Peterborough Panthers boss Trevor Swales hopes captain Kenneth Bjerre can aim to match the stunning achievements of all-time great Ryan Sullivan.
The two men go head-to-head tonight in the first race of the 2012 season at the East of England Showground as the city side take on a select ‘Sullivan’s Seven’ outfit (7.30pm start).
The legendary Sullivan, making his first racing appearance on these shores since riding at Alwalton for Australia in a World Cup event in 2009, has amassed a staggering 4,324.5 points (including bonuses) during an 11-season Panthers career which has so far covered four spells between 1994 and 2008.
Sullivan, who helped the club to Elite League title glory in 1999 and 2006, is more than 1,600 points clear of the second highest-scorer in the club’s 42-year history - popular Czech ace Sam Tesar.
The 37 year-old’s phenomenal achievements are unlikely to ever be bettered but if anyone can, Swales reckons Bjerre could be the man.
The pint-sized Dane is already up to 11th on the Panthers all-time high-scorers list having racked up more than 1,600 points in four full seasons and one doubling-up campaign riding for the city club.
Joint team manager and co-promoter Swales said: “For me there are three all-time greats in the history of this club - Ryan, Mick Poole and Hans Andersen.
“Ryan started his career here and, although he is an Aussie, he is like one of our own. He has always been hugely popular with the supporters not only for his terrific performances over so many years but also due to his demeanour.
“It will be very, very hard for any rider to even come close to matching his points-scoring achievements but I would like to think that Kenneth can have a really good go.
“Kenneth loves riding for Peterborough with a passion and hopefully he will have many more successful years here.
“We are also blessed with some brilliant young talent at the moment - guys like Linus Sundstrom, Lasse Bjerre and Michael Jepsen Jensen - and who knows what they could go on to achieve in their careers.”
Swales has the honour of leading the Sullivan’s Seven outfit into battle tonight while fellow joint team boss Jan Staechmann, a winter arrival at the club, takes charge of the new-look Panthers.
Swales’ side also includes reigning world champion Greg Hancock, who completes a whistle-stop visit to the UK tonight, and last season’s Panthers number one Nicki Pedersen.
Panthers doubling-up rider Kyle Newman, 2006 title-winner Richard Hall and the teenage Australian duo of Cameron Heeps and Rohan Tungate complete the opposition.
Panthers chiefs are asking fans to arrive early tonight as they anticipate a bumper crowd. The meeting will be followed by a firework display.
Panthers: 1 Kenneth Bjerre, 2 Lasse Bjerre, 3 Olly Allen, 4 Jesper B. Monberg, 5 Linus Sundstrom, 6 Richard Lawson, 7 Rene Bach. Team manager: Jan Staechmann.
Sullivan’s Seven: 1 Ryan Sullivan, 2 Cameron Heeps, 3 Nicki Pedersen, 4 Richard Hall, 5 Greg Hancock, 6 Rohan Tungate, 7 Kyle Newman.
PANTHERS star Linus Sundstrom enjoyed a super start to his season when winning the high-class Brandonapolis individual meeting at Coventry on Friday night.
The slick Swede saw off the challenge of club asset Hans Andersen and home-track riders Scott Nicholls and Edward Kennett to take the spoils.
Sundstrom said: “It’s a very good way for me to start my season. It’s always hard in the first couple of meetings but I felt like I got into it fairly quickly.”
Sundstrom racked up 10 points in the heats and enjoyed a big helping of good fortune in the semi-final as he was in last place when top Brit Chris Harris crashed out.
Sundstrom made the most of his second chance to follow Kennett into the final and saved his best for last to take the chequered flag.
He added: “I only won my last race in the qualifiers, but I was consistent and that was enough. I was a bit lucky when Chris came off in the semi.”
Two of Sundstrom’s rivals tonight, Greg Hancock and Nicki Pedersen, both failed to make the latter stages in the Brandonapolis.
Fellow Panthers man Olly Allen also enjoyed a successful start to the season when reeling off a five-ride maximum to win the Fence Fund Challenge individual meeting at Berwick on Saturday night.