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All about the Eagles

 

The History of the Eastbourne Eagles


The history of Eastbourne Speedway is – in part – the story of the Dugard family. 

They have been the driving force of the club which was established on the outskirts of Hailsham, north of Eastbourne, soon after speedway came to Britain. 

Eastbourne Motorcycle Sports Club brought speedway to the site at Arlington on August bank holiday, 1929.

In that era, the bank holiday was the first Monday in August. Another pioneer meeting took place at the end of the month.

Charles Dugard

The club continued to run meetings with Charles (Charlie) Dugard taking a share in the club. 

Charlie was a rider as well as a businessman; establishing the business which we now know as C. Dugard Ltd, of Hove.

Charlie assumed full control in 1935 and was one of the country’s top grasstrack riders before the Second World War and for nearly a decade after the conflict ended. 

From then on, the name Dugard has been synonymous with speedway at Eastbourne.

Charles gave the six times world speedway champion Ivan Mauger a helping hand early in his career. The New Zealander came to Britain to ride for Wimbledon but found it tough going. 

Mauger found his way to one of the training schools at Arlington, bringing with him a bike that was in poor shape. Charles helped him sort out the equipment, befriended the young Kiwi who went on to first find success in the Southern Area League and then on the world stage.

Bob Dugard

Charlie’s son, Bob (also a former rider) took more and more control from his father of the running of Arlington for the mid 1970s onwards.

He became Mr Eastbourne Speedway and there was great sadness when he died in August, 2018.

Bob’s son Martin illuminated Eastbourne Speedway for many years and was known as the Master of Arlington.

Martin Dugard

He became the first British rider to win a staging of the British GP when he took the title at Coventry in 2000.

Martin remains the best rider ever produced from the Arlington stadium. 

His sons, Connor and Kelsey, have also taken to the shale with Kelsey becoming the fourth generation of the Dugard family to ride for Eastbourne when he made his debut in 2015.

Martin, Kelsey, Bob and Connor Dugard

Although Martin was the first Eagle to taste GP success, others riders representing Eastbourne have gone on to take the ultimate title.

Nicki Pedersen became world champion in 2003 while riding for the Eagles, whilst another former Eagle, Gary Havelock became world champion in 1992.  In the long-track version of the sport, Joonas Kylmakorpi was crowned champion in 2012, 2011 and 2010.  Former Eagles who won World U-21 World Champions (or its predecessor The European Championship) include:

Peter Nahlin (1988)
Antonín Kasper Jr. (1982)
Ron Preston (1979)
Lukas Dryml (2002)

Nicki Pedersen
Joonas Kylmakorpi

In the modern era of the sport, the Eastbourne Eagles were a dominating force in the old second division (see roll of honour)

Eagles 1986
Eagles 1987

and were ever-present members of the Elite League since its foundation in 1997 until 2014, including Eagles legends such as Dean Barker and David Norris.

Dean Barker
David Norris
Eagles 1997
Eagles 1998
Eagles 1999
Eastbourne Eagles 2010
Eastbourne Eagles 2012 (credit Mick Hinves)
Eastbourne Eagles 2013
Eastbourne Eagles 2014

One of the club’s greatest nights came in 2000 when the club defeated King’s Lynn at the Arlington Stadium in front of a massive crowd to be crowned Millennium Champions. 

Two years later, the Eagles won the league again but suffered the pain of not becoming champions. 2002 was the first year of the Elite League play-offs and the Eagles lost out in the final to Wolverhampton.

As well as Martin Dugard, Nicki Pedersen and Joonas Kylmakorpi, other notable riders to wear the Eagles’ colours include the late Lee Richardson and Kelly Moran, Mark Loram, Joe Screen, David Norris, Dean Barker, Dave Jessup, Gordon Kennett, Bobby Schwartz.

 

The late Lee Richardson

The Eagles finished fifth in the 2014 Elite League season. 

A decision was made not to race at Elite League level in 2015 because of the losses sustained. A successful application was made to ride in the National League in 2015 while the Elite League licence went “on ice”.

Connor Dugard

The National League promotion was run by Martin and Connor Dugard and the Eagles quickly established themselves in the third tier – winning seven trophies in four seasons (see roll of honour).

Soon after the Eagles had completed a National League title and KO Cup double in 2018, it emerged that Eastbourne would be returning to the middle tier of British speedway – the Championship.

Eastbourne Eagles 2018
Double winning 2018 Eagles

A new promotion was formed to run the speedway with Jon Cook returning to Arlington to head the operation.

Major Honours

Premier League champions 1995
Elite League Champions 2000
British League Div 2 Champions 1971
National League Champions (Div 2) 1977, 1986, 1987
National League Champions (Div 3) 1947, 2018
Elite League KO Cup Winner 1997, 2002, 2008
British League KO Cup Winner 1994
National League KO Cup (Div 2) 1975, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1986, 1987
National League KO Cup (Div 3) 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
National League Gold Cup 2015
National Trophy 2015
National Leage Champions 2018