Speedway revival dream over for Exeter
MONEY which was left to build a new speedway track for Exeter Falcons is to be used to boost one-time bitter rivals Plymouth Devils.
ManorDelta Ltd, the company which owned Exeter Speedway, has purchased a 25 per cent share in the Plymouth Devils to keep the sport alive in Devon.
But it has acknowledged for the first time that speedway will never again be staged in Exeter.
The Plymouth team, which was revived six years ago by Mike Bowden, has been taken over by former Falcons' skipper Seemond Stephens.
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The deal was in danger of collapsing until the ManorDelta directors stepped in to ensure that speedway racing would continue in Devon.
David Short, a director of Manor Delta and former co-promoter at both Exeter and Plymouth, said: "When the late Colin Hill, who ran Exeter Speedway for 20 years, died in 2004 he bequeathed funds to build a new stadium for the Falcons as the County Ground was about to be demolished. Colin died expecting that stadium to be at Westpoint showground, but those hopes were cruelly dashed. Since then the ManorDelta shareholders have worked hard to find a new venue.
"We now have to accept that speedway will never again be staged within the city of Exeter.
"Finding a suitable site outside the city boundaries which meets planning, environmental and highways criteria has been incredibly difficult.
"Exeter is not alone as several other defunct tracks around the country are facing the same difficulties.
"Therefore the invitation from Seemond Stephens to join him at Plymouth, seems a good solution. Seemond held Colin Hill in high esteem and intends to run Plymouth on similar lines to Colin's management style at the County Ground."
There are already plenty of Exeter connections at the St Boniface Arena where the Devils race.
The Devils have just signed former Falcons' No.1 Mark Lemon for 2013, Lee Trigger, the Plymouth team manager was a familiar face in the County Ground pits 'spannering' for long time skipper Mark Simmonds.
Mr Short said: "Mark has been appointed to the role of Devils' training officer. We are also hoping to stage regular junior racing at Plymouth under the Exeter Falcons banner. It's an easy drive now from Exeter to Plymouth but in these difficult financial times we are looking at the possibility on laying on a coach at very reasonable cost."
Some may find it bizarre to see Exeter and Plymouth working together in a sports project given the traditional rivalry between the two cities, but Mr Short is convinced that speedway wise it can work.
"Yes, there was great rivalry between the Devils and Falcons in the past, but the two sides haven't met in league action since 1962. By working together we have already saved speedway from being lost in Devon, and the potential is there to build a hugely successful partnership."
"When the new season gets underway in March supporters can expect to find the kind of facilities in which to enjoy a great speedway night out."
Around 300 of fans crammed into a meeting held in Eggbuckland to hear about team-building progress and future plans for the Devils.