Hailsham teenager Vinnie Joe Foord makes his Eastbourne Speedway debut on Sunday – less than a week after his 15th birthday.
He will come to tapes for the Eastbourne Seagulls at Arlington Stadium when they face the Leicester Cubs in National Development League (NDL) action.
It is a dream come true for Vinnie, who was 15 on Tuesday and has been a Eagles fan since he was a toddler.
It is also a big day for another Hailsham teenager, Nathan Ablitt.
He comes in at reserve for the HG Aerospace Eagles in place of Drew Kemp in Sunday afternoon’s first match – the Eagles v Leicester Lions in the Championship, which will be followed by 15-heats of NDL racing.
And with Hailsham-based Edward Kennett also riding for the Eagles, club managers are hoping for a large contingent of supporters from the town will make the short trip to Arlington to cheer on the local riders.
With Covid-19 restrictions still in force, admission on Sunday is by ticket only, bought in advance via the club website. There is no on-the-day admission by card/cash.
Vinnie became eligible to race in the NDL on his 15th birthday and is following in the tyre tracks of the likes of Tom Brennan (who made his debut on his 15th birthday), Jason Edwards, Drew Kemp and Nathan Ablitt.
Seagulls captain Richard Andrews is unavailable on Sunday and club managers had two options.
Co-promoter Lee Kilby explained: “We had an option to use rider replacement (RR) with Vinnie at No 8.
“However, had we used RR for Richard, he would have been illegible for NDL matches next Friday at Belle Vue and at home to Kent next Saturday.
“Therefore, Vinnie will ride on Saturday in the No 2 position as an ‘unattached 3-point rider’, as an unattached 3-point rider has to ride in positions 2 ,3 or 4 in the team.
“He cannot sign a formal Eastbourne contract until he is 16.
“However, he has this week signed a formal ‘Letter of Intent’ to join the Eastbourne Eagles as a full asset on his 16th birthday, and, therefore, pledging his future to Eastbourne, which we know has long been his dream, and an opportunity we have all been eagerly awaiting.”
Drew Kemp is unavailable for the Eagles because he is riding for his Polish club, Gdańsk.
His place will be taken by Ablitt. In these circumstances, Championship clubs can only use a 3-point NDL level reserve.
Team manager and co-promoter Trevor Geer said: “Nathan looks like having a great future in the sport, he’s one of our riders and fully deserves his chance.
“Local riders should be able to look to their local club to provide them with opportunities and that’s what Eastbourne are doing.”
Geer said Gdańsk had priority over the Eagles in this case because of the rearranged nature of the Leicester fixture.
Kilby urged fans to get their tickets as soon as possible. “They are selling fast and that’s no surprise.
“It’s another big match for us and another huge test for all our lads.
“Last-heat deciders have been the story at Arlington this year and another one on Sunday would be no surprise.”
Leicester introduce Aussie Zaine Kennedy into their team but their other new signing, Hans Andersen, is unavailable because he is riding in Poland.
Scott Nicholls stands in.
Eastbourne Eagles: Richard Lawson, Kyle Newman, Edward Kennett, Tom Brennan, Lewi Kerr, Jason Edwards, Nathan Ablitt.
Leicester Lions: Scott Nicholls, Zaine Kennedy, Kyle Howarth, Ryan Douglas, Nick Morris, Dan Thompson, Joe Thompson.