Coventry team manager Peter Oakes believes the club were correct to see no reason to change their winning formula from last season.

The Bees kick off the season tonight, weather permitting, with the first leg of the Elite Shield at Belle Vue, before facing the Aces at home in Friday's return fixture.

They go into the meeting cold - and not just because of the current conditions. The Brandon track was unfit for practice on Friday evening, and even those members of the team who were booked for Open meetings in recent days have seen them washed out.

Oakes says that he will be happy to allow his riders to experiment in the season-opening fixtures to ensure that everything is in place for the first League matches.

He said: "It's nice to go and meet the team who won the Knockout Cup and there will be a little needle to it, but I don't think anyone can genuinely say we'll be devastated if we don't win home and away.

"Belle Vue have had a practice and a meeting, so if I'm being honest I will be saying to the riders that if they want to try things out, do so and get it right for the League.

"You want to win everything, and it would be nice to start the season with a new trophy, but if we don't we don't and I'm sure Belle Vue will say exactly the same."

Oakes has a familiar squad at his disposal, even to the extent that the only newcomer to the club, Olly Allen, is a rider who he has previously worked with at Peterborough and Swindon. He said: "We really had two options, which were to either rip the team apart and start again, or retain the riders who were successful last year and bring in one new face.

"Personally I think the latter is the right way, and Colin Pratt clearly shares my views. History has shown that by and large you don't win titles by having top-heavy teams, everybody has to contribute and if you have two reserves who are better than the opposition's you are going to get the points you need.

"The reserves between them have to take eight rides, which involves seven races - so there are seven races where if we can gain a points advantage, there are only another eight races to defend."

While the Bees go into competitive action at Kirkmanshulme Lane, Wolverhampton will be put through their paces at the club's press and practice event.

The Monmore men have been boosted by the news that former World Champion Billy Hamill will be present, and able to take his place in the line-up at Poole on Wednesday, after sorting his visa problems of last week.

Hamill flew back to the UK over the weekend having previously expected to have to wait until today to visit the British Embassy in LA.