FORMER Pirates star Greg Hancock has announced his retirement from speedway at the age of 49.

The four-time World Champion had initially planned to make his comeback in 2020 after sitting out last season for family reasons, but has now called time on a glittering career.

American legend Hancock gave fine service to British Speedway during his three decades in the sport, taking in spells with Cradley Heath, Coventry, Oxford, Reading and Poole.

He said: “Over the past 12 months of missing a full racing season, I've had much time to reflect on my amazing career.

“Racing at the highest level, winning four world championships, team and pairs world championships amongst many domestic league championships, were amongst the most challenging and successful times of my life to date.

“This last year taking care of my wife and family became life-changing in many ways and put life into a new perspective.

“I am pleased with my racing achievements and believe it is time to move on to a new chapter. As difficult as it is to make a decision like this, it is the right one.

“Although I am stepping away from the racing part, I do not plan to exit the scene. I have plans that will keep me close to the sport and we’ll see where that goes in the weeks ahead.”

Hancock featured in Poole's 2013 Elite League championship success.

He was signed by owner Matt Ford to cover the absence of Chris Holder.

Hancock won 25 of his 51 rides for the Pirates during his 11-match stint, scoring 105 plus 2 bonus points.

Poole co-promoter Danny Ford told the Pirates website: “Greg is true world class and his arrival in 2013 certainly turned our fortunes around that year.

“It was a major signing that Dad pulled off and having Greg around was unreal.

“On behalf of everyone at Poole Speedway I would like to wish Greg all the very best in his retirement."