Hamill pulls out of Grand Prix series

SPEEDWAY'S flagship competition, the Grand Prix individual world championship series, has been sent into shock by the withdrawal of former world champion Billy Hamill.

By Elvin King

SPEEDWAY'S flagship competition, the Grand Prix individual world championship series, has been sent into shock by the withdrawal of former world champion Billy Hamill.

A lack of sponsorship has led to the decision by the charismatic American who will continue to ride club speedway for Coventry in England and also in Poland and Sweden.

If Hamill, who for the last two years has been backed by former road race star Kenny Roberts,


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cannot make ends meet what price that other top riders will follow suit?

Ipswich number one Scott Nicholls has already confirmed that he could not stay in the GP series if he did not earn the vast majority of his income from league racing with the Witches and abroad.

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"League racing is my bread and butter," said Nicholls, who is tipped to become the next British world champion.

If other stars drop out, the GP series' impact will be diluted severely and open up the question of a breakaway world title competition being introduced.

Prize money has hardly gone up since the first GP in 1995, and with the current difficulty in obtaining sponsorship, both for the GP's themselves and individually, more top names could well follow Hamill.

John Postlethwaite, chief executive of Benfield Sports International (BSI), rights holders of the GP series, was putting on a brave face.

He said: "It comes as no surprise that financial problems has caused at least one casualty in speedway. No motor sport is recession-proof as proved by the fact that two Formula One teams have gone bankrupt in the past year.

"I would like to thank Billy for his contribution and hope that he can sort his problems out as soon as possible."

The 22-year-old was part of the silver medal winning 2002 Danish World Cup team. He joins fellow countrymen Nicki and Bjarne Pedersen in trying to put Denmark back on the speedway map.

Andersen, who is riding for Peterborough this year, will ride as number 25 in the GP.

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