Edinburgh Monarchs director Mike Hunter said that his speedway outfit have found “a gem” in young rider Josh Pickering and looking at the Aussie’s start to the season, it’s hard to argue.
Three race victories in Monarchs opening two Championship fixtures against Scunthorpe Scorpions at home and Berwick Bandits away last weekend let Pickering grab all the headlines and fears that he was a gamble have been rendered redundant already.
As Monarchs prepare to face Berwick in the return clash at Armadale tonight, PIckering spoke about the 13 points he racked up in both fixtures, with Monarchs supporters purring with delight at the prospect of even better things to come.
The 21-year-old told the Evening News: “I started off with six against Scunthorpe last Friday and although I got off to a bad start, I quickly moved on from that. My bike preparation was good and I was happy with how things went, especially as I won my first race for Monarchs in heat eight.”
The trip to Berwick 24 hours later yielded even better rewards for Pickering on a track he had never seen before, but he missed his first race after failing to beat the two-minute warning.
He explained: “My clutch was sounding very aggressive and my chain was locked up solid. It was a frustrating start but again I put that behind me and I won heat eight and heat 11 and I was pleased with that.”
Pickering played down his seven-point score on a Borders circuit that can be daunting for seasoned professionals, let alone callow rookies. He said: “It was all right I suppose. To be honest when I walked in and looked out on the track I was just trying to work out the quickest way round it.
“Because I wasn’t out in the first heat I looked at how the other riders were doing and tried to get a feel for the place, but I always want to ride my own race.”
Anybody who witnessed the way Pickering attacked the bends at Armadale during the club’s pre-season practice session shouldn’t be that surprised that his debut against Scunthorpe went so smoothly.
Said Pickering: “I believe Armadale is a bit of a passing track. It’s also a track where if you make a mistake it’s hard to come back from. All my focus will be on trying to ride sensibly and finding the right lines.”
Asked whether he is surprised at just how good a start he has made for Monarchs, Pickering replied: “I don’t want to sound big-headed but I prepared myself as best as possible before I left Australia. I know what I’m capable of and riders I race against back home are not slow at all. I can beat those guys back home so there is no reason I can’t beat them over here.
“When I left for the UK I had a feeling it would go one way or the other. I’m pretty fortunate that is has gone the way I had planned for.”
Berwick are in freefall right now and were beaten heavily by Newcastle Diamonds the day after losing to Monarchs. Pickering added: “All the boys are taking things as they come one meeting at a time, but I think we can beat Berwick again. If I can score the same points as I did against Scunthorpe I’ll be more than happy.”
Meanwhile, Pickering’s team-mate Max Clegg is working hard to put things right after a dismal start to the season.
Clegg, who has engine problems and trouble with set-ups, said: “I went to Buxton last Sunday and tested a new engine which felt better so hopefully things are beginning to turn.
“The Championship division is brutal and unforgiving and I haven’t become a bad rider overnight. I hate letting my team-mates and fans down, but I’m trying hard to put things right and I will get it sorted.”
Unfortunately, the problems seemed to persist for Clegg on Monday, when he could only manage two points riding for his Premiership team Wolverhampton.