NEW Berwick Bandits number one Charlie Gjedde has designs on staying top of the riding order for the whole of the 2011 speedway season.
While the rest of his team-mates took the track at the club’s official press and practice session at the weekend in their new race jackets, the Dane turned out in a new specially-designed racing suit which carries the club colours on the front and number one on the back.
Gjedde was something of a surprise signing when he was announced at Christmas, prompting claims that he would figure strongly amongst the top riders in the Premier League this year. But he acknowledges that it will take a few weeks to get up to speed.
“I’m really looking forward to the season,” he said, “but I know that after more than 18 months out with two injuries I will probably need a few weeks to get back in the swing of things again.
“Some of the tracks will be new to me (Leicester, Plymouth and Scunthorpe to name three), but I think that if I can find my form again I can be one of the top riders in the Premier League. I certainly hope so.”
Gjedde will be doubling up with Belle Vue in the Elite League and also has contracts to race in Poland and Denmark. “It should all keep me busy,” he explained. “With a schedule like that I know it won’t take me long to get back to my best again.”
Not surprisingly, some of Gjedde’s new team-mates are eager to knock him off his perch, with one of them, fellow new signing Kozza Smith, joking that he wants the ‘spare’ number one race jacket.
“I have to aim high,” he said, “and if I was to be the number one that would be like a dream come true. There’s no denying Charlie is a great rider and it would be no surprise if he stayed there for the whole season, but I think there will be two or three of us in the team looking to close the gap on him.”
Smith, who only recently returned to Britain after enjoying a successful winter tour of his native Australia, says he is ‘‘raring to go”.
He certainly turned up at Shielfield well prepared as he wheeled four identically liveried bikes out into the pits, and from his attacking performances out on track it was obvious he will soon become a firm favourite with the fans. All the riders put in a few laps, and another who showed up well was young Czech Hynek Stichauer, who had his first ever sighting of the Shielfield circuit.
“It’s big,” he said, “but I like that and I think it should suit my style.
“I’m just so happy to be starting out the season with Berwick. I think I can improve, but my big hope is that I just keep my team place for the whole of the season, that’s my initial goal.”
Tamas Sike, who is setting out on his first full season of Premier League racing, can’t wait for the action to start. “I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since I came to Britain,” he said. “Now that I have the chance I want to grab it. Last year I was forced to ride as an amateur in the juniors and I thought it was a wasted year.
“I know I come in on a high assessed five-point average, and I know it will be difficult to maintain that, but I will give it me best shot. I am well prepared, I have invested in new machinery, including a bike I bought from Michal Makovsky. I can’t wait.”
One problem all the riders had to overcome, however, was the introduction of the new silencers, which are having an effect on engine performance.
“We are trying one or two things out to see what works best,” said Smith, “but it’s all trial and error at the moment.”
Gjedde, who also tested the silencers in Germany the previous weekend, added: “They don’t generate as much power as the old ones, and when you get out in the dirt they don’t seem to respond the same. Like everyone else I am just trying one or two different things to see what works best.”