MILDENHALL Fen Tigers co-promoter Michael Lee insisted the speedway team’s top priority is always riders’ safety, following the tragic death of a stock car racer at the weekend.
Steve Newman, 36, from Spalding, Lincolnshire, died in a crash at Mildenhall Stadium – also the home of the Fen Tigers – in the Saloon Stock Car British Championship final on Saturday evening.
With the death of Lakeside Hammers captain Lee Richardson in May already hanging over speedway, Lee reiterated the Tigers’ commitment to safety.
“We take every precaution,” he said. “The first bit of expenditure we planned for last year was the air fence because we’d seen so many injuries there.
“We take safety very seriously – no doubt there will be an investigation and they may want to look at us, but we are doing everything we possibly can.”
Mildenhall spent in the region of £10,000 to purchase an air fence last year after reforming in the National League.
The air fence protects the riders at the bends, giving anyone who falls off a much softer impact, resulting in fewer injuries.
Newman, who had qualified in third position, died in a collision during an RDC Promotions-run stock car event at the West Row-based stadium when his vehicle struck the central reservation – not used in speedway – rolled over and led to a multi-car pile-up.
The Oval Racing Council will conduct the investigation into the racer’s death – the first at Mildenhall Stadium in the 20 years RDC have been running the venue.
Lee, speedway world champion in 1980, added: “We have every sympathy for everyone involved at the weekend.
“It’s motorsport – we all know there are dangers involved, especially after what also happened in speedway recently with Lee Richardson as well.”
Oval racing hit the headlines in October last year when British two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died in an IndyCar race in Las Vegas, USA, although the much more powerful IndyCars were racing on a circuit of 1.5 miles compared to Mildenhall Stadium’s track of 260 metres, deemed suitable for less powerful sports such as stock cars and speedway.
The Tigers return to West Row on Sunday following their fifth postponement of a rain-affected season when they host the Buxton Hitmen (4.30pm).
Teenage reserve Josh Bates looks set to ride after recovering from a shoulder injury, but the meeting comes too soon for Joe Jacobs (broken wrist), who is still a couple of weeks away from getting back on a bike.
Speaking about Mildenhall’s most recent postponement against Stoke on Saturday, Lee said: “I’m just sick of it – we’ve got two days of sunshine coming and then we’re back to rain.”
The Tigers are also in action at Stoke tomorrow (6pm) when Cameron Heeps, Stefan Nielsen, Dan Halsey and Lewis Blackbird compete in the National League Fours.
n More on this story on Page 30.