King’s Lynn Stars so excited to be on the World Speedway League stage with European heavyweights
- Credit: Ian Burt
During his 10 years in charge of Norfolk's beloved speedway outfit, Rob Lyon thought he had seen everything.
King's Lynn Stars' dominance of the Premier League. A successful move into the Elite League. A couple of semi-final defeats. Record-breaking runs of form. The growth of the club's Adrian Flux Arena into one of the premiere stages to host a meeting anywhere on the planet. Lyon even managed to squeeze in a stint as boss of Great Britain. But surely the long-serving manager never expected to take his troops outside of the UK to lock horns with some of Europe's biggest heavyweights.
That's what Lyon will do this evening though when Lynn – riding on the continent for only the second time – take to the shale in Gorzow, Poland, for the second staging of the World Speedway League. While they may only be representing Great Britain in the sport's watered down version of football's Champions League because Elite League holders Poole Pirates have withdrawn from the one-off meeting, little can dampen the Stars' chiefs enthusiasm for their exciting adventure.
Lyon said: 'It's new ground for us (first appearance in World Speedway League). It's a good opportunity for us, our sponsors, our fans, for the club and the riders.
'It'll be a good experience for the younger riders and branching out into European competition –who knows what might happen with the competition? It would be nice if it branched out, like football, where other nations came into it eventually, like the Czech Republic and other countries. It would be great.
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'I'm sure it'll be a good atmosphere, a great occasion and I think there'll be a few fans going over so it'll be a proud moment for all of them really.'
Title-winners from Poland (hosts, Gorzow), Sweden (Vetlanda) and Denmark (Holsted) will provide the Stars' opposition in the four team, five-man, 20-heat event which will be held at the famous Edward Jancarz Stadium.
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Poole bagged a silver, finishing behind Swedes Piraterna, during the inaugural staging of the competition last season. And bringing home a medal is certainly the aim for the men from Saddlebow Road.
'We're under no illusions that it's going to be a tough meeting for us with the teams that are involved in it but we're going to go into it with an open mind,' said Lyon.
'I'm sure the boys would be disappointed if we finished last, well fourth, but it's certainly going to be a good experience.
'It would be great to get on the podium. We've certainly got a team that's capable of doing it. But we'll see what happens.'
Grand Prix aces Tai Woffinden, Jarek Hampel, former Star Nicki Pedersen, and Krzysztof Kasprzak will be the star world-class attractions on show in front of the predicted crowd of 17,000. Two riders who won't take part on the evening are Lewis Kerr and Ashley Morris though.
The Lynn duo were left out with Lyon only being able to select five of their seven riders for the mouth-watering meeting.
Guest Piotr won't let us down – Lyon
Lynn will come up against a few familiar faces in Poland – one more instantly recognisable than the others.
Former riders Nicki Pedersen and Nicolai Klindt will pit their wits against the Stars for Holsted as part of the four-team event, as will King's Lynn's most famous name – top gun Niels-Kristian Iversen.
The number one also competes for the hosts, Gorzow, in Poland and will be donning their colours for the second World Speedway League. In his place for the night comes another name that's linked to Lynn, their now 40-year-old former racer, Pole Piotr Protasiewicz.
Boss Rob Lyon said: 'Niels is a big miss. We did try and look at getting him in but we were a late entrant and it had already been agreed he would ride for Gorzow, so it's only fair he rides for them.
'It's a big shame as he's our number one, a big part of the team – but I'm sure Protasiewicz will do a good job for us. Although he's in the twilight of his career he's still pretty hot around the Polish tracks so I'm sure he won't let us down.'
Lynn, in their fifth year back in the British scene's top-flight, are in the middle of a run of five meetings in eight days. That spell started with a home win over Swindon Robins followed by a defeat in the return 24 hours later.
'I think it's just progress that we're able to go out there and represent the UK I guess,' added Lyon.
'Whenever tournaments like this get organised you're always going to have meetings where riders have two or three on the trot. They train hard in the winter for hectic spells and I'm sure they'll be fine.'
Millennium visit to Gorzow was a winning one
The turn of the Millennium marked plenty of firsts – and it was no different for King's Lynn.
The club, then known as the Knights rather than the Stars, headed outside of the UK for a maiden excursion which, coincidentally, also took them to Gorzow's now hugely-developed Edward Jancarz Stadium.
Nigel Wagstaff's charges took to the shale in Poland for a pre-season challenge meeting during a campaign which will mostly be remembered for Norfolk's heroes winning their first trophy for 23 years. But it shouldn't be forgotten that they also broke new ground that year – away from ending a two-decade quest for silverware – by competing on the continent.
The power-packed Knights, led by Australian idols Jason Crump and Leigh Adams, tasted victory against their hosts by 48 points to 42.
But it wasn't either of the Aussie duo that top-scored during the 'friendly'. That honour went to their fellow countryman and team-mate Craig Boyce.
- For updates from this evening's World Speedway League fixture in Poland – which starts at 6pm – visit www.edp24.co.uk/sport