Tributes have been pouring in for tragic speedway star Lee Richardson who died on Sunday.
The 33-year-old from Eisenhower Drive, St Leonards died in hospital after crashing in a race in Poland.
Eastbourne Eagles team manager Trevor Geer was the first to spot his talent as a young boy.
He said: “I have known him since he was a young boy.
“He started out on our junior track aged seven or eight and I could tell straight away he was a talent.
“Lee’s dad taught him a lot and he had immense dedication.
“We always knew he had a good career ahead of him. I was a shame to lose him at 14 to Reading but we always kept in touch.
“Lee was such a well mannered young man with time for everyone. He never had a bad word to say.
“He was such as nice guy and I really feel for his family especially his mother. She would never watch him race and it is just awful that of all the riders he ended up in a fatal accident like this.
“He’s one rider who was ultra safe and he would not take unnecessary risks if he was at the back. He had a very good racing brain.
“The first thing I knew about the accident was a text message sent from a rider in Latvia.
“I just prayed that it was not real.
“It was such a shock, an absolute tragedy. He was one of the finest talents this country has ever produced.
“He lived and breathed the sport - he was totally dedicated.
“In terms of what comes out of this I don’t know what will happen. The sport is already a lot safer than 20 years ago.
“We can’t have brakes on the bikes that would make it even more dangerous. Hopefully they will look at the track and try to improve it somehow.”
A statement from the owner of Lakeside Hammers, Stuart Douglas, read: “Lee’s death is truly shocking.
“Sometimes the dangers the riders face in this sport are sidelined in the competitive spirit.
“But this proves just how brave speedway riders are. Lee was a magnificent rider, and our club, and the speedway family around the world, are left totally bereft by this tragedy.
“It is important for our riders to get together sooner rather than later to collectively mourn the loss of our skipper.
“We intend to race at Poole on Wednesday and the club will stage Friday’s meeting with Swindon in memory of a rider who was a star for both clubs.
“The management and supporters of The Lakeside Hammers join together to send our love and prayers to Lee’s lovely young family at this tragic time.”
A tribute from Speedway365 editor, Marc Gent, read: “As I write this, there is a tear in my eye, Lee Richardson is a rider that will be missed throughout British Speedway.
“His drive and determination lead him to be renowned not only in the UK but also in Europe. Lee touched so many people’s lives during his racing career, whether it be with Eastbourne, Coventry, Peterborough, Swindon or most recently with Lakeside where he captained the Hammers.”
“Lee was a true gentleman and gave everyone the upmost respect, which is why he will be so sadly missed. I personally only met Lee a couple of times, but during those occasions he was always keen to talk, and chat about his racing.”
“As a fan, I have always enjoyed watching ‘Rico’ race, he had an effortless, smooth look about him on the bike. I first saw Lee when he rode for Coventry, I knew then that he would go on the be one of Britain’s best.”
“It’s going to be hard to come to terms with this tragic loss.”