SWINDON Robins speedway has announced two of its long-serving track staff have opted to retire following the news the Abbey Stadium outfit would not return to competitive racing until at least 2023.

Ronnie Russell and Rod Ford have been involved with the club since 2007 and 1971, respectively, and were both key parts in the transformation of the Abbey Stadium track prior to the start of the 2019 campaign.

Turns one and two were brought in while the track was also widened, leading to a far more entertaining brand of racing from the Robins and their opponents as Alun Rossiter’s men romped towards the Premiership league and cup titles.

To mark the pair’s retirement, Robins chairman Terry Russell presented Rod and Ronnie with handcrafted Swindon Robins breastplates bearing their names.

Ford, known throughout speedway as ‘Punch’, celebrated his 80th birthday earlier in the year, coinciding with his 50th consecutive year of service to Swindon Speedway.

Punch was there at the very first meeting at the Abbey back in 1949 and was encouraged to join the track staff by his great friend, the late Ray Morse, the clerk of the course for many years at Swindon, in 1971.

In a statement released by the Robins, the club said Ford is “a man of huge strength and character… and has taught so many people the art of repairing the unrepairable, repurposing what would have been scrap and solving the apparently impossible.”

Ford stated Erik Gundersen was his favourite rider of all time for his “sheer speed” and that former captain Leigh Adams was “the most stylish” he’d ever witnessed.

Meanwhile, brother of chairman Terry, Ronnie also decided to step away from the sport after battling ill-health for a number of years.

The Robins said: “Speedway has been Ron’s life since he was a young man growing up in East London, helping out at Hackney Stadium.

“In more recent times he was involved in promoting the sport at Lakeside and Rye House before settling at Swindon where he helped forge one of the closest knit teams of track staff in the country.

“Like with Punch, his presence around the track will be sorely missed by all who know him.”