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TWO BRITS FOR THE BFB
Thursday 14th January 2016
by Mike Hunter
Two English riders who were unfortunate enough to have to call on the Ben Fund last year will be happy to turn out in this year's Bonanza event at King's Lynn on 12th March to repay what it did for them.
Simon Stead is due to return to the track specially for this meeting after losing almost all of last year follow the horror crash at Rye House which saw him suffer a fractured arm and a shattered femur. For a long time no-one wanted to even mention a return to the track, fearing the worst, and Simon admitted to being at a very low ebb in the early days after the injuries.

Of course he has since been seen bright as a button on Sky TV doing co-commentary, and happily he is ready to race again. He's currently in Australia but will be back to lead Sheffield in the new season.

Ben Barker actually did make it back to the track, having been injured in the British Final after starting the season with Berwick. He returned in Peterborough colours for the last part of the season including the Premier Playoffs.

Ben of course has something of a special relationship with the Ben Fund Bonanza and his appearance at King's Lynn will mean he has been in all eight events so far. Of others, only Chris Harris, Danny King and Richard Hall have even done four.

He had informed Paul Ackroyd that he intended to make it to ten, but recently he's decided he can do batter than that! "I've been thinking about the ten, but I've changed it and I've decided I want to do them till I retire. I've enjoyed them so far so why not carry on."

He has a good record and thinks he can extend that at King's Lynn. "I won the Birmingham meeting in 2012, I was runner-up at Scunthorpe in 2011 and I've had fun doing them.

"King's Lynn is fast, a racer's track, and I haven't done an individual there for many years. We will go there and do our best."

No-one wants to call on the Ben Fund but naturally it was there to help when Barker was injured in June last year. "I broke my back in the British Final and that was a bad one, but they supported me and my family and helped me to make a full recovery. It gave me time to concentrate on getting fit and coming back as early as I did.

"I didn't just come back as good, I came back better, and now I'm fighting fit and ready to go."

Of course he will be racing for another new club as he travels north to Glasgow, and he is enthusiastic about that. "I like the ideas they have at Glasgow, I like the team they are putting together and I like the direction they are going. If you like these sort of things, and the people have been great with me, then it's a good way to start."

For one reason or another some of the big name riders in the sport have been missing from the lineups in recent seasons, and Ben says "I'm sure we can all upon some of the big name riders to support the meeting. You don't know what's round the corner so you have to support the people who are supporting you."

He's disappointed not to have secured a doubling up place but he's available if one comes along. "At the moment I am not doubling up, all the team places are gone. I'm a British rider without an Elite League place. Because I've had a reduction in my average with the Birmingham results from two years ago deleted, and because of the lack of no. 1s in the teams, no team is looking for that 4.5 rider to fit a spot. Everybody says they have to start the season with their points being used.

"It's going to be a hard start to the season with only one league and it's not what I want to do, but we'll be pushing hard and if anything changes that will be great."

He's ready for the new campaign but at the moment has the worry of hospitalisation for his son.

"My bikes aren't built yet but they are all there on the workshop floor, waiting for my mechanic to start. I'll be on the bikes early February but that might be delayed depending on how my boy is, we've been told it isn't going to be a quick fix. He's getting sorted, but he's going to be in there for some time."

Paul Ackroyd attended the recent memorial service for Nigel Boocock at Coventry, and during the hymn-singing a collection for the SRBF was held which raised £1367.06. "We're very grateful for that," he said "and would like to thank all concerned including the collectors."
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