THE significance of speedway’s return to Oxford is not lost on Nathan Stoneman.

The Oxford Chargers heat leader is contributing to the sport’s revival in the city on and off the track as he prepares for the start of the National Development League season this Saturday.

Stoneman and his teammates head north to take on Berwick Bullets in the opening meeting of the campaign, before they host the same opponents on May 4.

That will take place at the regenerated Oxford Stadium, which the 25-year-old – a landscaper by day – has helped redevelop over the last few months.

It will be a special night for Stoneman but also his fiancee Laurie Baker and future father-in-law Stuart, who have supported Oxford Cheetahs since long before the club folded in 2007.

The Greater Leys resident captained Cheetahs in a challenge match on the Isle of Wight last summer, but knows racing at the Cowley venue will be something else.

Stoneman said: “I did a couple of Oxford meetings on the Isle of Wight and he (Stuart) was buzzing about that.

“All I hear from him is about (legendary former rider) Hans Nielsen – this is the sport he has loved for God knows how many years.

“My missus is a big fan too, she grew up watching it.

“For that to fall into place has got to be a good thing.”

Stoneman is joined in the Chargers squad by captain Jordan Jenkins, Jacob Clouting, Sam Hagon, Ben Hopwood, Arran Butcher and Luke Killeen.

The riders and their Cheetahs counterparts got their first taste of the Sandy Lane track last Wednesday as a pre-season practice session ended a 15-year wait to see speedway bikes in action at the stadium.

It will be Stoneman’s first campaign since 2019, having been contracted to Somerset Rebels last year before the club folded.

He said: “Press day was all well and good and you get the buzz back, but you’re just riding around by yourself, getting a feel for the bike.

“It’ll be good to get back into race mode.”

Stoneman is excited to sample race night at the stadium next Wednesday, when Cheetahs face Scunthorpe Scorpions in their opening SGB Championship meeting.

And he will be taking on board as much as he can.

He said: “I’d like to think I’ll be there, seeing as I’ve put the hours in.

“I’ll hopefully be in the pits, mixing with the Cheetahs and learning a few things.

“Scott Nicholls has been mega, I’ve been picking his brain and he’s been happy for me to ask questions.”