Official records show new British Under-21 Speedway champion, Tom Brennan, was educated at Downlands Community School, Hassocks, West Sussex.
He only left the secondary school, which nestles beneath the South Downs just north of Brighton, a few years ago.
However, twenty-year-old Tom’s real education took place 25 miles away at Arlington Stadium, the home of the Eastbourne HG Aerospace Eagles.
The club’s fans have watched him rise from a tiny schoolboy to now a national champion.
Tom is a key member of the Eastbourne team and also rides on loan for the famous Belle Vue Aces as a “Rising Star” in the Premiership.
It is hard to believe that when Bjarne Pedersen was the Eagles No 1 in the early 2010s that Tom was club mascot and would be seen going on parade holding the Danish star’s hand.
Much of Tom Brennan’s Speedway education was carried out in public in after-the-meeting practice sessions at Eastbourne.
Under the tutelage of Martin Dugard, the Master of Arlington, Tom was put through his paces.
Once he could gate, Martin made him start behind the other riders in races so he could learn how to catch and pass his opponents.
The ‘lessons’ were also conducted at other tracks around the country and success soon flowed.
Tom moved up through the British Youth Championship classes, taking the 125cc, 150cc and 250cc titles along the way.
He made his debut for the Eagles on July 2, 2016 – his 15th birthday – at Arlington against Birmingham but crashed in his first ride and broke his collarbone.
Before the end of the season he was back to help Eastbourne win the KO Cup and in 2018 was a key rider in the league-winning team.
Tom was already riding in Europe by this stage, further honing his craft on the different tracks around the continent.
In 2019, the Eagles moved up to Speedway’s Championship league and Tom took the transition in his stride until a frightening crash two months into the season.
He broke his leg in three places and initially while in hospital his condition deteriorated and was placed on a ventilator and in an induced coma to help his breathing.
Covid-19 ruled out much of the 2020 season but Tom was still looking to learn and before the 2021 began he spent a month in Poland with the Łódź club where he has a two-year contract.
He said: “I went out in the late winter for a month’s training and fitness. We had one challenge meeting and four practice days.
I originally went out to practice but the weather was really bad. It snowed, it rained and whatever.
Then we had four practice days and a challenge match all in the space of a week.
I was living in an apartment supplied by the club, about ten minutes from the track.
At the time, most of Poland was in Covid lockdown. It was pretty hard because I don’t speak the language but I tried to make the most of my time.
I did a lot of running and went to the gym everyday and ate a lot of ice-cream in the evenings.
It was good to go and see what it was about and it was a great experience and I would love to go again.
I was very fortunate that I was living with Jack Thomas because being on your own can be very lonely, especially in a place you don’t know a long, long way from home.”
Tom has worked hard for his success, taken nothing for granted and pays tribute to the many, many people who have helped him; especially mum Sarah, who is battling illness.
“She’s always there for me and I am always there for her,” he said.
Tom continued: “I have had some absolutely great help ever since I started riding Speedway and grasstrack.
“I have had Martin Dugard there from when I started Speedway and showed me the ropes, a lot of the way, if not all the way.
“He has been a huge influence to me and continues now to help as much as he can.
“To have him by my corner is only a positive.
“My brother, Ben, his wife and children are fabulous.
“Ben has been with me since the start and he introduced me to the bikes so he is the reason I am doing this.
“He has shown me the ways in life in a lot of ways as I have grown up. You try and teach your little brother everything and he has done that for me.”
Tom also paid tribute to his girlfriend.
“Kristen has changed my personal world round, changed the way I think and about the way I do things.
“Her father Craig has helped massively and shows me things every single day, as has Kristen’s mum and her brother who is my mechanic.
“I have to mention Neil and Jackie Vatcher (British Youth Speedway) who have been absolutely great since I started.
“Without them I don’t British Speedway would be half as good as it is now.”
The new British Under-21 Champion rides for Eastbourne at Arlington tomorrow July 18th when the HG Aerospace Eagles race the Leicester Lions. The match is followed by a National Development League match between the club’s two junior sides.
Entry is by advance ticket only and are selling fast. Click on the image below to purchase.
Tom Brennan: born in Swindon, made in Eastbourne.
Image Credit: Mike Hinves