Peterborough Panthers owner Ged Rathbone admitted to a mxture of relief and delight after finally being given the green light to land his top winter target.
The city club completed the capture of seven-time British champion Scott Nicholls yesterday (February 23) to spearhead their challenge for SGB Championship honours.
The announcement to confirm Nicholls’ signing – as predicted by the Peterborough Telegraph earlier in the week – came little more than an hour after the 39 year-old rider was eventually granted clearance to race in the second tier of the spot.
He had previously been blocked from doing so due to the introduction of a controversial new British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) rule which was subsequently overturned following several weeks of stalemate.
Rathbone said: “I’m relieved that matters have reached a satisfactory conclusion and we can all focus on the season ahead.
“We have signed an outstanding servant to British speedway to be our number one and we should all be very excited about that. It’s great news – not just for Peterborough but also for the Championships as a whole.
“Scott’s record in the sport speaks for itself and he is still a hugely competitive force. He is also a much-respected figure off the track and he will be able to have a positive input into plenty of club matters as we go forward.”
Nicholls will be returning to the club where he started his career as a 16 year-old back in 1994. He has since been a stellar performer on these shores and overseas, captaining Great Britain and racing in 82 Grand Prix events.
And Panthers also confirmed the final space in the 2018 line-up will go to reserve Tom Bacon, who has been challenged to kick on from a promising debut campaign with the club.
Confirmation of a return for Bacon provided an early birthday present for a rider who celebrates his 25th birthday on Sunday.
“It has been tough on Tom to have to wait so long to be sure of having a ride,” added Rathbone. “But thankfully we got the answer he needed and we’re all pleased to have him back.
“It also means we are able to use three of our own assets in the team and that has been an important factor in our team-building.”
Bacon is owned by the club along with long-serving Ulrich Ostergaard and the returning Emil Grondal. He is also one of three members of the double-winning team of last season to return - Ostergaard and local man Simon Lambert are the others.
Grondal will be racing on a higher average than initially expected after his figure was reassessed by the authorities. The new figure of 5.08 reflects his scoring during a spell with Swindon in the SGB Premiership last season.
That pushes him up into the main body of a side completed by another returning Danish rider, Michael Palm Toft, and Finnish recruit Nike Lunna.
The new season begins with the high-profile Ben Fund Bonanza individual meeting on Sunday, March 18 which features Nicholls. A number of other Panthers men are also expected to take part.
The club’s first competitive outing follows on Sunday, March 25 when they entertain Lakeside Hammers in the group stage of the League Cup.
Panthers team: Scott Nicholls 9.72, Ulrich Ostergaard 7.12, Michael Palm Toft 6.77, Nike Lunna 5.90, Emil Grondal 5.04, Simon Lambert 4.56, Tom Bacon 2.67.