ISLE of Wight speedway fans will be licking their lips anticipating the return of the high-octane Island Masters competition at Smallbrook Stadium in Ryde tonight (Thursday).

The event — which sees grasstrack riders take to the Smallbrook shale on their specialist equipment — will be the start of a three-meeting series.

Of equal importance is it will also be the first qualifying round of the Freelance Installations NORA British Upright Speedway Championship, which will form an integral part of the evening’s entertainment.

The Island Masters series proved to be a popular addition to the summer speedway programme last year, so it was not a surprise when the Wightlink Warriors management team incorporated three meetings in their 2022 schedule.

New to the action this season will be Arran Butcher, from Hinkley. He will be one to watch.

He has been practicing regularly at Smallbrook over the winter, turning in three impressive race wins last week for the Wightlink Warlocks against the Wightlink Wizards, in the development speedway fixture.

Meeting co-ordinator, Ben Ilsley, has again been working hard to recruit an interesting line-up.

The Upright Championship is an innovation for this season. From the earliest days of the sport, speedway machines were powered by engines, mounted into the frame in an upright position.

However, over the past 20 years, the trend has been to mount the motors at a ‘lay-down’ angle for improved performance.

Of late, interest in the older upright machines has flourished right around the country, with more and more bikes being brought up to competitive racing standard and being ridden by recognised speedway and grasstrack names.

The news the Warriors were to stage a speedway championship has brought forth a significant number of inquiries, from which championship co-ordinator, Lee Coleman, has been able to assemble 24 entries.

Eight have been seeded to the Grand Final at Smallbrook in August, with the remaining 16 due to race off in two qualifying rounds of eight — the first of which takes place tonight.

Of additional interest to Island fans will be an on-track appearance by former Island number one and track record holder, Nick Simmons.

He has been invited back to take some demonstration rides by current co-owners, Barry Bishop and Martin Widman, and while Nick has no plans to return to competitive action, he just could not resist the opportunity to take to the Smallbrook shale again. 

The line-ups are expected to be: Island Masters — Like Tuck, Harry Gent, Arran Butcher, Jody Hodgson, Dean Cutler, Giles Dismore, Bill Haynes, Rob Snow, Ian Leverington, Jon Freeman, Harley Freeman and Phil Spencer.

Upright Championship — Mark Anderson, Andy Hickman, Keith Cornell, Glyn Edwards, Nigel Coates, Dave Johnson, Phil Spencer and Shaun Bickley.

Gates at Smallbrook Stadium open at 5.15pm.

Spectators are welcome to visit the pits and listen to the rider briefing at 6pm. The pre-meeting demonstration races will then follow, ahead of the main event which will be at 7pm.

For more information, visit the club’s Facebook page, or their website or alternatively send an email to: