Tributes paid to former Mildenhall Fen Tigers rider Tony Dart
Tributes have been paid by the family and friends of former Mildenhall Fen Tigers rider Tony Dart, who has died at the age of 40.
The popular rider, who scored 581 points in 70 appearances for the West Row-based club between 2003 and 2004, died at his home in Southampton on Saturday.
He leaves behind wife Katie and son Phoenix, along with daughter Eva and son River from a previous relationship.
Leading the tributes was his dad Joe Dart, who as well as describing his son as his ‘hero and idol’, hopes his death will encourage others that may be struggling to speak out.
“As much as he was a cheeky chap that was full of life he had no self belief. He just didn’t realise how good he was on a bike and how much he was thought of,” said Dart senior.
“Me and Tony would sometimes not speak to each other for a while but when push came to shove he would always talk to his dad to help out - but it turned out I couldn’t sort this one out.
“People have got to talk. It is as simple as that – people are there to listen. It hurts now he has gone but if people can talk about things hopefully it can save lives.
“He was my hero and idol and he was everything I wanted to be and more. Whatever he did he gave it 200 per cent and done it at 300 miles per hour.”
After celebrating plenty of success at youth level grasstrack racing, Dart enjoyed arguably his most memorable moments on a speedway bike in Fen Tigers colours.
Having won the Conference League and Knock Out Cup during his first season with the club in 2003, Dart helped the team defend both titles in 2004, along with lifting the Conference Trophy and Four Team Tournament the same year.
Despite having his right leg amputated below the knee in 2007, Dart, who was also a trained tattoo artist, continued a successful grasstrack career, culminating in claiming last year’s South Eastern Centre Championships 500cc sidecar title with Wayne Powell.
“I packed up racing bikes when he was six and built him a little 50cc grass track bike and he could ride that at two-and-a-half before he could ride on a bicycle with stabilisers,” added Joe.
“Tony was a complete character without doubt both on and off the bike and when he was not riding he loved tattooing.
“He was in that Mildenhall team that had some of its best days. It was all or nothing with Tony but that was him. He was a racer through and through.”
Riding alongside Dart in the Fen Tigers’ all-conquering 2004 side was fellow fans’ favourite Jon Armstrong, who described him as a ‘real entertainer’.
“Tony was a great laugh and he was a real entertainer and was definitely the sort of rider you wanted on your team,” said Armstrong.
“No matter who or what he was up against he would get pumped up and get on with it. He was a real racer.
“He always seemed to take everything in his stride whatever racing or life threw at him.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella