Justin Elkins has been crowned Dorset Echo Weymouth Wildcats Rider of the Year 2003. The flying skipper took the prestigious award after roaring to victory in the paper's readers' poll which saw fans voting in their hundreds by post and e-mail.

Elkins, who finished more than 40 votes ahead of his nearest rival, was presented with the silverware by Dorset Echo sports editor Paul Baker at a packed Wildcats end of season dinner held at Swansons Restaurant.

"I'd like to say a big thank you to all the Dorset Echo readers who voted for me," said the former Poole Pirate who proved almost unbeatable around the new Wessex Stadium circuit last summer. Winning this trophy is a huge honour for me and it's also recognition for all the support and hard work afforded by my family, friends and sponsors."

"I think everyone knows how much I enjoyed riding for Weymouth last season and I've got to take my hat off to promoter Brian White for bringing speedway back to the resort in the first place. Personally I'm really looking forward to next summer when we will be going all out to win the Conference League title for the Wildcats."

In the other Dorset Echo poll to decide the club's Most Improved Rider of the Year, readers opted for Hayling Island-based teenager Chris Johnson with Aussie Brendon Mackay a close second. Team Rider of the Year went to the ever-popular Nathan Irwin while 15-year-old sensation Ben Barker lifted the Most Exciting Rider trophy.

A delighted White said: "I attended the last Wildcats end of season dinner as a 16-year-old and I can't quite believe that here I am at another one 19 years later. Bringing speedway home to Weymouth was a personal dream of mine but it would not have been possible without the help and support of so many people, especially the fans who have turned out in their droves every Friday night."

"I'd like to say a special thank you to the Dorset Echo for their continued support and to all the riders who have done so much in such a short space of time to put this town back on the speedway map. Fingers crossed that we'll be accepted into the Conference League next season and I look forward to seeing everyone back at the Wessex Stadium in the spring."

 

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