Championship new boys Plymouth Gladiators have made their first big-name signing…two-time Danish World Cup winner Bjarne Pedersen. The ex-Grand Prix star has agreed to join the Gladiators on loan from Poole as he goes into his farewell season.
It is a major coup for Plymouth owner Mark Phillips who is taking the club back into the second tier after four years at a lower level.
The deal was tied up within days of the British Speedway Promoters Limited decision to promote the Gladiators from the National Development League to the Championship.
Pedersen’s capture underlines the big plans that Phillips has for the Devon club as he looks ahead to the new season which, it is hoped, will get underway in May.
The 42-year-old Dane said: “I am really looking forward to riding for Plymouth and meeting the fans. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Pedersen, who will be joining on a two-way contract that will also see him racing in the top-flight with Peterborough, had planned to retire last year but with Covid-19 forcing the cancellation of seasons in both Denmark and Britain he decided he still wanted to have a farewell campaign in both countries.
A member of Denmark’s World Cup winning side in both 2006 and 2008, Pedersen was Danish national champion and Elite League Riders’ title winner in 2004 and also made 71 Grand Prix appearances, winning the 2004 European GP at Wroclaw, Poland.
He is the biggest signing in Plymouth’s history, which dates all the way back to 1931. Pedersen last rode in this country at Elite League Poole in 2016. Previously, he had ridden for Newcastle, Eastbourne, Birmingham and Leicester and won league titles with the Diamonds in 2001 and the Pirates in 2003, 2004 and 2008.
Phillips said: “I want everyone in speedway to be talking about Plymouth – and I’m convinced they will be now we have begun to make signings. I’ve got big ambitions for the club. There’s no way we want to be the minnows and I am sure we are going to shake up a few people if I can sign some of the riders I am currently talking to.
“Bjarne is the first rider to come on board and it is hard to think of a bigger name. He has so much experience at the very highest level and, with it being his last season, he definitely wants to go out with a bang.
“While he is also riding for Peterborough, there will be no clashes of fixtures because the two leagues have to race on different nights so he will be available for all our meetings.
“You only have to look at what he has achieved in speedway to realise what a stupendous signing he is, and I am delighted to have got him. The Plymouth public deserve to have some of the sport’s biggest names racing at The Coliseum every Tuesday night.”
Phillips already has a list of his major targets and is ready to move quickly to tie up deals after the Gladiators were officially accepted into the Championship last Saturday.
Ex-rider Phillips has transformed the club since taking over at the end of 2016 with much improved facilities, one of the best racing surfaces in the country and now it seems, the start of a team to match that.
The Gladiators have now changed their regular race night to Tuesday’s to avoid fixture clashes with a number of Friday tracks.