Panthers plans for a bright start are washed out by rain

World champion Jason Doyle (left) should have been riding at the Showground on Sunday.
World champion Jason Doyle (left) should have been riding at the Showground on Sunday.
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Peterborough Panthers have seen their ‘perfect’ start to the 2018 season wrecked by the weather.

The city club were due to stage the mouth-watering Ben Fund Bonanza at the East of England Arena this Sunday.

But the high-class individual event – headlined by reigning world champion Jason Doyle – has been axed after the Alwalton track took a battering from the elements in recent days.

“It would have been a perfect start to the new season,” said frustrated Panthers owner Ged Rathbone.

“We’re all extremely disappointed to have had to postpone the meeting, but it was the only decision we could make.

“Ourselves, the East of England Arena and Paul Ackroyd – the meeting organiser – were all in agreement that it was the correct course of action.

“We are not prepared to put rider safety in doubt in a meeting that is there to raise funds for the Ben Fund, which supports injured riders so brilliantly.

“It is so wet that we can’t even get machinery onto the track to be able to work on it. We couldn’t risk jeopardising the beginning of the season by causing further damage.

“We also had to consider the safety of spectators as well as the riders on the track. The entire East of England Arena site has been washed out after so much rain and the heavy snow.

“People don’t understand how much time goes into assembling the calibre of line-up we had put together. Ourselves, Paul and his team have all spent weeks on this.

“It was a great honour to be given the opportunity to stage it and we were very proud to have attracted such a great list of riders. It’s just a shame the weather got in the way.”

The Ben Fund Bonanza is now likely to be rescheduled for later in the season with Panthers still hopeful of staging it.

The city club have also had to shelve their Press & Practice event which was scheduled for Saturday. A day of team-building activities tomorrow has also been scrapped.

The focus is now on ensuring their opening team meeting – an SGB Championship League Cup clash against Lakeside on March 25 – goes ahead.

Rathbone added: “The forecast does look a lot better next week so all our efforts will be focused on ensuring the League Cup meeting against Lakeside can go ahead.

“We’ll hope to get together as a team before then as a lot of the boys are in need of time on the bike. Two or three of them have managed to get some laps overseas, but a lot of them still need to get on track.”

Three Panthers riders - new number one Scott Nicholls, Ulrich Ostergaard and returning Michael Palm Toft - had been due to ride in the Ben Fund Bonanza.

The city side is completed by Nike Lunna, Emil Grondal, Simon Lambert and Tom Bacon for 2018.