Pitstop by Leon Foster-Hill

THE Oxford Cheetahs and Oxford Chargers both make their home debuts this week, after the Cheetahs’ first attempt was washed out a fortnight ago.

It was not a great start to the season as the Cheetahs had suffered a heavy defeat down in Poole on Good Friday.

The Cheetahs race on a Wednesday night, and will not normally race at home the same week as the Oxford Spires.

After topping the table for the majority of 2023, the Cheetahs narrowly missed out on a Grand Final spot. They track a broadly unchanged septet for this year, with Lewis Kerr missing out on a spot with the Cheetahs due to the reduced overall team-building allowance.

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Sam Masters returns as number one, after topping the team’s averages last year and only just missing out on top spot for the Championship overall. The popular Aussie is not only a prolific scorer but also a top team man who can always be found in the bar after the meeting, chatting to fans.

Evergreen captain Scott Nicholls also returns and will once again wear the captain’s armband. A better team rider you will struggle to find, and he demonstrated week after week how he could shepherd home a less experienced rider. Most of Scott’s rides are with one of the two reserves, making this skill absolutely key.

Making the step up to third heat leader is British youngster Jordan Jenkins. ‘JJ’ had a great year for Oxford last year, raising his average to a more than respectable 7.16 points. Always first in line when it comes to promoting the club locally, 2024 could be the breakthrough season for this rising star.

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The top five are completed by Cameron Heeps and the ever-popular Henry Atkins. Heeps has been a solid contributor and ever-present since the Cheetahs returned two years ago. Atkins is another rider who can make a real breakthrough in 2024, and his many fans on the terraces will be urging him on.

The two reserves are Ashton Boughen (aged 16) and Luke Killeen (aged 19), and at just 3.00 points, each are a real steal. Whilst they will be learning much this year, their performances around Sandy Lane should see them beat all other reserves in this league.

The BSN Series starts off the season, a pre-Championship cup competition, which is every team’s first opportunity for some silverware. Plymouth Gladiators are the visitors, and will be on the lookout for a victory after a poor away visit to Scunthorpe last Friday.