SEVENTY years ago tomorrow, Poole’s newly-formed speedway team made their debut at their Wimborne Road home.

That event was overshadowed by tragedy, when Reg Craven, of the visiting Yarmouth Bloaters, crashed in the first race and later died.

Despite the awful start to their story, Poole Pirates would become an institution. Thousands would follow the sport, while the sound of motorcycle engines can be heard across the town on midweek evenings.

The move to establish a speedway club in Poole began in 1947, a year after the sport was relaunched following the war. Exeter Falcons riders Tommy Crutcher and Charlie Hayden created a consortium with Crutcher’s brother Jack and Herby Hayden.

In those early days, Poole became the first team to rise from the bottom-flight of the National League to the very top. Early heroes included Tony Lewis, Ken Middleditch and Brian Crutcher, the first Poole rider to reach a world final.

Poole topped the new Provincial League in 1960, 1961 and 1962, and after another shake-up of the sport, they remained in the top-flight of the new British League for 20 years after its formation in 1965, winning the league in 1969. Throughout the 1970s, thousands followed heroes such as Neil Middleditch (son of Ken) and ‘Super Simmo’ Malcolm Simmons.

The 1980s saw a slip into administration, a new owner and, briefly, a new name as Poole Wildcats, before winning the National League in 1989 and 1990.

The Pirates went on to join the top-flight British League and win the championship in 1994.

In the 21st century, under promoter Matt Ford, the Pirates have continued to thrive.

In 2003, the club achieved the triple distinction of winning the Elite League, the Knockout Cup and the British League Cup. The following year they won two of those titles again – making them the first top-flight club to achieve back-to-back league and cup doubles since 1960.

Further Elite League wins came in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and the side produced a succession of world champions – Mark Loram, Tony Rickardsson (twice) and Chris Holder.

The club’s history will be celebrated tomorrow with an evening of racing that recreates that first fixture.

The Bloaters have not existed since 1962, but promoter Matt Ford was given permission to use the name so a line-up of top riders could wear Yarmouth’s racing jackets. The stadium will also be open from 2.30-5.30pm for a free 'History of Speedway' event featuring talks from riders.

As well as celebrating the champions, the event will remember the four riders who have lost their lives on Poole’s track: the club’s own Johnny Thomson in 1955 and Kevin Holden in 1977, Norwich’s Malcolm Flood in 1956 and Yarmouth’s Craven, the casualty of that first fixture seven decades ago.