have advised that season ticket applications need to be submitted by March 1.