Three-time world champion Crump signs to ride for Ipswich Witches - eight years after retiring
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Witches have signed three-time world champion Jason Crump to lead the Foxhall side in the Premiership in 2020.
In a sensational move that will send shockwaves through the British speedway world, the 44-year-old is coming out of a near eight-year retirement to race for Ipswich, admitting he has been in contact with promoter Chris Louis since November last year - and he can't wait to get going.
Suffolk teenager Drew Kemp makes up the septet for 2020, the youngster taking the position of Danny Ayres, who tragically passed away recently.
Crump is a coup signing for the Witches and although he has ridden little in recent years, he did ride Down Under in the winter, where his racing bug was fully rekindled.
The Aussie starts the year on an 8.20 average and will ride at No.1, but says he is not placing huge expectations on himself.
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"I don't have huge expectations; I am not trying to be world champion anymore," he said.
"My ambition for this year is to try and maintain a solid heat leader position for Ipswich. I hope that I can be a role model and a leader for the rest of the riders in the team. Whether that means I am scoring more points or less points than them, I would like to think that I can contribute to their performance.
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"I think I can bring maturity and help them develop as riders as well. I can give sound advice along the way too, at the end of the day when you are talking about a team, as much as you need points you need a good atmosphere and you need to have a good group of riders. I am excited to ride with everyone in the team and I am looking forward to being a 'father figure' or mentor to all of them."
Crump is one of the greatest riders of his generation.
He won the world title in 2004, 2006, 2009 and is a former world under-21 champion.
He has won the British GP five times and 23 GPs in all. Among a plethora of top titles, he has also won the Elite League riders championship four times and the Speedway World Cup with Australia, twice.
He announced his retirement from the sport back in December 2012.
However, his spirit has been rekindled and although he hasn't ridden in England since 2009, Ipswich is a track and a club he remembers with fondness.
"To be honest, if Ipswich didn't race on a Thursday night, I would have ended up riding at Ipswich, back in the day," he said.
"Being committed to every Thursday in the UK before a Grand Prix weekend didn't fit in with the way I wanted to build my Grand Prix setup. I have loved Foxhall since the first time I rode there. It wasn't a track where I thought, 'Oh, I've got to go to Ipswich', it was always 'Yep, cool I am at Ipswich this week' and it is one of those tracks where you can measure yourself.
"If you go to Ipswich and you are going well, generally you are going to go well everywhere as it is one of those technical tracks where you have got to be on point to go well at."
Meanwhile Kemp is the final piece in the Witches 1-7, following the tragic loss of Ayres. They rode together at Mildenhall and Kemp paid tribute to him.
"I spent a full season with Danny at Mildenhall, and we rode together a lot, especially towards the end of that year when we were at number one and five together," said Kemp.
"I got on with him really well and what happened is tragic. To come in and replace someone like Danny will be hard as he was known as 'Mr Entertainer' and he will be missed by all of us. I just hope I can do him proud."
The 2019 British Under-19 champion will make his Premiership debut with the Witches and had targeted a team place with them in 2020 but admitted he didn't think the opportunity would come so soon.
"I didn't expect it to be honest. I said I wanted to ride for Ipswich by the end of the season. To come in this early is great. I am 17 years old, so to ride for my home team in the top league is brilliant and I am looking forward to it now."
Kemp has been working hard this winter, riding for Great Britain in Australia and can't wait for the new season to begin.
"This year will be tough, no doubt about that. Last year I struggled with my head and got stuck in a rut and each meeting got progressively worse and I didn't feel like I went anywhere. I have worked hard through the winter and went to Australia and had a good few meetings out there. Now I am back here and I'm getting ready for the new season. I am feeling better than ever, fitter than ever and by the time the season comes we should be well away."
The talented youngster believes that having someone like Crump in the same team will help his own development.
"To have someone like Jason, a three-time world champion, it does not get any better than that."
Ipswich promoter Louis said: "What can I say about Jason Crump signing?
"It's a massive thing for us and for him. He's needed no persuading or twisting of his arm. He's working hard to get fit and mechanically will have the best equipment. Jason is savy and a real pro.
"As for Drew, I'm so happy for him. Obviously the circumstances of him being in the side are tragically sad, but I have no hesitation in putting him in the side. I know the fans will give him all their support."
Kemp starts the year on a 3.00 average.
WITCHES 2020: Jason Crump, Nicolai Klindt, Danny King, Cameron Heeps, Jake Allen, Nico Covatti and Drew Kemp.