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Kenneth Bjerre rides in the Ben Fund Bonanza
Former winner Hans Andersen will ride at Peterborough
Scott Nicholls looking forward to the Bonanza
Ben Barker proud to reach the tenth Bonanza as the only ever-present
Ben Fund top scorer Chris Harris back for the 2018 event
Tenth Bonanza will be at Peterborough
Thursday 11th January 2018
by Mike Hunter
The annual Ben Fund Bonanza has reached the significant milestone of its tenth staging, and this historic event will take place at Peterborough Speedway on Sunday 18th March with a start time of 2pm.
Paul Ackroyd, now the Chairman of the SRBF and of course the originator of the Bonanza meeting, has been working hard behind the scenes towards this later-than-usual announcement, but he says "Now that we are able to say where and when our tenth annual meeting will be I'm obviously relieved but also thrilled that the meeting will be at such an excellent venue. We have big plans and intend to make this a real fun day for the supporters."

Ackroyd also revealed the first five names for what he believes will be the best Bonanza field for several seasons. These are top Danish duo Kenneth Bjerre and Hans Andersen, the English "old firm" of Scott Nicholls and Chris Harris, and of course, for his tenth appearance in the Ben Fund Bonanza, Ben Barker. Barker has done the most Bonanzas, obviously, but Harris last year became the highest point scorer in the event's history with 58 points from his 6 appearances.

For Panthers' go-ahead promoter Ged Rathbone, this is something he has wanted for a while. "We as a club are over the moon to be staging the Ben Fund Bonanza. We have looked at doing it and talked about doing it for a couple of years, and we've finally been given the go-ahead to try and put on a really good show for Paul and the paying public who come and watch it. We are genuinely over the moon.

"We've held some big meetings over the last two or three seasons, the Fours etc., so we know what it is all about, and we will approach this one in exactly the same way. We want to promote it to be the best Ben Fund meeting for a long time, the racing surface weather permitting will be perfect.

"The stadium and facilities are ideal for this type of meeting and the location should be good for supporters from all parts of the country.

"We all know about the Ben Fund and the help it gives, but we don't necessarily know just how much money is needed ¬ it's actually quite scary.

"We will have a field that is unbelievable. All of the riders will be of a calibre of those we are announcing initially, or more. I want to beat the attendance record for this meeting which was set at Rye House."

Of all the things Ben Barker has done in his eventful career, nothing has earned him greater respect than the unstinting support he has given to the Benevolent Fund. He said "It's something I agreed to when I first started doing the Ben Fund meetings, I said I'd do the first ten and I'm here now!

"One of the reasons I'm so keen to support it, they've helped me not just last year but in previous years as well. It's a great cause and that's why I'm so keen to do my bit for it.

"I've got a couple of friends who have bad injuries and have been helped by the Fund, and that does play on my mind. That's why I look on it as such a good thing.

"Last year I injured my wrist, a real bad break, I shouldn't have been riding really. But you've just got to get on with things sometimes. It's not a prima donna sport."

Barker is back with Redcar and Rye House for a second season, which he is very happy about. "I had a great year last year, it's just about kicking on from there. I'm over the moon to be back with the same two teams as last year. It gives me a bit of consistency and you know what everything's about."

He isn't the sort of rider to have hang-ups about any track but he does admit that he hasn't always liked Peterborough. "It's weird, four years ago I would have said I hate the place, I'd never ride there regularly. But then I broke my back, the Ben Fund helped me through that, and I made a quick return - for Peterborough! Ever since then I've loved the place. I still have nightmares about that race I had with Ryan Fisher there a couple of years ago!"

Scott Nicholls rode in the first two Bonanzas back in 2009-10 and he will be back this year, sending his own message of support.

"It will be a great afternoon for the fans for their first speedway 'fix' of the season. It will be a brilliant meeting I know that.

"It's a fantastic cause, all the money raised will go to riders who have sadly been injured during their career and can no longer compete. I think the Ben Fund do an absolutely brilliant job supporting these guys. It makes the injured riders still feel part of the speedway family and world which I think is really cool.

"It just goes to highlight just how special and unique the Speedway community really is, I don't think there's many other sports out there that have a support network the same.

"Without the kind support of everyone coming to watch those donations would just not be possible, so I thank everyone who comes to the Ben Fund events, it is so important.

"I know I can't wait, it will be brilliant to get back on the bike, and along with all the other guys in the meeting it's a nice way for us to feel that we are giving something back. It's our way of supporting the injured riders, we know it is a dangerous sport and accidents sadly can and do happen.

"18th March, put it in the calendar and I really look forward to seeing you all there!"

Every now and then there is an act of kindness when someone thinks of the Ben Fund and the injured riders, and Paul Ackroyd likes to ensure that his thanks are recorded. He says "Belle Vue recently staged an Evening with Craig Cook, and Craig asked that proceeds of their raffle which were over £400 be donated to the Ben Fund. I'm most grateful for that."


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