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Kent Kings rider Dan Gilkes expects big learning curve in debut National League season

By Craig Tucker

He's been called the hottest young property in British speedway but Kent Kings new boy Dan Gilkes is taking everything in his stride.

Kings fans saw Gilkes' potential when he starred in two guest appearances at Central Park towards the end of last season.

The first saw him score a paid 12 representing a Lakeside Select side against Kent and he followed up by finishing third in the Kent Laurels.

Kent Kings rider Dan Gilkes Picture: Nick Skinner
Kent Kings rider Dan Gilkes Picture: Nick Skinner

The 16-year-old was in demand over the winter, having also starred in development league racing, but Kent won the battle for his signature.

He can't wait to get started in his debut National League campaign but sees it as a learning curve.

Gilkes, who lives in Northampton, said: "My biggest goal is just to gain more experience at that level because out of all the National League tracks I think there's four or five I haven't ridden at yet.

"My dad's my mechanic and we're going to have a big learning year at all the different tracks, trying to find the correct set-up and trying to develop as a rider.

"I've got to go into each meeting and learn as much as I can.

"Long-term, I'd love to be able to make a career out of being a speedway rider. That would be really good.

"That's something every rider wants to be able to do and not have to worry about work and everything else.

"If the opportunity comes, we'll worry about that then."

Gilkes, whose sponsors include CMF Carpentry and Trade Services, went to his first meeting aged two with his dad and grandad.

He dabbled in motocross and grasstrack before getting his first 125cc speedway bike as a 10-year-old.

The teenager was perhaps destined for a career in the sport and has found Kent to his liking after his experience last season.

The new-look Kent Kings squad, minus Drew Kemp Picture: Nick Skinner
The new-look Kent Kings squad, minus Drew Kemp Picture: Nick Skinner

Gilkes said: "I did a few guest meetings at the end of last year, one for Lakeside at Kent, the Laurels and also a three-team tournament at Birmingham.

"Before that, Kent invited me down I think for a Bank Holiday Monday meeting near the end of the season because I hadn't ridden there before.

"I did a few practice laps after the meeting and fell in love with the track.

"It normally takes a few practice days to get used to the track but with this I automatically fell in love with it.

"I felt really at home and really comfortable.

"The two meetings there went well, we spoke throughout the winter and me and my family thought Kent was the best option.

"All the fans have been really supportive.

"It being a rider and getting the support from the fans and knowing they're going to be cheering you. It's an awesome feeling.

"We had the press and practice day on Sunday and it was good to meet up with the fans and start building a relationship."

Kent start the 2019 season with a National Trophy tie at Plymouth today.

That's followed by Belle Vue at Central Park in the Easter Challenge on Monday (4pm).

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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