JAMES Shanes reined in expectations and set his sights on steady improvement in a tougher SGB Premiership.

Shanes put nearly a point on his average in his rookie year in the top flight, his popularity with fans convincing Pirates boss Matt Ford to bring him straight back in.

Puddletown-based Shanes will again start the season at reserve alongside Mateusz Szczepaniak, a rider who finished seventh in last season's Speedway European Championship and came within one meeting of the Grand Prix series.

And the 2.88-rated Shanes knows he faces a tough task to impress with many reserve combinations looking stronger than in 2017.

He told the Daily Echo: "I'd like to improve my average. I'm not going to say I want to put a point on it but I want to up it a bit.

"Mateusz is in the top 10 in Europe and to have him as my partner at reserve shows how strong the league is.

"Hopefully, I can start this year where I left off and keep progressing.

"I think we are going to be a strong team. We are slowly getting to know each other and, hopefully, come press day we can start gelling straight away."