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'Danny was a great partner, fantastic dad, brilliant rider': Family pay tribute to speedway star Danny Ayres

Tributes have poured in from all over the country following the death on Saturday of one of the speedway world’s most charismatic and popular riders.

Danny Ayres, who was 33, was found dead by his partner Jodie Pledge in the early hours of the morning at the home in Mildenhall they shared with their two daughters – Lilou, who will be four later this month, and one-year-old Anaiya.

And while his army of fans, fellow riders and and the clubs he had ridden for since he first took the speedway scene by storm six years ago have been sharing memories of Danny the showman and entertainer, Jodie has spoken of the other Danny, the loving partner and the doting dad who had suffered mental health issues for many years.

Danny Ayres was set to race for Ipswich Witches in the 2020 season (28500144)
Danny Ayres was set to race for Ipswich Witches in the 2020 season (28500144)

“There was never a dull moment in our relationship. It was wild, a whirlwind, and we loved each other with all our hearts but off the track he really struggled with mental illness,” said Jodie, 39, who had been with Danny for six years.

“I could listen and support him but I’m not a professional and when he did finally ask the doctor for help it was not really very helpful. He was a proud person and to ask for help and not get it was very hard,” she said.

Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice Day Danny Ayres in 2019. Picture by Mark Westley
Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice Day Danny Ayres in 2019. Picture by Mark Westley

“Speedway, just getting on a bike, was Danny’s medicine, and when he was riding he was an entertainer, an outrageously extravagant character who the fans loved and he drew his energy from them.

“But off the bike, he found it very hard to deal with normal life. He was constantly battling his demons and he finally lost that fight.”

Jodie is certain that Danny had not made a rational decision to end his own life.

“I don’t believe my beautiful Danny and my girls’ dad, did that consciously.”

“If he had thought about it he would have left a letter for the people he loved but he didn’t. It would have been impulsive and I know it was what was in his head that killed him. His evil and horrible demons finally won but I’m not going to think about that person who neither of us liked,” said Jodie.

“I want my girls to know their dad loved and doted on them and that he was a great partner, a fantastic dad and a brilliant biker.”

She aims to have a memorial to Danny at one of the tracks where he rode so that she and their daughters can visit and celebrate his life and she can tell them stories about their father.

Danny, whose beloved mother Anne died of cancer in October 2018, also leaves his sister Kelly Mason and father David, who sparked his love of motorbikes when he was only four and has been at his side at motocross tracks and speedway stadiums virtually ever since as his son’s mechanic, driver and greatest fan.

“He will leave a massive hole in my life,” said David.

Danny’s funeral will be at West Suffolk Crematorium on Friday, February 14, at 2pm. His family have asked for donations to the mental health charity MIND instead of flowers either at the service or via Southgate of Newmarket .