Speedway with Shaleman

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EASTBOURNE Speedway’s 2012 campaign begins in just a month and activity is ramping up around the Lifestyle Eagles. The final rider for this year was named on Friday, just too late for last week’s issue.

Russian Denis Gizatullin slots into the team as a reserve – not bad for a former national champion. Senior promoter at Arlington Bob Dugard told fans at a forum on Sunday that Gizatullin was committed to the Eagles. He had been to England to sign a contract and had visited the track, which is much smaller than those he is used to in his homeland and on the continent.

However, he has marked out a smaller track on a frozen lake near his home, to try and mirror the Sussex circuit in his practice sessions.

Dugard also said that in his 40 years of signing riders he had never had so much trouble to get a rider into a team as he has with Gizatullin.

Many of the problems have surrounded getting the rider successfully through an extensive English test. He has accomplished that and his application for a visa is lodged. Clearance to ride in the UK has also been granted by the Russian speedway authorities.

Gizatullin has, of course, made one appearance for the Eagles, in 2007 – in an away match at Wolverhampton.

He follows in the tyre treads of fellow Russians Roman Povazhny – who is still fondly remembered by fans at Eastbourne – and Sergey Darkin.

Co-promoter and team manager Trevor Geer said: “Our desire to bring Denis Gizatullin into the Eagles team goes back some years. We have never lost interest in him and have continued to track his progress.

“It has been confirmed that he will come in on a four point average and a rider of his skill and experience should be able to substantially build on that figure. His starting average of four means he will line up at reserve with Timo Lahti.”

Co-promoter Mike Bellerby explained why the club had remained quiet for some weeks about who would take the final place in the team.

“As most people know, we tried to bring in Gizatullin a few years ago but we were left disappointed when he could not gain a visa due to the English language requirements.

“We understand fans have wanted to know who the final rider would be but on this occasion we were determined to work quietly, out of the spotlight, to get our man.

“Gizatullin has passed the English test, his visa application has been lodged, he has agreed terms with us and I already have permission from the Russian speedway federation for him to ride in England for the Eagles. All these things needed to be in place before we felt able to make any announcement.

“Our position is now similar to that of Fulham Football Club who signed a Russian player on transfer deadline day. They said he would be in their team, subject to him obtaining the necessary visa. That happened for Fulham and the player has already made his debut for the club.”

The fans’ forum was an extremely positive meeting. It was said work should start of improvements to the Arlington pits and turnstile areas this week.

Commercial manager, Chris Macdonald, unveiled a raft of good news on sponsorship, and – as is his way – indicated some more headline-grabbing initiatives are being worked on.

Next date on the calendar for fans is press and practice day on March 17 but they can expect the sound of bikes at Arlington from a week earlier as some of the team take to the track to blow away the winter cobwebs, test their bikes and strive to get race fit.