Rising British speedway star Drew Kemp will be an Eastbourne Eagle in 2020.
His signing was announced this morning (November 19) by the Sussex club.
The 18-year-old is the reigning British Under-19 champion and made his debut last month for Great Britain in a senior test match against Denmark.
He has also represented his country at Under-21 level.
Kemp is regarded as one of the hottest young properties in British speedway and the Eagles are delighted to have captured his signature.
Joint team manager Trevor Geer said: “Drew is absolutely buzzing about coming to Arlington and I’m sure our fans cannot wait to see him in our colours.
“We have built an exciting, entertaining team and, once again, it is an all British 1 to 7.
“A whole crop of talented youngsters is coming into British speedway at the moment and we have three of them at Arlington in Drew, Tom Brennan and Jason Edwards.
“I’m sure those three will learn from our more experienced riders and also enjoy friendly rivalry with each other.”
Kemp rode last year in the Championship for Sheffield before losing his place in a mid-season reshuffle. He also rode for Kent in the National Development League.
Will Pottinger, co-team manager with Trevor Geer, commented: I’m delighted that we can include Drew in the team as he’s a great talent on a speedway bike.
“We identified him as one of our top targets for next season and we’ve beaten off several teams to get his signature.
“He’s got potential to score plenty of points and improve his average from the reserve berth.
“I worked with Drew at Cradley in 2018 and I’m sure I and everyone will look forward to working with him again in 2020.”
The confirmed Eastbourne team: Tom Brennan, Jason Edwards, Drew Kemp, Edward Kennett, Lewi Kerr, Richard Lawson and Kyle Newman.
Ian Jordan, Director of Eastbourne Speedway, explained the logic of the team building for 2020.
He said: “When Trevor, Will and myself sat down to discuss the structure of the team for 2020, the overriding questions were to consider how we can perform better away from home in 2020 than we did in 2019, and how we balance the team a little better in respect of heat leaders, second strings and reserves.
“When we looked closely at the averages and all performances, both home and away, it became very clear that we have three exceptional heat leaders who are in the top 20 Championship averages overall; at home and away from Arlington.
“Richard is an outstanding rider, a fantastic team player and probably one of the most sought after riders every season at this time due to his outstanding consistency.
“Edward remains a mercurial talent who on his day can deliver world class performances.
“We know that Edward had some physical issues in the second half of last season that affected his confidence, but we are sure he will be fit, fresh and ready to go again come the spring.
“In Lewi Kerr we have not only a terrific talent but another great guy to have around and after an injury free season in 2019 we feel sure that a similar run in 2020 will see him improve his average again.
“For us to break up that trio would, we think, be folly and we are delighted that all three have agreed to return and thank Glasgow, in respect of Richard, and King’s Lynn, in respect of Lewi, who have been so very helpful to us.
“I would particularly like to thank Peter Facenna and Alan Dick for their help in allowing Richard to join us in 2020. We have the greatest respect for all they do at Glasgow and everyone at Glasgow Speedway in general.”
Jordan said another huge factor was to give the top three guys the motivation and respect they deserve by building a team that will both match their aspirations to win titles and cups, and also to push and press them for the coveted heat leader spots as the season progresses, so we have a team where everyone can contribute, both home and away.
He said: “The team we built in 2019 lacked at times second string depth.
“That was no fault of the riders involved, more a circumstance of the fact that we were authorised relatively late in the day for 2019 Championship membership and were, therefore, not on a level playing field with some other clubs.
“The work Jon Cook did in building the side that he did – one that reached a Shield Final, a KOC semi-final (knocking Glasgow and Leicester out of the respective competitions along that way), and which was one home league win away from 5th place – was outstanding and very much appreciated and never should be overlooked.”
Jordan said that in Tom Brennan Eastbourne have an outstanding young prospect coming back from a bad injury.
At the time of his crash, his average had risen from 2.00 to 6.05 and on the night of his accident he had already scored double figures against one of the league’s powerhouse sides.
“We believe that with encouragement and allowed time to settle and regain his form that Tom can continue to progress, with patience, towards a heat leader slot in 2020.
“When Tom was injured we brought in Kyle Newman who was lacking some confidence at that time.
“Kyle did nothing but progress and became hugely popular with the supporters for his increasingly confident and promising form.
“By the end of the season he was riding like a very strong second string and not far away from heat leader form.” Jordan said.
“Kyle has a relatively low average which belies his form and consistency in the latter part of the 2019 season.
“We believe he can put a couple of points on his average now that he has a contract, the security of an early team place, the chance to invest in some new equipment and the feeling of ‘belonging as an Eagle’.”
Jordan said that once the top five was in place, attention turned to the reserve berths.
He said the club’s management are confident that in Jason Edwards they have an outstanding future talent who performed above expectations in his spell towards the end of the season just finished.
He was bought in earlier than many expected but the experience gained in having often five or six rides at each meeting is considered to be invaluable.
“We all saw definite and rapid signs of improvement at tracks Jason had not been to before.
He has the maturity to watch, listen and learn from some of the excellent ‘mentors’ we have at the top end of the side, who are all keen to help and work with Jason again in 2020,” Jordan explained.
“That left us with one position to fill and the fact is that in Georgie Wood and Alfie Bowtell we have two outstanding guys.
“They have both shown glimpses of the kind of consistency we are looking for in a reserve, but neither have yet fully cracked it.
“Georgie is outstanding at Arlington and after five years at the club is almost a ‘fixture’.
“It is an incredibly difficult decision to release him for 2020, both on a speedway and personal level, but his away form was and is a major concern and it may be that a spell away from Arlington will be the making of him.
“He remains an Eagle asset from the era of Martin and Connor Dugard in the NDL.
“Alfie Bowtell is an excellent team player, massively popular within the team and showed some glimpses of excellent form on the bigger, pacier away tracks in 2019.
“He was given an almost impossible task of starting in the No 3 role but showed some good glimpses of form there and when dropping down to reserve.
“His unfortunate injury at Newcastle in August curtailed his season and we hope that he will be fully fit for 2020.
“Alfie is an asset of the BSPA following the liquidation of his former club (Lakeside) and we have alerted the BSPA to his availability and will do all we can to help Alfie get a ride at Championship level in 2020 and also hopefully in the NDL, where we feel he suffered from not having a team place in 2019.
“We wish Georgie and Alfie all the best in the coming season, cannot speak too highly of either and may well see them back in an Eagles’ racesuit at some point in the future.”
Jordan said it was still vital for the Eagles to have a rider at reserve with proven ability at Arlington, evidence of proven form at away tracks and an upwardly mobile profile of untapped potential with no ceiling as to where his career could go – very similar to that of Tom Brennan and Jason Edwards.
“The perfect rider, who ticks every box in terms of what we are looking for, not only for 2020 but as a blueprint for a progressive, exciting, dynamic team is Drew Kemp,” Jordan said.
“When it became obvious that Sheffield were moving in to the Premiership in 2020 we were quick to contact Ipswich, whose asset Drew is, and would again thank them for their help and co-operation in facilitating a deal.
“Drew is well known at Arlington, having started at Eastbourne in the NDL at the tail end of 2017.
“He was then a strong and redoubtable opponent in the excellent Mildenhall team in 2018 and has progressed into a fully fledged Championship rider with Sheffield in 2019.
“We see Drew as one of the outstanding young British prospects of his generation and are really looking forwards to working with Drew, Jason and Tom in 2020 to progress their burgeoning careers, with the support and loyalty that we can give them, especially in terms of managing their expectations and progress and supporting them through the good days, and inevitable rough patches that all riders suffer form time to time.
“It certainly promises to be a very exciting season.”
Jordan said Eastbourne Speedway would also work closely with The Great Britain Speedway team, to ensure that “not only are our young riders ready for any international team or individual events that may occur, but that whenever possible these do not clash with Eastbourne fixtures in 2020, giving them the optimum chance to gain experience and safeguard their incomes”
Image Credits: Tiffani Graveling Photography & Mike Hinves