USA opposition for Fen Tigers
Mildenhall Speedway will welcome international visitors to their West Row home for the first time since 2015 when the USA Touring side fly in on Sunday, June 25.
The Americans are coming over to Europe to compete in the F.I.M World Team Cup and they are also bringing over a team made up of their up and coming talent to gain some invaluable experience of UK tracks.
This will mark their third visit to Mildenhall, with the Fen Tigers currently 2-0 up after victories in 2005 and 2006.
Back in 2005 current captain Jon Armstrong led the Fen Tigers to a 49-41 victory with a faultless 12-point maximum, the star in the USA ranks being Chris Kerr who later carved out a brief career in the UK with Redcar and Wolves.
The following year saw a 55-40 victory for the Fen Tigers with the bulk of the USA scoring being shared between Tim Gomez and Buck Blair.
The class of 2017 will be led by a familiar and highly popular face from the Suffolk Speedway scene in recent years.
Gino Manzares had two seasons with the Ipswich Witches and has raced for Team USA in three World Cup campaigns, the highlight being a nine-point haul and defeat of double World Champion Tai Woffinden at King’s Lynn back in 2014.
Joining Manzares at the top end of the side is Max Ruml. Currently number two in his countries AMA rankings, Ruml featured in both the 2014 and 2015 campaigns.
He scored four points in his World Cup debut in 2014 and was the AMA Under-21 Speedway champion for 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Also included are Luke Becker and Broc Nicol, who both rode in the 2016 World Cup Race Off at Belle Vue and look to have promising futures in the sport.
Becker briefly stunned the Manchester crowd with a breathtaking sweep past Niels Kristen Iversen in his third ride, while Nicol is basing himself in Europe for the 2017 season in the hope of taking his career to the next level.
Nicol has been selected as the USA nominee in the 2017 Under-21 Individual Championship and takes his place in a semi-final in Italy on May 20.
A top-four finish will see him in the three-round World Championship Series.
The remainder of the Touring side is three new faces who have yet to race for Team USA.
Seventeen-year-old Dillon Ruml is the younger brother of Max and has already achieved a number three AMA ranking last year in just his second year of adult competition.
Another 17-year-old, Gage Geist, is the fast-starting protégé of 1981 and 1982 World Champion Bruce Penhall.
The final member of the team is the son of 1996 World Champion Billy Hamill.
Eighteen-year-old Kurtis Hamill is already making a name for himself on the revitalised US speedway scene and this ultra professional youngster’s progress will be of great interest as he looks to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Team Manger for the USA will be USA star from the early 1980’s Lance King.
King started his successful British career back in 1982 with Cradley before moving on to Bradford and King’s Lynn.
A World Under-21 finalist in 1982, King went on to reach the World Final in 1983, 84 and 85.
King is highly enthusiastic about what this tour offered his young charges and recently said: “I’m excited that we can offer these young riders this opportunity.
“This is the start of our campaign to get the USA team back on the podium of WTC.
“The World Cup European training camp and warm up matches are not solely to get the riders used to the big tracks but everything as a whole, racing as a team, travelling as a team, working on the bikes together and eating different European foods.
“I want to expose them to what it is like racing in Europe on a weekly basis.”
Meanwhile, Mildenhall co-promoter James Easter felt the chance to host the USA Touring side was an opportunity not to be missed.
“A great deal of hard work has gone into bringing this meeting to Mildenhall and I am most grateful to my friends Steve Evans and Lance King for their help in making this happen,” he said.
“The USA side feature some exciting and interesting riders whom I feel sure will quickly adapt to our fast small circuit and provide some excellent entertainment for supporters.
“We will now work hard to promote this meeting around our locality, where there is a considerable American presence, and make this a special afternoon for speedway supporters.
“We already have some ideas for the day and a potential sponsor for the meeting in mind and we will release further information nearer the time.”