Speedway: Monarchs captain is stuck in lowest gear

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Speedway riders are often only as good as their equipment and Edinburgh Monarchs captain Matthew Wethers, having invested heavily in new machinery for this season, must have believed this would pay dividends for him on the track.

But the Aussie has seen his form nosedive and after picking up just three points over two meetings last weekend, fans were left scratching their heads as to why the normally reliable racer was struggling to win races.

Today Wethers, who leads his side into League Cup action against Redcar Bears at Armadale tonight, revealed that he has been the victim of some dodgy selling and some of his gear has proved to be faulty which has hit him hard financially. Wethers explained: “I was stripping down my bike last Saturday morning ahead of our League Cup meeting at Workington Comets and found a couple of problems.

“I like to have the best of equipment but it seems I have been sold some faulty stuff and I’m pretty disappointed. I have faulty clutch plates which have jammed in the clutch and were not releasing off the start properly.

“When I got to Workington the bike felt fine on parade but when I practised a start on the back straight the ignition just cut out and the bike stopped firing. I got my second bike ready and that too felt fine, I even popped the clutch going across the corner.

“I went to do a practice start and dropped the clutch, but it was like I never dropped the clutch, it didn’t engage. I will have a new ignition for tonight and new clutch plates, I’ve had plenty of luck so far this year – all bad!”

Team-mate Charles Wright, who has been a luminary at the tail-end for Monarchs, was also enveloped by gremlins and failed to score at Workington, which was a big surprise given that it’s a former track of his.

Wright said: “My number one bike gave up on me at home to Newcastle so I used my second motor at Workington, but I had not ridden it since it was rebuilt and it simply did not perform on the night. I was very disappointed and hope to be back on song tonight.”

With just one win in the northern section to their credit so far, Monarchs will be seeking a solid and impressive victory against a changed Bears squad who got the better of them in their first exchange on Teesside last month.

That encounter was notable for the multiple injuries suffered by veteran Bears ace Gary Havelock, who crashed out of the meeting and remains in hospital in what will be a long road to recovery.

His team manager, dad Brian, snapped up Carl Wilkinson on loan from Scunthorpe as his replacement and he has scored 18 points in four meetings so far. “Carl has had an impressive scoring record at our track since 2006”, said Havelock. “He is a real battler as he has proved already and our fans appreciate that.”

Redcar haven’t pulled up any trees either in their League Cup campaign, dropping points after two successive home draws then enduring a bit of a drubbing at Workington recently. In a bid to strengthen up they have parted company with reserve Robert Branford, feeling the youngster wasn’t on the pace, and they have drafted in Mark Jones who was without a team berth following the closure of Newport Wasps.

Former Armadale favourite Aaron Summers now captains the Bears and another ex-Monarch Max Dilger fills the second reserve spot.

Monarchs will doubtless look to Craig Cook to lead by example. He has been in rampant form of late and his 16 points against the Comets was something of a personal triumph against his old team-mates at Derwent Park.

“I feel pretty good at the moment,” said Cook.

“I trained hard on my fitness over the winter and it is paying off. I’m also happy with how my bikes are running. Some of our guys have had bike troubles but once we all hit form at the same time, we could be a match for anyone.

“Redcar could be an interesting match, Aaron always goes well at Armadale and their other main guy Ulrich Ostergaard is a class act.”