History of Eastbourne Eagles
The history of Eastbourne Speedway is - in part - the story of the Dugard family. They have been the driving force of the club which was established on the outskirts of Hailsham, north of Eastbourne, soon after speedway came to Britain. Eastbourne Motorcycle Sports Club brought speedway to the site at Arlington on August bank holiday, 1929. Another pioneer meeting took place at the end of the month. The club continued to run meetings with Charles (Charlie) Dugard taking a share in the club. Charles was a rider as well as a businessman; running the speedway and establishing the business which we now know as C. Dugard Machine Tools.
Multi-world champion Ivan Mauger
He assumed full control in 1935 and was one of the country’s top grasstrack riders before the Second World War and for nearly a decade after the war. From then on, the name Dugard has been synonymous with speedway at Eastbourne.
Charles gave the legendary Ivan Mauger a helping hand early in his career. The New Zealander came to Britain to ride for Wimbledon but found it tough going. Mauger found his way to one of the training schools at Arlington, bringing with him a bike that was in poor shape. Charles helped him sort out the equipment, befriended the young Kiwi who went on to find success in the Southern Area League.
The following year Mauger joined Newcastle and the rest, as they say, is history as he went on to lift six individual speedway world titles, helped on his way at an early stage by Charles Dugard. Charles’s son, Bob (also a former rider) continues to hold the rights to stage speedway at Arlington and is the senior member of the current promoting trio.
The Master of Arlington
Bob with his brother, Eric, jointly own the stadium. Bob’s son Martin illuminated Eastbourne Speedway for many years and was known as the Master of Arlington. He became the first British rider to win a staging of the British GP when he took the title at Coventry in 2000. Martin remains the best rider ever produced from the Arlington stadium. Now Martin’s sons, Kelsey and Connor are also taking to the shale: following in the footsteps of their great grandfather. Although Martin was the first Eagles to taste GP success, others riders representing Eastbourne have gone on to take the ultimate title.
Nicki Pedersen became world champion in 2003 while riding for the Eagles and in the long-track version of the sport, Joonas Kylmakorpi was crowned champion in 2012, 2011 and 2010.
Ever present in the Elite League
In the modern era of the sport, the Eastbourne Eagles were a dominating force in the old second division (see roll of honours) and were ever-present members of the Elite League since its foundation in 1997 until 2014.
One of the club’s greatest nights came in 2000 when the club defeated King’s Lynn at the Arlington Stadium in front of a massive crowd to be crowned Millennium Champions.
Two years later, the Eagles won the league again but suffered the pain of not becoming champions. 2002 was the first year of the Elite League play-offs and the Eagles lost out in the final to Wolverhampton.
As well as Martin Dugard, Nicki Pedersen and Joonas Kylmakorpi, other notable riders to wear the Eagles’ colours include Mark Loram, Joe Screen, David Norris, Dean Barker, Kelly Moran, Dave Jessup, Gordon Kennett and Bobby Schwartz.
The Eagles finished fifth in the 2014 Elite League season. A decision was made not to race at Elite League level in 2015 because of the losses sustained. A successful application was made to ride in the National League in 2015 while the Elite League licence went "on ice".
The National League promotion is being run by Martin and Connor Dugard with Kelsey given a team slot at reserve.
His debut for Eastbourne in the 2015 season cemented an incredible record in British speedway as he become the fourth generation Dugard to ride for the Eagles.