MELKSHAM racer Leon Ireland is hoping to kick his race career up a gear when he hits the dirt in the Portsmouth Motocross Club summer series next month.

The 32-year-old, who has primarily competed for Bath and Upavon AMCA (Amateur Motor Cycle Association) clubs in recent years, is set for his first full season in the 18-race series and is aiming to test himself against some fiercer competition.

Ireland, who also spent six years with the British infantry, has also been handed solid footing by his employer Wiltshire Concrete, who have agreed to sponsor him this season.

“I’ve been doing AMCA races for the last three of four years but it always feels like you’re not really moving towards anything,” said Ireland.

“I’ve done a few MCF (Motocross Federation) races and a few of us have decided that we're going to go and do a full season in the Portsmouth championship.

“It’s a full series and every race that you do counts towards your points at the end of the season.

“The standard in the expert class in the AMCA isn’t as high as in the MCF and you get to race on some proper tracks instead of cow fields.

“I’m looking forward to it – I’d like to try and get as many top 10 finishes as I can and see where that gets me.

“Wiltshire Concrete have helped me out a lot by sponsoring me. I bought my (Yamaha YFZ 450 limited edition) bike but they’ve paid for some custom plastics with their logo on.

“They also paid for some kit that was sent over from America, and they’re going to pay for completely new tyres every four races – that will be great because I'm planning on doing 25 races next year.”

Ireland is also hoping to banish the spectre of the injury nightmare he suffered 18 months ago when he suffered a dislocated shoulder after coming off his bike during an MCF race at Grittenham, near Wootton Bassett.

He said: “It happened in practice and it was pretty naughty from me. Another rider cut me up and I just saw red and decided to do the same to him at the next jump.

“As soon as I was in the air, I knew I was going to come off as soon as the front wheel hit the ground and when I came to, I went to push myself up to get back on the bike and my right hand was in front of me but my left was nowhere to be seen.

“I suffered nerve damage and I still don’t have any feeling in my left fingers. It does stop me from pushing myself to the limit as much as I used to.”

The first race of the Portsmouth summer series takes place at Foxholes, near Salisbury, on February 16.