Speedway: Lasse Bjerre blow for Lions
Leicester Lions will be without one of their star riders for their back-to-back Premier League play-off clashes with Somerset Rebels.
Lasse Bjerre is committed to riding in the Czech Republic and will miss tonight's meeting at the Oaktree Arena, and tomorrow's return at Beaumont Park.
The 19-year Dane has been in terrific form during the second half of the season and, only last weekend, took a maximum five wins, and 15 points, against Newcastle Diamonds.
"Lasse and Kauko Nieminen have probably been our two in-form riders," said Lions co-promoter Alan Jones.
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"Lasse has no alternative but to fulfil his contract to his main sponsor, Jawa, which has been in his diary for some time now.
"Had these dates been firm fixtures in our calendar then Lasse would have been obliged to ride for Leicester. But they were only pencilled in as reserved dates in the hope that we would make the play-offs."
The Elliott-sponsored Lions have been granted permission to operate the rider-replacement facility.
It means Bjerre's rides will be shared out between his team-mates, with the exception of Nieminen who, as No.1, is ineligible to deputise under competition rules.
"The situation is not ideal but it is not insurmountable," said Jones. "There have been many examples of rider-replacement working for a team but, to be successful, everyone has to be on their game.
"Nothing less will suffice against Somerset, who will now start as favourites."
The Lions will also be missing Lewis Blackbird, who broke his collarbone at Newcastle on Sunday. His place will be taken by Lewis Kerr, who rides for King's Lynn in the National League. Jari Makinen, however, is fit to take his place in the line-up.
The Lions require a bonus point at the Oaktree Arena and three at Beaumont Park to guarantee them a place in the Grand Final.
It will be a big ask tonight, however, and three points for the home side will see them top the group, making tomorrow's meeting academic.
History isn't on the Lions' side either and they have suffered four straight defeats on Somerset's compact, turning circuit.
The best they have produced came last season when they just missed out on a bonus point in the final of the 15 heats.
Leicester: 1 Kauko Nieminen, 2 rider-replacement, 3 Linus Eklof, 4 Jan Graversen, 5 Magnus Karlsson, 6 Jari Makinen, 7 Lewis Kerr.
Somerset: 1 Jason Doyle, 2 Alex Davies, 3 Jesper B Monberg, 4 James Wright, 5 Claus Vissing, 6 Kyle Newman, 7 Tom Perry.