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News Archive > Sport > Shale ace is raring to go but will Diamonds be forever?

Shale ace is raring to go but will Diamonds be forever?

By Gareth Davies 17th February 2021

Shale ace is raring to go but will Diamonds be forever?
Cornish speedway ace Ben Barker pictured here in action during the 2019 campaign and inset, has revealed that he can’t wait for the new season to begin

Clay Country speedway star Ben Barker has revealed an injury free 2021 season is his aim after securing a team spot with Championship side Newcastle Diamonds, writes Gareth Davies.

The 32-year-old was set to race for West Country outfit Somerset Rebels last year before the covid-19 pandemic wiped out all league speedway in 2020. 

It was expected that Barker would keep his place at the Oaktree Arena although in an unexpected turn of events, Rebels’ promoter Debbie Hancock opted to sit out 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

This left Barker without a team place until the Diamonds came calling and the chance to reunite with former Stoke Potters promoter Dave Tatum at Brough Park.

“It was meant to be Somerset for this year but Somerset then pulled out of the league,” Barker told the Voice. “I have a really good working relationship with Dave Tatum who is the co-promoter (at Newcastle) as I rode with him at Stoke for a few years.

“There was a team place that came up at Newcastle, so I felt that it was right to take it. The travelling was a consideration, but it is something I have become used to. The track at Newcastle will suit me better and I have always found that I get on better at smaller technical tracks.

“Hopefully it won’t take too long to get up and running. Every rider is in the same boat of not riding regularly for close to a year. Hopefully, the main thing for me this season is to just stay injury free.”

Now considered an experienced campaigner in British racing circles, Barker has perhaps never quite hit the heights expected when he burst onto the scene in 2003, riding for the Trelawny Pitbulls in the Conference League.

Sadly, the whole Trelawny operation was forced to shut at the end of Barker’s maiden year and despite being forced to race outside the Duchy, he has never struggled for potential suitors.

Barker has also regularly been in the mix for domestic international honours with British Final performances resulting in track reserve places at the showcase Cardiff Grand Prix – see page 45. He openly admits that a wildcard place at the British Grand Prix would be ‘nice’, although the make up of this season is still very much unknown. 

“You don’t know what the rules are going to be for qualifying for Cardiff and you don’t even know if Cardiff will go ahead,” he revealed. “At the moment, we just don’t know so the plan is to get the season underway as quick as possible, hit the ground running and go from there.

“At the moment, I will come in at number five at Newcastle which is the second heat leader. I don’t really care about numbers on race jackets or positions in the team, I just want to get out there and start riding.”

Further down the West Country, Plymouth Gladiators have made back-page headlines with their signings of former world champions Jason Crump and experienced Grand Prix veteran Bjarne Pedersen.

The Devon outfit, promoted by Mark Phillips, who also hails from the Clay’s, only had their application to race in the Championship accepted at the eleventh hour – after Barker had agreed to ride for Newcastle.

Whilst Barker admitted that he could have ended up at the Coliseum if timings had been different, the Truro-born man didn’t rule out riding for Phillips again in the future.

He also enthused that both Crump and Pedersen racing on these shores was a massive shot in the arm not just for West Country speedway, but the sport in general.

He added: “It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if Plymouth had been accepted into the league prior to my situation being resolved, then logistically, Plymouth would have been an obvious choice for me.

“Mark has got them up into the Championship and hopefully then can have a season there. You never know what may happen in the future, I could end up their myself.

“(Crump and Pedersen signing for Plymouth) isn’t just a boost for the South West’s speedway, it is a boost for speedway across the whole country to have those two riders racing.

“I will be looking forward to going down to Plymouth and to race against to them, but I won’t be looking at the programme and think ‘I’ve got this rider in this heat or that rider in this heat,’ I just get to tapes and do what I have to do.”

By Gareth Davies 17th February 2021

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