Last year’s winner Barker to defend his title in BEN Fund Bonanza at Shielfield in March

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DEFENDING champion Ben Barker is the first rider to be confirmed for the BEN Fund Bonanza meeting which will kickstart the 2013 speedway season at Berwick on March 9.

Barker, who will ride for Ipswich in the Premier League after a winter move from Plymouth, has been an ever-present in the BEN line-up since the event was first launched at Sheffield in 2009.

He has totalled 36 points in the qualifying heats and as well as winning last year, he was runner-up at Scunthorpe in 2011.

“I’m pleased to add another BEN Fund meeting, it’s a good cause to race for and it’s nice to be part of it,” he said. “Obviously having won it last year I have every intention of going back and retaining it.

“I think it’s an important thing, I like these sort of meetings and I want to win.”

Barker dropped just a single point at Berwick on his last visit in August and is more than happy with the venue. “I’ve had good meetings at Berwick in the past and I’ve also had bad meetings where I’ve suffered injury, but I will be getting stuck in once again.”

As well as racing for the Witches in 2013 Barker plans to ‘double up’ in the Elite League.

He will also be competing in Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

“I would ride every day if I could,” he said.

Berwick have been awarded the BEN meeting in recognition of the club’s fund-raising efforts over the past three years, when they recorded the highest individual amount in track collections in three successive years.

Only recently club spokesman Dennis McCleary confirmed that as many as six riders who raced in the Grand Prix (World Championship series) last season or who are due to compete in it this year, will be in attendance at Shielfield.

The names of further riders who are due to compete in the event will be released in due course.