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Danny Ayres to be remembered as speedway family comes together at Mildenhall Stadium

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Organisers of a speedway meeting being staged in memory of former star Danny Ayres are confident they have assembled a field of riders capable of putting on a show that would make the late Mildenhall Fen Tigers fans’ favourite proud.

On what promises to be an emotional occasion, Jodie Pledge, long-term partner of former Newmarket schoolboy Ayres, who took his own life in February 2020, hopes to see fans turn out in force for The Danny Ayres Memorial Meeting, dubbed ‘Danny’s Day’, on Sunday (2pm).

Although the meeting has been delayed almost two years due to Covid-19, Pledge believes the wait will be worthwhile for all those planning to attend the event she has put together with the help of Birmingham Brummies manager and co-promoter Laurence Rogers.

The speedway world will come together on Sunday to remember Danny Ayres. Picture: Mark Westley
The speedway world will come together on Sunday to remember Danny Ayres. Picture: Mark Westley

Among those riding is Danny King, star of both the Ipswich Witches in the Premiership and Championship outfit Poole Pirates, along with his Witches team-mate Ben Barker, who also rides in the second tier for Plymouth Centurions.

Pledge said: “We were originally going to have it in 2020 then everything went into lockdown and it was still a bit crazy last year. Although it has been delayed we wanted everyone to come together for Danny and make it a real family day.

“We’ve got what I feel is a really good line-up of riders so it should be a really good meeting. All the riders were really keen to get involved.

“As soon as I said about the meeting people asked if they could have their names put down, which was lovely.

“I wouldn’t want to do this for a job on a permanent basis as organising this has been tough but for me it is about doing something for Danny.

“I could not have done this without Laurence Rogers who has been a fantastic help. Everything I’ve thrown at him he has sorted.

“Danny would want to be racing in the meeting and giving them a run for their money. Everything is done with Danny in mind, every idea and every tiny detail. It all screams of Danny.

“I think most Mildenhall meetings get in the range of 400-500 (people) and I want to at least double that. I think 1,000 people at the meeting is doable. Everyone loved Danny and it is a great opportunity to remember Danny and what he was all about.”

There will be no shortage of action on the track with a mini meeting between two teams of four set to run alongside the 20-heat feature event, which will be decided with a final, in addition to a range of other activities away from the shale.

“We have a mini meeting between two teams of four, one of which I will manage, while there will be face painting and a magician for the children. Danny loved the children and they loved him,” added Pledge.

“We will be auctioning off the race jackets after the meeting as well while we have a special guest who will open the meeting for us which will stay a secret until the day.

“There will also be an online vote people can get involved with to select the most entertaining rider of the day as well so there should be something for everyone.”

While Newmarket-based Pledge is looking forward to the event at Mildenhall Stadium she admits there have already been a few tears shed in the build up, and she expects a few more to flow at the weekend.

“There have been tears already but I’m just trying to stay positive and make sure everyone has a really good day for Danny,” she added.

“It will be emotional and I’m sure there will be a few more tears on the day as Danny was my partner and father to my two girls.

“Organising this has been tiring but I felt like I wanted to be useful as we were so close. He has left a legacy and it is great everyone has the opportunity to come together to remember it.

“Everyone who met Danny had that little connection with him so I think it will be an emotional day for everyone but in a positive way.”

One rider particularly looking forward to the meeting is King’s Lynn Stars and Poole Pirates ace Richard Lawson, who, aside from it being his first outing at the West Row venue, spent a spell riding with Ayres with the Glasgow Tigers in 2016.

“I’ve been to the stadium as when I was riding motocross we went and watched it so I’ve seen it but never ridden around Mildenhall so that will be pretty cool as I like to ride new tracks,” said Lawson.

“Me and Danny kind of knew each other a bit from motocross but we got to know each other well when we were in the same Glasgow Tigers team. He was a colourful character and we always had good chats with each other. He was so positive and passionate. He loved the fans and they loved him.

“Danny is dearly missed by us all. I’ve seen there are some good riders involved so hopefully we can put on the sort of show the meeting deserves.”