Peterborough Panthers rider is devastated to have been axed, Tungate tipped as a replacement

Chris Harris in action for Panthers in 2017.
Chris Harris in action for Panthers in 2017.
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Chris Harris admits he is ‘devastated’ after being dumped by Peterborough Panthers - only weeks after signing for the club.

The former Grand Prix star was sensationally axed late last week following the completion of the sale of Panthers to Keith ‘Buster’ Chapman.

Rohan Tungate riding for Panthers in 2015.

Rohan Tungate riding for Panthers in 2015.

The decision to drop Harris from the club’s line-up for their SGB Premiership return in 2019 was blamed on ‘cost measures’.

Former owner Ged Rathbone sold the club to British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) chairman Chapman, who also owns fellow top-flight sides King’s Lynn and Ipswich.

Rathbone has since stayed on as Panthers promoter and has put together the team for 2019 which, along with Harris, included Hans Andersen, Craig Cook, Charles Wright, Bradley Wilson-Dean, Ben Barker and Lasse Bjerre, but that line-up now appears to have been deemed too expensive.

In a statement released over the weekend, Harris admitted: “Naturally I am devastated to be departing Peterborough after being released.

“I have great history with the club and would like to thank the fans for their support. I was everyone at Panthers and the new owners all the best for the 2019 season.

“I have been inundated with messages and phone calls of support from fans, promoters, riders, management and members of the press and would just like to say thank you or those.

“I am humbled to see so much love and respect for myself and my family, and for what I do on the track.

“I am going to spend some time with my family over the next few days and then it’s back to the drawing board to see where I go from here. Hopefully it involves the Premiership for 2019.”

Interestingly, Chapman’s two other clubs – King’s Lynn and Ipswich – are the only Premiership sides yet to complete their riding line-ups for next season. Belle Vue, Poole, Swindon and Wolverhampton have full teams already in place.

Speculation on social media suggests Harris will now ride for Ipswich with one of the Witches’ assets - Australian racer Rohan Tungate - tipped to take the vacant Panthers’ berth. It is thought that Tungate is out of favour with Ipswich.

Promoter Rathbone said he was unable to comment on the situation when contacted by the Peterborough Telegraph, while Panthers team manager Carl Johnson politely revealed he has been instructed not to comment publicly. Chapman is understood to be out of circulation currently.

It is understood that representatives of Chapman held a meeting with committee members of the Peterborough Panthers Speedway Supporters’

Club (PPSSC) last Saturday (January 19) to outline plans for the future and allay fears following the Harris debacle.