Following their successful application to join the 2017 National League, new Plymouth promoters Mark Phillips and Laurence Rogers have wasted no time in starting to assemble their team to ride for the Devils when the tapes rise again at the St Boniface Arena in April.
Rogers, who will be the team manager of the side, has secured the engine room of his new side with four captures along with a number 8 for the side, and has his targets in mind to complete the team as soon as possible. With the new points limit for 2017 set at 39 points he knows what points he has left and what riders fit within that ….but faces a battle with all the other clubs who are competing for the riders still not fixed up with clubs yet.
First name announced at the Fans Forum on Thursday night at the Parkway Sports Club was the youngest member of the side in the highly sought after HENRY ATKINS the 15year old who hails from Exeter . The former Somerset mascot with a string of grass track titles to his name rode for Rogers in the Midland Development League last year ending a league winners medal for the Coventry Vikings and third place in the League Riders’ Championship. Rogers is delighted to have captured the signature of the Devonian youngster, “ Henry is going to be a class act. Despite his age and lack of experience he took some impressive scalps last year including an amazing heat 8 win for Coventry in a National League challenge at Swindon. I know he has important exams in June and July and we will work around them and know that we may be without him occasionally but we can cover for that. He will have the experience and support of Andrew Appleton in his pits corner and that will be a big boost for him. There will be no pressure on him and I just want to see him develop and improve …he is one for the future.”
Henry is pleased to become a Devil, “ I have had a few approaches and I know that I need to master smaller tracks so coming to Plymouth will help my learning curve in the sport. I rode for Laurence last year at Coventry and he never puts you under pressure or expects too much and I find that a good combination . He understands that I may miss some meetings because of my exams and when I go to ride in the 250cc World Championships in August but will work round that. I am looking forward to being a Devil!!”
Joining Atkins in the reserve berth is another successful exponent on the grass tracks and European long track scene in 18 year old CALLUM WALKER , who rode for the past two seasons for Rogers with the Coventry Storm. Hailing from Whitecroft, Gloucstershire he has shown great promise and will give the Devils a solid reserve to start the season with his aim to be forcing his way into the top five in the side before long. Rogers knows his rider will serve him well for the Devils, “ Callum has shown such a marked improvement in the two seasons he has been with me and he ended the 2016 season in good form. His final race of the season was at Belle Vue and he just lost out on the line to home man Rob Shuttleworth in a tense four lap battle . He is a good lad with great family support and I know he wants to make the breakthrough in 2017 .”
Callum is pleased to be back with his old boss, “ When I heard Laurence was going to be at Plymouth I was hoping he would be in touch. He has helped and supported me since my first rides for him and always given me praise and confidence. I know what I am capable of and he has instilled in me to have self-belief and that has boosted me no end and I want to push on in 2017 and get into the main body of the team to repay his faith in me. “
The third capture for the Devils is another Devonian in RICHARD ANDREWS from Exeter, who finished last season at Cradley and is relishing riding at Plymouth in 2017. Another graduate from grass track he is a rider who has not fulfilled his potential yet but the club believe they can bring the best out of him in 2017. Started riding speedway at Newport in 2009 where he rode for Laurence Rogers in the Hornets team . Spent 2014 with the Devon side in the National League so has experience of the Plymouth circuit. Rogers sees him as a pivotal part of his side, “ I know Richard well and he is very much a confidence rider and I know how he ticks having worked with him before. The lad has a lot of natural ability and is another who just needs to believe in himself and I will instill that in him to get the best out of him. “
Andrews is looking forward to the challenge, “ It is great having my home club so near to where I live and I am looking forward to working with Laurence again and I know I can up my average in 2017 and put the Devils up there challenging for honours.”
The fourth team member being announced needs no introduction having had three spells in Devils colours in 2006, 2011 and 2014 . Swindon based racer LEE SMART returns to Devon aiming to recapture the form everyone knows he can produce and around the St Boniface Arena he has a good record of scoring. By his standards he had a poor season at the Isle of Wight in 2016 but his 5.71 average makes him an attractive addition to the Devils ranks as he is capable of much more. Team boss Rogers knows that only too well, “When I sat down with the averages I had so many ways of putting the side together and Lee kept cropping up in the many combinations I wrote down as his 5.71 figure looked so attractive . Again I have known him since he started racing speedway and he rode for me at Mildenhall. I know he is capable of adding a few points to his average especially at home . Doing a deal with him literally took seconds and I know he will be one of my ace cards in 2017.”
Smart says, “ It took me less than a minute to agree to return to Plymouth. I love the track and have always scored well there and I know Laurence well and he will get the best out of me I know. It’s great to be back at the St Boniface Arena.”
The four captures take up 16.42 out of the 39 total points limit leaving Mark Phillips and Laurence Rogers 22.58 points to complete the final three signings for their side with the duo hoping to finalise their team within days.
Phillips comments, “ Laurence has been non-stop on working on our side and the way he has done it building from the reserves up has been the sensible way to approach it. We have our targets in mind to complete the side and with any luck we will be in a position to announce the final three soon. We have built a side that will be competitive and challenging for honours and hopefully the fans will get behind their new side .”
The final addition to the squad is another Devon lad in 17 year old SAUL BULLEY, who rode quite a few second halves at the St Boniface Arena in 2016 showing some promise. Hailing from Exeter he is very good friends with Henry Atkins and rode with him for Coventry in some Midland Development League fixtures in 2016. Rogers comments, “ he is another lad I have worked with and he looks a good prospect. We want to run a junior side in 2017 hopefully in a Southern Development League similar to the Midland League and Saul will feature in that. He can also be used when Henry is missing for exams so he has something to aim for and then put himself in the shop window for a full time team spot with the Devils.”