Peterborough Panthers launch their 2018 season with a tasty home clash against newcomers Lakeside at the East of England Arena tomorrow (March 25) starting at 7pm.
The sides meet in the first match of the SGB Championship Shield group, with Ipswich the third team in the section – and only the overall winners are guaranteed a place in the semi-finals.
Panthers show four changes to the side which completed the 2017 campaign, although of the newcomers only Nike Lunna is making his official full debut for the club.
Scott Nicholls, Michael Palm Toft and Emil Grondal all return to the Panthers after spells away of varying length – in the case of new No.1 Nicholls, it will be his first appearance as a Peterborough rider since 1994!
Lakeside spent 2017 in the National League after over a decade as a top-flight outfit, and have put together a strong-looking line-up headed by classy Australian Nick Morris and former Panthers man Richard Lawson.
And with only four matches in the group, and Panthers racing both of their home fixtures before hitting the road on April 5, boss Carl Johnson knows avoiding any slip-ups on their own circuit will be of vital importance.
Johnson said: “With Lakeside being new to the league this year it’s a bit of an unknown for them, as it’s a long time since they were at our level.
“But obviously their riders know the tracks, most of them have ridden at this level before, and I think they’ve built a very solid top four – it’s just whether their tail is going to be strong enough.
“If they get one or two riders improving then they’ll definitely be a force, so it’s a tough group, as we know from experience that Ipswich are a strong side as well.
“For ourselves, we have to be positive and believe in ourselves that we’re good enough to beat the other teams.
“The riders that we’ve got in the side have proved in the past that they can beat the best riders at this level, so it’s all about putting everything together on the day.
“It’s going to be tough, and obviously the riders would have wanted more practice at different tracks but the weather has put paid to that and everyone is in the same boat in that respect, apart from those who have visited France.
“But it will be good to get back on the bikes, that’s what everyone wants to do, and it should be a great meeting to start the season off.”
Sunday’s main event is followed by a Midland Development League clash between the Peterborough ‘Motive’ Thundercats and Milton Keynes.
PETERBOROUGH: Scott Nicholls, Emil Grondal, Nike Lunna, Michael Palm Toft, Ulrich Ostergaard, Tom Bacon, Simon Lambert.
LAKESIDE: Nick Morris, Ben Morley, Adam Ellis, Kyle Newman, Richard Lawson, Zach Wajtknecht, Alfie Bowtell.