Arena-Essex announced this morning exclusively on their Clubcall Line their first four signings for the 2004 season. The Hammers will compete in the Elite League having taken the decision to take the big step up from the Premier League where they have competed for many years.

Promoter Ronnie Russell issued a "Declaration of Intent" to run the Hammers in the Elite League for the 2004 season on the basis of being able to put out a competitive side. With the change in the regulations relating to how the teams can be made up from six grades as opposed to an overall points limit the Hammers Promoter had the pick of a number of riders who had become available. His choices were based on those riders who he feels will gel together to become a competitive unit both on and off the track.

The four names were headed by the 2000World Champion Mark Loram and his signing is a major coup for the Purfleet based Club. He will be joined by a member of Great Britain's 2003 World Cup team, Dean Barker, with whom he rode last season as members of the Eastbourne Eagles. Barker is, in fact, the highest averaged rider within his grade and is expected to quickly adapt to his new home circuit having spent many years with the Eagles on a similar shaped track.

The third signing is another British International and a former Hammer, Paul Hurry. He spent last season at Ipswich although he finished the year on the sidelines through injury. The final signing announced today is no stranger to the Hammers supporters as he rode for the Purfleet club in 2003. He is Henning Bager. It will be a massive step up for the young Dane but he will be at reserve and he has absolutely no reservations over making the move up into the higher League.

These four signings will be joined by a further five riders in due course. Under the new regulations the Hammers will need to have a declared team of seven riders plus a further two who will act as cover. These two riders will ride for Premier League sides and will only be used in case of injury to a rider in the main team. Ronnie Russell is in negotiations with several riders for these remaining five places and he hopes to be in a position of naming further signings shortly.

He is very hopeful that Leigh Lanham will agree to ride for the Hammers in 2004 as he has become such a firm favorite with the supporters during his time with the Club. He is owned by Ipswich and is due a Testimonial Meeting next season and it would make sense if this were to be at Purfleet.



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