RICKY Ashworth is looking forward to the new challenges which lie ahead following his switch to Berwick Bandits for the 2012 season.
The former Sheffield man says he can’t wait to return to the Yorkshire track to show them just what they are missing.
After ten years at Owlerton many thought the 29 year-old was a nailed-on certainty to be returning to the Tigers for another year.
“I achieved my best-ever average last season,” he said, “so yes, I thought I would be going back.
“But speedway is a numbers game. It’s all about fitting a team within the averages and for me that meant it just didn’t add up, so I had to look for somewhere else.
“It was a disappointment at first, but I realised that if I was to continue in speedway I had to move on and take on a new challenge. At first it looked like I was going to Plymouth, but when I thought about the travelling I realised it wouldn’t suit. Then the club was put up for sale and I didn’t want all the off-track pressures a situation like that might bring.
“I had thought about going into the Elite League, but again I think my average probably made me too big a gamble to take in the eyes of some promoters.
“I don’t think the scrapping of the two and a half per cent for British riders has helped, or the change from 50 to 60 per cent for the conversion rate between the two leagues.
“That’s not to say I won’t consider the Elite League in the future if the opportunity arises, but for the time being I am just concentrating all my efforts on Berwick and riding for them this season.
“Berwick is a track I have always scored well at in the past and it will be nice to have it as a home base. The installation of the new safety barrier is also a big boost to all the riders, as it will give them added confidence, and I think it will be a major benefit to everyone.”
Ashworth has been working on the design of a new frame for the start of 2012, and it is one which he says should also improve his away performances.
“I’m not just a big track man,” he said, “although some people think that. I can get around the little ones as well, but this year I want to up my game in that respect which is where I hope the new frame will help.”
Ashworth, who was singed on loan as a late replacement for broken thigh victim Kozza Smith, believes Berwick have put together a very competitive team for 2012 and barring injury and with a bit of luck he believes they can go on and have a very good season.
“I think Sebastian Alden and I will be very good for each other at the top of the team, but there are also some very capable riders further down the order and so I am looking forward to it all.
“I think we will be very strong at home, but I think we might also do reasonably well away, and I am particularly looking forward to going back to Sheffield – that has to be a 15-pointer for me that night,” he joked.
“I would also love to go back there as the Berwick representative in the PLRC at the end of the season. I am a former winner and I would love to win it again.”
Ashworth was speaking at an eve of season talk-in at the Black and Gold social club on Friday when other guests included new Berwick team-mate Michael Hertrich, former world champion Jan O Pedersen, Sheffield co-promoter Dave Hoggart and track guru Colin Meridith, who designed and installed the new safety barrier which was erected at the weekend.
The event proved to be a huge success with club official and track presenter Dennis McCleary making an impassioned plea for fans to continue supporting the club through these difficult financial times.
“We have survived for more than 40 years,” he said, “but we cannot do it without the backing of the fans on a regular basis.
“We would urge them all to continue to support the club in any way they can. The sport is littered with clubs who no longer operate, and of course in the past few weeks we have also lost Newport. These are financially difficult times, but with your help we can continue to provide you with a club and a team to watch and enjoy.”
Meanwhile, Berwick have confirmed that young Aussie Brenton Barnfield, who was ruled out of a starting place with the Bandits because of injury, has received a further set-back. The 18 year-old has been told that he can not work, let alone ride a motorcycle for the next three months.
Barnfield had been handed a 2012 place by the Borderers after impressing on a mid-season visit last year. But he fell heavily in the Australian U21 Championships at Kurri Kurri when he received a knock to the head.
Doctors, who initially induced a coma to relief his situation, prevented him from travelling to the UK to take up his team place in March. But last week Bandits director George Fairgrieve said: “A further visit to a neurological specialist down in Adelaide has produced a warning that Brenton must not try to work, let along ride a speedway bike, for another three months.