SDL side Kent Crayford Kestrels take to flight again
SDL side Kent Crayford Kestrels take to flight again

The Kestrels take to flight again with the news that Kent are entering a side again in Speedway’s Southern Development League [SDL].

And the junior team is boosted by two partnerships which will see a new home venue and new main team sponsors.

Last year in the inaugural season of this new development division, Kent rode their home matches at Central Park Stadium – but with dates limited because of the busy fixture timetable of the senior SLYDE Kings, this restricted the Kestrels junior side to two ‘double headers’ – and this certainly counted against John Sampford’s lads when a brave attempt to take the title foundered with two defeats in their final two matches in a double header against Plymouth Demons and eventual champions Reading racers in late September.

This term they’ll be no need to double up on fixtures, as an agreement has been reached with Swale’s other Speedway circuit, the Sittingbourne Speedway Club to stage the four home fixtures in this year’s SDL on Sunday afternoons at their Iwade training track. With an air fence provided by the Kent promotion and Speedway Control Bureau licensing returned to the Old Gun Site venue, all is set fair for a season for the Kent junior side at Iwade – with the SDL matches able to combine with full second half competitions giving the Kestrels squad and other local juniors excellent competitive racing experience.

This is all part of the Kent club’s progressive & innovative development programme being overseen by Kent co promoters Len Silver & Chris Hunt and Development Manager John Sampford.

And there’s a huge boost for the SDL Kestrels with the announcement of a new team sponsor, the Crayford Speedway Supporters [CSS] group. The CSS helped last year and this term have stepped up to become main team sponsors – with the SDL 2018 side dubbed the Kent ‘Crayford’ Kestrels.

From the new sponsors, Kevin Mackenzie said,

“Between 1975 and 1983 many long-standing friendships were forged amongst supporters of the Crayford Kestrels – the Speedway club in north-west Kent in those years. We enjoyed a significant number of journeys around the country supporting the team. Many of us continue to travel together to different meetings including overseas Grand Prixes. Throughout the 35 years since the demise of Crayford Stadium many of us have talked about seeing the Kestrels reappear on the track once again. Our collective of friends are therefore delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to support the youth of Speedway in the county under the Kent Crayford Kestrels banner in this season’s SDL”.

The Kent ‘Crayford’ Kestrels squad has been announced also – the quartet of riders looking to go one better this term and take the SDL title, comprises the two reserves from the main Kings side plus two local youngsters. Alex Spooner (who picked up a great deal of experience riding in the SDL last term, including appearances for the eventual league winners Reading) leads the way; partnered by new signing in the Kent squad, Jacob Clouting. Eastry (near Sandwich) based James Laker was an ever-present for the Kestrels last term and is back again for a second campaign. He’s joined by another ‘Man Of Kent’ in Canterbury-based Andrew Palmer.

The SDL comprises five teams again. Back from last season are the reigning champions Reading Racers (riding their home fixtures as last term at Eastbourne). They’ll be joined in that particular ‘track-share’ by Weymouth Wildcats who move from using Plymouth’s St. Boniface Arena base as their home to riding out of Arlington also. Completing a quartet of sides back from last year’s successful first year of SDL racing are the Exeter Falcons – last term they based themselves at Somerset’s Highbridge venue but this year are in their home county of Devon, riding out of Plymouth.
Newcomers to the SDL are the Isle of Wight Wizards – meaning that the youngsters will be taking a ‘Ticket to Ryde’ when visiting the Island’s 385 metres circuit – the largest in the division.

The opening fixture as far as the Kent ‘Crayford’ Kestrels are concerned is a ‘grudge’ match against the side who pipped them to the title last year, Reading Racers at Eastbourne Speedway on Saturday May 12th. It’s back to Arlington five weeks later to take on Weymouth Wildcats on June 16th. before the first home match at Iwade the following day on Sunday June 17th. with Reading the visitors.

The other home matches at the Old Gun Site are on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ (12/8) vs. Exeter and on September 30th when playing host to Weymouth with a date yet to be fixed for the visit of the Isle of Wight-based Wizards.