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COOK: BACKING THE BRITS

BSPA vice-chairman Jon Cook hopes Team Great Britain can close the gap on their rivals by fast-tracking talent into the Elite League.

18 / 11 / 2013, 11:22

BSPA vice-chairman Jon Cook hopes Team Great Britain can close the gap on their international rivals by fast-tracking promising riders into the Elite League.

Top flight teams in Britain next season will feature two home-grown reserves, allocated from a list of 20 fast-track riders selected by the Team Great Britain management.

Riders from the National and Premier Leagues, who have little to no Elite League experience, will be considered for the scheme.

The 20 riders will be graded on experience and ability to ensure clubs receive riders of varying abilities. But clubs who have a youngster on their retained list or living in their local area will generally be given priority on securing their services.

The Elite League race format will be altered to hand these riders two races against their opposing reserves instead of one, and easier outings against rival second strings. These riders will also stay at reserve for the whole season, regardless of their average or performance.

Having seen Polish clubs track two home-grown juniors at reserve, while Elitserien teams name three Swedes in every starting seven, Cook hopes British speedway can produce a flow of talent to rival the Ekstraliga and Elitserien in years to come.

As a sport, we’ve got one eye on the fact that if we don’t do this, we will forever be behind the Poles, the Swedes and the Danes.

Jon Cook

He said: “We’re taking a leaf out of Poland and Sweden’s book. All of the countries seem to be going down this road of trying to bring their own riders on and it’s a hugely positive step for all the countries.

“It’s very good that we in Britain haven’t sat back and watched that happen. To be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tai Woffinden and Darcy Ward will give these riders inspiration. It’ll be an inspiration to be riding with your idol.

“It’s a great thing and those riders will learn so much more chasing a better rider than they will chasing someone who is not of that ilk.

“To have the support top-level teams are able to give with all the mechanical knowledge really is the most fantastic opportunity. It really is akin to someone playing in the lower reaches of the Football League and suddenly being given the opportunity to go into the squad at Manchester United or Arsenal.

“The talent is there. It needs nurturing and fast-tracking and that’s what we intend to do. As a sport, we’ve got one eye on the fact that if we don’t do this, we will forever be behind the Poles, the Swedes and the Danes. We have to do this.”

Cook hopes other riders will be inspired to take up the sport and win places on the scheme in subsequent seasons.

He said: “How exciting is it for riders entering this season’s National League to know that if they do well, perform, score a high average and capture the eyes of Team GB bosses or managers in the Elite League, they could be getting a phone call next November to say ‘well done, you’ve got a fast-track spot.’ It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone who is considering throwing their leg across a speedway bike, whether they want to move over from motocross, grasstrack or start from scratch.”

Some may question whether National League riders should appear in the same team as the likes of Woffinden and Ward. But Cook is confident the young Brits will join the SGP stars in stealing the show.

He said: “These lads within that top 20 will be quality riders. We’re not talking about people wobbling around. We’re not talking about riders of that level.

“We’re talking about fairly accomplished young men, who are going to add greatly to the entertainment of a night out at our speedways.”

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