Wednesday January 31, 2018
Peterborough Speedway are pleased to announce that their junior 'Thundercats' team won’t just be competing and trying to retain their title in the Midland Development League (MDL) in 2018, but they’ll also be making their debut in the progressive Northern Junior League (NJL).

Jason Pipe, the Junior Coordinator at the East of England Arena explains;
“The Championship in which the Panthers compete in, has now more or less become a northern based league. Panthers will race at the NJL tracks in senior competition so after a chat with Panthers Promoter Ged Rathbone we agreed that it would be a good idea to apply to join the NJL as well. We tried to join the set up in 2017 but weren't successful. I’m pleased to say that this time around we have been accepted and recently cleared by the SCB Co-ordinator Neil Vatcher to take part this time around. I’d also like to place on record our thanks to Jamie Swales, the NJL Co-ordinator for his work and help in our application having a positive outcome and we look forward to working with Jamie and the other NJL clubs during the season."

The MDL in 2018 will consist of four, possibly five clubs - the Thundercats, Birmingham, Carmarthen (at Stoke), Belle Vue and possibly Milton Keynes if negotiations for a home base come to fruition. The NJL will consist of Ashfield (Glasgow), Redcar, Newcastle, Berwick and possibly Workington (subject to confirmation) which will give the Peterborough juniors a more balanced season.

The Thundercats MDL squad will be much changed in 2018 and will include returnees William O’Keefe (19), and Daniel Gilkes (15) who will also race in the Southern Development League with Reading. Tom Spencer (18) is also back with us and looking to progress on his first season in speedway in 2017. The remaining three riders are all newcomers to the squad. James Chattin (19), locally based Lewis Austen (28) and Middlesbrough based Ben Rathbone (20), who is the son of Club Owner Ged's cousin Craig Rathbone, who rode in the 1990's. Ben rode plenty of practice laps at Alwalton in 2017 and looked extremely stylish.

Unlike the MDL, the race format is different in the NJL although still over six heats. The sides consist of two 500cc riders and two from the 125cc class who have three rides each but remain in their own class groups throughout. The two 500cc riders that will represent the Thundercats are Ben Rathbone and Daniel Gilkes. When either are unavailable then Peterborough's other MDL squad members will be asked to cover for them. The two 125cc riders will be Max Perry (10) and Jack Bell (14).

Jason Pipe hopes to add another 125cc rider to the squad, on a standby basis, to act as cover for his two confirmed starters;
"We are very much behind junior speedway racing and by racing in both leagues and putting on some good quality second halves, we hope that one day we can produce one or two of our own assets. We very much hope that our fans will back us by supporting these meetings and understand what we are trying to achieve. I’m certainly looking forward to a busy season in 2018."

It’s hoped that the Thundercats first MDL home fixture of 2018 will be on Sunday 25th March (TBC) with the first NJL home meeting against Redcar on Sunday 15th April.

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