Speedway rider James Jessop is looking ahead to a big season
An up-and-coming speedway rider from Deeping St James is gearing up for the biggest season of his fledgling career.
James Jessop is awaiting the green light from the Government and the sport’s authorities to start a new season which has been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 19-year-old is due to ride in the National Development League again and has set his sights on rising up the sport’s ranks.
Jessop has featured for Milton Keynes and Weymouth in previous campaigns and has a new club lined for what he hopes to be a promising season.
He said: “It will be interesting to see how it goes because the goal this season is to become the number one at any club which I ride for.
“I also want to see if I can get some races in the National League because that’s the next step up. I am convinced that I’m not far off that level. Hopefully having a fresh start this season will help prove myself to people.
“If I can put into a race how I have been practising then hopefully I can kick on three or four times as much from where I was last season.”
Jessop’s campaign last term came to an early end after breaking his hand while guesting at Reading in September.
The teenager has been able to test out his fitness at a number of practice sessions in recent weeks and is raring for the sport to return.
He added: “We had a decent season last year and there were a couple of contacts from the league above about making more appearances but unfortunately before I could I broke my hand in a crash.
“It was a nasty injury. I was third in the original race when the heat got stopped for a re-run. The track was quite difficult to ride so I thought that I would try a wider line but hit a bit of grip.
“I thought that I had saved it, but unfortunately missed the last part of the inflatable fence and hit a metal gate.
“I wanted to continue riding at the time because I couldn’t feel any pain but, by the time I got back to the pits, the bike was mangled and the adrenalin started to wear off.
“The pain in my hand was so sharp that I felt ill. I ended up going to hospital where they said I had broken it.
“They said that I was quite close to paralysing two fingers because the break was near one of the nerves.
“I was in agony for a few weeks and it’s only really been since February that I’ve stopped feeling any pain.
“I get a little twitch every now and again, but the injury has been a sort of blessing in disguise.
“I had never broken a bone before so I’m past that mental barrier of not knowing what it would be like.
“I’ve come back this season and we’ve sorted out the mechanical stuff. It’s given us time to basically put together a nearly brand new bike because we’ve replaced that much.
“We’ve made it lighter. We have done some practices and, although we started off slowly, I had a really good amateur meeting at Scunthorpe to get some race sharpness in.
“I was racing against riders who were in my league or above it and I was getting stuck in and doing much better than I previously had.”
This will be Jessop’s third campaign in the fourth tier of the speedway ranks as the Development League runs behind the National, Championship and Premiership competitions.
He first raced for Milton Keynes and Weymouth in the Midland and Southern Development Leagues respectively.
The leagues merged last season and Jessop opted to stay with Weymouth who were riding from Poole’s Wimborne Road stadium.
However, due to the Wildcats’ nomadic status, they were refused entry into the Development League this season leaving Jessop to move on to pastures new.
He commented: “My first season was a tough year. In the politest way possible, I got my back-side kicked everywhere that I went.
“It was difficult and generally it was a massive learning curve.
“I really enjoyed last season with Weymouth though. It was excellent.
“We had decent crowds and I more than doubled the average points I was scoring a meeting.
“I got my first race win but the frustrating thing was that, although we had invested a lot in the bike, we were having mechanical problems throughout the year.
“There were times during a race when I was doing well but the bike would just cut out on me so I could have scored more points.
“Unfortunately we were then told that Weymouth wouldn’t be running a development side this year because they don’t have their own track.
“A couple of clubs then got in contact to say they were interested and were keeping an eye on me, but it sort of dwindled a little bit because of Covid and the lockdown.
“The clubs stopped planning for the season because they just wanted to see what was happening and weren’t sure when racing would start.
“The practices opened up behind closed doors a couple of weeks ago though and we shared a clip online from my latest practice where I had made a major step which was seen by a club.
“They now want me to ride for them this season which I’m really excited about.
“It’s a very different set-up to Weymouth so maybe a change of scenery is the next step that I need to take.”
Jessop has also been seeded for the first time in the maiden event of this year’s British Under 21 Championships and is currently awaiting a date for its re-staging.