DUTCH speedway master Theo Pijper says he will start with a blank canvas when he pulls on his race jacket for a third spell with Edinburgh Monarchs this season.
Pijper returns to Armadale having ridden for Glasgow Tigers in 2011, and would dearly love to help the capital outfit reclaim the Premier League crown from their oldest rivals who stormed to glory in commanding fashion 12 months ago.
Pijper first joined Monarchs in 2002 having impressed co-promoter John Campbell in an Under-21 meeting at Peterborough.
Pijper recalls: “I think it was Blair Scott’s dad who mentioned me to John. Blair was next to me in the pits and suggested I should race in the UK, perhaps with Monarchs.”
Pijper was more renowned for his motorcycling exploits at the time and this undoubtedly helped him settle in to the British speedway scene, although he was only racing occasional dirt track meetings back then. Monarchs recognised Pijper’s scoring potential and started their 2002 season with Pijper and promising Aussie rider Rory Schlein installed as their reserve pairing.
The pair then laid the foundations for Monarchs’ history-making first championship title the following year.
Pijper was a key member of Monarchs’ league-winning squad and continued to blossom over the five seasons which made up his first spell with the Capital outfit.
He assumed the club captaincy and was at the top of his game as he broke the Armadale track record three weeks in succession.
This surge in form prompted Pijper to move up into the Elite League with Wolverhampton Wolves, but things didn’t work out.
But Pijper has more than one string to his bow and has been one of the top long track performers in the world for a number of years.
This aspect of his career saw speedway play second fiddle as he dropped out of the Elite League. Pijper hankered to ride speedway again and during the winter two years ago he was granted a low 4.9 average following his spell with Mildenhall in 2008.
Monarchs wanted Pijper back in their ranks last season, but couldn’t fit him in and agreed to let him join Glasgow Tigers.
It was a very successful resurrection as he became the first rider ever to gain a championship medal with both Glasgow and Monarchs. Pijper said: “I enjoyed myself at Glasgow, they improved the track at Ashfield and never put any pressure on us as a team during the season. “We were allowed to just get on and do our jobs.
“Glasgow told me they would have liked me back this season, but I had felt for a while that I would probably end up back with Monarchs, and so it has proved.”
Pijper lives in the Capital now with his wife and two children, and believes the Monarchs squad for the new season, which begins in March, may surprise a few teams.
“We all know our way round Armadale, we ride it well, and if we all chip in with the scores we are capable of getting, I think we’ll be OK,” he said.
Pijper has three bikes prepared for the new campaign and although he will continue to contest the World Long Track championship, there should be no more than one potential fixture clash.
Monarchs need to finish in the top six to enter the Premier League play-offs, but with the absence of a recognised No.1 this term, and a few tasty rivals to deal with, it could be a challenging season for them.