Peterborough Panthers have been rocked by a retirement bombshell from one of their riders today (August 20).
Lewis Blackbird has notified club bosses of his decision to end his career with immediate effect.
Promoter Ged Rathbone revealed Blackbird (28) has previously told him the current season would be his last in the sport, but he has now opted to hang up his kevlars early following an injury interrupted campaign.
Rathbone said: “Lewis has informed us of his decision to retire from the sport.
“He had always insisted this would be his final year to his business commitments outside of speedway, but it is obviously very disappointing to lose him at such an important stage of the season.
“The season hasn’t gone the way he had hoped. His fitness and form were affected by a crash back in May and it took him a long time to get himself right again.
“He was involved in another crash riding for his Elite League club, Wolverhampton, on Monday and I think that has proved to be the final straw.
“He has been a very popular rider with our supporters during the past two seasons. We thank him for his contributions during that time and wish him well for the future.
“We are already working on bringing in a new rider and hopefully we will be in a position to do that early next week.”
Panthers will operate the rider replacement facility to cover for Blackbird against Newcastle, but talks are already understood to be underway with a potential new recruit.
Panthers have six meetings remaining in the regular Premier League season and look almost certain to secure a spot in the play-offs.
It has been a hectic week for the club following the sacking of teenage ace Robert Lambert and the capture of top Premier League star Ben Barker earlier in the week.
Barker makes his debut against Newcastle tomorrow night.
Blackbird had been acting as stand-in captain with skipper Ulrich Ostergaard out injured. Reserve Simon Lambert will now take on that role when he returns from his own injury lay-off.
Ostergaard will now represent the club in the Premier League Riders’ Championship at Sheffield on September 6.
The Danish ace, currently out with a broken hand, but expected to be back racing within days, finished third in the same event in 2014.