Peterborough Panthers have tonight (November 27) unveiled four members of the team which will bid for SGB Championship honours in 2018.
The city club confirmed the captures of two new recruits and announced the return of two of last season’s double-winners at a fans’ forum staged at the East of England Arena.
Danish racer Michael Palm Toft and Finnish star Nike Lunna are the new faces – although the former is already well known to Panthers fans after riding for the club throughout 2015 and again in the early part of the following year until being dropped as part of a major shake-up.
The two men will feature in the main body of a new-look side. Toft (27) arrives on an average of 6.77 after being at Scunthorpe since leaving Panthers, while highly-rated 21 year-old Lunna’s figure is 5.90.
He joins on loan from Glasgow and is well on the way to a full recovery after suffering spinal fractures in a crash in Sweden back in August.
Team boss Carl Johnson said: “Michael has had a season and a half away at Scunthorpe and really showed his potential.
“He rose to number one in their team for a time, but he openly admits he never really enjoyed racing there.
“He didn’t want to leave Peterborough when we decided to make changes in the 2016 season and we’re delighted to give him the opportunity to come back.
“We believe he is a steal on a 6.77 average as he has proven during the past season that he can put almost a point on that.
“Nike is a tremendous young rider who has always performed well on the occasions we have used him as a guest.
“I fully expect our track to make a big difference to him once he gets settled in. He’s another rider we believe can make plenty of improvement on his starting average.
“There’s always a lot of pressure on riders to perform at Glasgow and that is not always beneficial for guys that are still learning their trade.
“The atmosphere will be much more relaxed here where the focus is on enjoying racing.”
Joining Palm Toft and Lunna will be two men who have become standing dishes at the East of England Arena.
Ulrich Ostergaard is back for a fifth successive campaign in Panthers colours after leading them to KO Cup and Fours honours as captain last season.
And high-scoring reserve Simon Lambert also returns. It’s a fourth consecutive season at Panthers for him and club bosses will hope he can avoid the serious injuries which have either interrupted or cut short the previous three years.
Ostergaard (36) slots in on a figure of 7.12 while 28 year-old Lambert has a mark of 4.56 after a fine end to last term.
Johnson added: “Ulrich and Simon are both hugely popular riders at Peterborough and I’m sure it’s no surprise they are back.
“Ulrich got some bad press in 2016 when struggling a bit. I felt that was unjust at the time and he proved that when kicking on again last year and being a big part of our successes.
“We all know what Simon can do around Peterborough and he is also a much-improved rider on the road.
“The way he ended last season was really impressive, piling up the points when coming back from a bad wrist injury.
“I’m confident he can be a stand-out rider at this level – whether that be at reserve or in the main body of the team.
“Obviously we’re all hoping he can stay injury free as he has been seriously unfortunate in recent years.”
Panthers have so far used 24.35 of their available 42.50 points for team building.
Johnson confirmed club bosses are involved in talks with a host of potential targets to fill the three remaining places in their side. He hopes those pieces of the jigsaw will all fall into place before Christmas.
It is already known that former GP star Chris Harris won’t return as he has signed for SGB Championship rivals Glasgow.
The club have also ruled Jack Holder out of their plans due to his Polish commitments meaning he is unavailable on the vast majority of Sundays, which is when Panthers will stage home meetings again.