Bikes replaced boots at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday as Oxford Speedway made a special visit to neighbours Oxford United ahead of the club’s Thames Valley derby against Reading.
The Cowley club – which made an unthinkable return to the track in 2022 – introduced stars of the shale Chris Harris and Scott Nicholls to a 10,000 plus crowd at half-time with only five weeks remaining until the start of the new season.
Team Manager Peter Schroeck was joined by Oxford Chargers racer and local boy Jason Garrad – who provided the horsepower – as Harris completed some practice starts and performed a burnout pitch side.
United legend and matchday announcer Peter Rhoades-Brown also caught up with Monarch Cheetahs skipper Nicholls who looked ahead to the club’s historic 2024 campaign which will see it track teams in all three British Speedway leagues.
Club promoter Jamie Courtney was at the fixture with Oxford Stadium Managing Director Kevin Boothby. Jamie said showcasing speedway to as many people living locally as possible forms a key part of the club’s engagement strategy.
“Getting across the sights and smells of speedway was what we wanted to achieve – and we managed just that,” said Jamie. “From our previous community visits, we have always been taken aback by the number of people who have already attended fixtures at Oxford.
“We don’t believe in standing still, which is why as a club we’re constantly exploring avenues to engage new supporters or casual visitors.
“The team will be in several schools before our first fixture, and we have organised trips to armed forces bases so we can spread the word about our great sport. With this extra effort, 2024 can be a huge success.”
The day formed part of a wider greyhound racing event organised by Oxford Stadium which saw an Oxford United Legends Race Night held in the evening.
Club legends James Constable, Pete Foley and Peter Rhoades-Brown attended the race night where anyone who turned up wearing an Oxford United shirt was eligible for free admission.
First-team Head Coach Des Buckingham was trackside too, with work in progress to organise a similar visit for United’s first-team at a speedway fixture later this year.
Shaun Reynolds of Fortitude Communications – whose team organised the day – added: “Having the opportunity to showcase speedway to so many people was a real highlight in Oxford’s regeneration story to date.
“The buy-in we get from the team on the ground goes a long way in making these community engagement visits possible. Coupled with our existing relationship with the football club and its staff, Saturday marked a positive day for the club.
“A special mention must go to Chris, Scott, Jason and everyone from the club in attendance. They were all so generous with their time by being pitch side with the bikes.”
Oxford Speedway hosts its first fixture of 2024 on Thursday, March 14, when Birmingham Brummies visit in the Sports Insure Premiership. Tickets will be available to purchase via the club website shortly.