Chris Harris joins Ben Barker to honour Colin Hill
Cornwall-born Great Britain speedway stars Chris Harris and Ben Barker will both be riding at Plymouth’s St Boniface Arena tonight in a memorial meeting in honour of Colin Hill.
The former Exeter Falcons promoter died in 2004, after a battle with cancer, and the club lost its home at the former County Ground soon afterwards, when Exeter Chiefs rugby club relocated to Sandy Park and the venue was sold.
Part of Hill’s trust fund to promote speedway after his death was used to keep the Devils afloat last winter. Manor Delta, which was Hill’s company, owns a 25 per cent holding in the club.
The Devils were taken over by a group of backers but a hold-up over a new lease nearly wrecked their chances of running this year.
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The Devils’ co-promoter Ashley Taylor, one of the men behind the takeover, said Manor Delta played a big part in keeping the club open.
Taylor said: “Colin set up a trust fund for the promotion of speedway and that’s where Manor Delta comes in.”
Taylor added that the Devils owned much to the support of Hill’s trust fund. While it was aimed primarily at the sport in Exeter, the Falcons shut their doors around a year after Hill’s death and plans to resuscitate the club have so far come to nothing.
Instead, Hill’s trust fund took a quarter share in the Devils as their new management team was putting cash together to buy out former chairman Mike Bowden.
Taylor said: “This is an important meeting for us, as Colin’s trust fund was one of the reasons we were able to run this year.”
Harris, now riding for Birmingham Brummies in the Elite League, will lead an Exeter representative side against a Plymouth line-up headed by Barker.
Taylor said: “Chris is one of the top British riders and comes from Cornwall but has never ridden at St Boniface Arena before, so it will be really interesting to see how he shapes up on our track.”
Barker could take another step towards rejoining Plymouth when he rides for the Devils tonight (7.15pm).
The meeting is the second individual event in Plymouth that Barker has attended in the space of two weeks. Last weekend, he won the Westernapolis meeting at St Boniface Arena.
Barker moved to Ipswich Witches in the off-season when there were doubts that the Devils would survive into the 2013 season. Speculation has been growing about Barker since he admitted he was interested in rejoining Plymouth earlier this season.
Taylor said: “I don’t hold it against Ben for moving clubs, because it was at a time when we weren’t even sure that we would be racing this year.
“Of course, he had to set himself up with a club. But I can’t talk about riders who might want to come here next season,” he added. “They are still signed with their clubs until the end of the season.
“Ty Proctor is still our number one – it is just unfortunate that he hasn’t been riding for us because he was injured. But I can say that we have had inquiries from riders who are interested in riding for us next season.
“When we first took over, because of all the uncertainty, it was more difficult to get riders. But now everybody has seen what we are doing, they are interested in joining us.”
While Harris has never ridden at St Boniface Arena, Barker was the Devils’ number one and captain in 2011 and 2012. Former Devils rider Ricky Wells, present captain Mark Lemon and Plymouth riders Jake Anderson and Michael Palm Toft are also in the home line-up.
The Devils’ up-and-coming asset David Abraham is given a chance among the big boys, while Elite League rider Steve Boxall will be a guest for the hosts. Former Falcon Leigh Lanham will be riding for Exeter, backed by ex-Devils Ryan Fisher and Simon Neilsen.
Connor Coles, son of Exeter star Michael Coles and grandson of Bob Coles, who rode for Plymouth and Exeter, will take to the track for the visitors.
Plymouth: Ben Barker, Steve Boxall, Ricky Wells, Michael Palm Toft, Mark Lemon. Reserves: Jake Anderson, David Abraham.
Exeter: Chris Harris, Danny Maassen, Ryan Fisher, rider to be confirmed, Kevin Doolan. Reserves: Simon Nielsen, Connor Coles.