Somerset Rebels ride to victory against Isle opf Wight
PUBLISHED: 20:52 09 April 2016 | UPDATED: 20:52 09 April 2016
After two years in the Speedway wilderness, the Isle of Wight returned to team track action at the Oaktree Arena on Friday night, writes Dave Thompson.
The day after running their opening meeting, an individual event won by their own James Cockle, The Isle of Wight ‘Wightlink’ Warriors brought a ‘Select’ side to the mainland to take on a ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels Select team in a challenge match. The Warriors tracked virtually their full team, with the exception of Benji Compton, who was unavailable, his place being taken by the Rebels Paul Starke, himself a replacement for Charles Wright, who had to withdraw due to illness. For the Rebels, three of the Premier League team members, Jake Allen, Bradley Wilson-Dean and Zach Wajtknecht, were joined by Luke Chessell, James Purchase, Somerset asset Nick Phillips, currently riding for Eastbourne in the National League, and Henry Atkins, well known to Somerset fans from his 9 years as club mascot, who was making his full debut at senior level.
After a torrid introduction to his British Speedway career, which saw him take a trip to the local hospital, Jake Allen’s progress since has been pleasing to say the least, and now the first night nerves have disappeared, he’s showing that he has bundles of potential. Garry May had no hesitation in naming him the Somerset captain on the night, and he rewarded that faith in him, with a superb opening win over none other than his team mate, riding as the Warriors number one on this occasion, Paul Starke.
As the tapes rose, Allen was quickly into his stride, with Starke matching his pace to the turn. As they hit the bend, it was Allen’s better run on the inside that saw him emerge in front as they hit the back straight, and once there he won comfortably, despite the hard chasing from Starke. Behind the pair, Kelsey Dugard took third place, as James Purchase appeared to be having a little trouble with the well-watered track conditions in the early stages.
Tyler Govier and Henry Atkins have thousands of laps of the Oaktree Arena under their belts, and it was Govier who made that knowledge pay in Heat 2. Nick Phillips made the gate, and led up, with Govier and Atkins in his wake. Govier steadily closed down Phillips over the first half of the lap, and by the third turn, had him in his sights. Coming with a big run on the wide line, Govier dispatched Phillips as they hit the home straight, and from there it was plain sailing for the Exeter born 20-year-old. Phillips didn’t give up, and chased hard, closing slightly over the final lap, but in truth Govier was never troubled. Fellow Exonian, Henry Atkins, held an easy third place to the line, and the heat was shared.
The Rebels made their first breakthrough in Heat 4, as they blasted in a maximum advantage, with Bradley Wilson-Dean heading the field. At the tape rise, the New Zealander flashed from the gate, with his team mate, Luke Chessell for company. Hitting the front before the turn, Wilson-Dean outclassed his rivals, pulling further and further away with every turn of his wheels. Behind him, Luke Chessell was doing a similar job, aided by a particularly lack lustre opening lap by former Rebels, Mark Baseby. After early problems, Baseby eventually got his act together, but it took him until Lap 3 before he caught and passed his team mate, Lee Smart, but by this time both Rebels were in the wind.
Another Rebels heat advantage followed, this time the man in front was Zach Wajtknecht. Wajtknecht contested the early running with James Cockle, but saw off the challenge before the first turn. Like Wilson-Dean before him, Wajtknecht made short work of the field, and won with a huge margin in hand. Henry Atkins held third place from Tyler Govier, whose machine was sounding somewhat sick.
Heat 5 was shared, with Paul Starke leading the way after a hard first turn saw him battle with Bradley Wilson-Dean on his inside. There appeared to be significant contact between the pair in the turn, causing Wilson-Dean to have to make a big save, to prevent hitting the dirt. The Kiwi dropped back, but was soon on an even keel, setting off in pursuit. By the end of the lap, he had negotiated his way back into the runner up spot, but the damage had been done, and he was left with a forlorn chase of the fast disappearing Starke. Luke Chessell made sure of sharing the heat, as he accounted for Kelsey Dugard to take third place.
Jake Allen made a lightning gate in Heat 6, and was never headed from the off. At his back, the two Jameses’, Purchase and Cockle, scrapped it out for second place, and it was the Cockle version that came out on top at the turn. Like Allen in front of him, Cockle quickly put distance between himself and his pursuers, and by the flag the field was well spread out.
Zach Wajtknecht blazed from the tapes in Heat 7, leading every inch of the way, and showing so much speed that he took the flag with the proverbial ‘Ton’ in hand. The real battle was behind the young Saltford rider, with Lee Smart already in second place, Mark Baseby tried to muscle Nick Phillips out of third place. Phillips wouldn’t be moved, and Baseby came to grief on the second turn. It was a hard fall, but to his credit Baseby was up quickly and removed his machine from the track to allow the race to continue. As the field came back round, fans were treated to the unusual sight of a rider re-joining the race a lap down, when Baseby re-joined at the back, and although completing the race to the flag, he was immediately excluded, with his exclusion light coming on seconds after he re-entered the track after being lapped.
The resulting Rebels advantage put the Warriors 10-points behind, and Neil Vatcher wasted no time in sending Kelsey Dugard to the track wearing the ‘Black and White’. The moved looked to have been thwarted, as Henry Atkins made a superb gate to lead up to the turn. Dugard was soon on his tail, but couldn’t find a way to the front. He challenged inside the first turn of Lap 2, but Atkins quickly clamped him to the kerb. A lap and a half later, Dugard was up Atkins inside on the third turn of Lap 3 to lead, but again Atkins answered the call, powering back around the outside of the Sussex man to hit the front on the home straight. It was now Dugard’s turn to show his mettle, and he fought his way back to the front as they headed down the back straight on the final lap. Atkins looked to have tied up second spot, but a slight error on the final turn let in Tyler Govier, to steal away the place right on the line. It was a superb effort from the young man making his full senior debut, and deserved a better reward than it produced.
The 8-1 advantage gained by the Warriors put them right back in the hunt, as they were now only 3-points behind. Heat 9 saw James Cockle bolt from the gate to lead up, with Luke Chessell in his wheel tracks. Chessell threw down his first challenge down the back straight, but couldn’t find a way by. Bradley Wilson-Dean had made a poor start by his standards, and was chasing in third place. Flying down the back straight, he caught the leading pair at the third turn, and took both men in one fell swoop as they rounded the fourth turn. At the same time, Chessell took his chance, pouncing to try to relegate Cockle to third as they hit the home straight to start the second lap, but his move was blocked as Cockle ran wide out of the turn. With a Rebels advantage seemingly in the bag, the race ran to a conclusion, only to see Chessell take an unexpected fall on the penultimate bend of the race, whilst trying to close on Cockle, gifting third place and a share of the points to Matt Saul.
Heat 10 was shared as Jake Allen and Mark Baseby contested the early running. Any chance of a Warriors heat win were quickly extinguished as Allen came over Baseby in the turn, and quickly disappeared into the distance. James Purchase had out-gated Lee Smart, only to see Smart power round his outside in the second turn to grab third spot and a share of the points. Allen pulled well clear, and even had time for a celebratory wheelie as he ran to the flag and crossed the finish line.
The Warriors closed the gap to just a single point as they took a 4-2 advantage in Heat 11. Zach Wajtknecht had made a flying start from inside gate to lead up Paul Starke. He held the lead until Starke charged past him as he took the wide line off the final turn of the lap. Wajtknecht gave chase, but could never get back on terms with the flying Starke, who was now showing that Charles Wright wasn’t the only one who knew how to ride the widest of lines, something he joked about in a post meeting interview in the club house. Meanwhile, Kelsey Dugard had secured the heat advantage as he clamped Nick Phillips to the kerb in the opening turn, and gave the Dulverton based rider no opportunity to get back into the fray.
Neil Vatcher swapped out his reserves as he brought Tyler Govier into Heat 12 in place of Matt Saul. Luke Chessell made sure that the Warriors didn’t move into the lead, as he blazed from the gate to lead up. Once at the front he pulled clear of the chasing Govier and Lee Smart. With Chessell taking a bloodless win, the Isle of Wight pair accounted for Henry Atkins, to share the points.
James Cockle jumped out of the gate like a scalded cat in Heat 13, but his tenure at the front was short lived, as he was swallowed by Paul Starke and Jake Allen in the opening turns. Allen hit the front up the inside as they exited the second bend, with Starke giving chase. Starke chased down Allen, and as they ran down the home straight at the end of the lap, he went through to take up the running. Cockle was further relegated, when Zach Wajtknecht took his measure on the second lap. That was the race over and done with, as despite a strong chase, Allen couldn’t peg back Paul Starke, and the heat was shared.
The Rebels gave themselves a bit of breathing space as the added a 4-2 advantage to their tally in Heat 14. A level break saw the field head to the turn together, but it was Nick Phillips who emerged from the bunch to hit the front on the opening bend, with Bradley Wilson-Dean in his wheel tracks. As they ran to the second bend, Wilson-Dean went to the head of affairs, leading onto the back straight. That gave the home side the hope of a ‘Full House’, but at the final turn of the lap, Phillips got it all wrong and locked up, an error which cost him second place, with Mark Baseby going through. The race settled in that order, with Wilson-Dean pulling away from the second lap, to take an unchallenged win. Tyler Govier fell when at the back on Lap 3.
The nominated heat saw Garry May give the honours to Zach Wajtknecht and Bradley Wilson-Dean, whilst Neil Vatcher sent out James Cockle and Paul Starke, to try to wrest the meeting from the Rebels at the last gasp. To do that the Warriors needed to take the maximum advantage. When the tapes rose Starke, Wajtknecht and Cockle contested the run to the opening bend. Wajtknecht emerged in front as they hit the turn. He led through the opening lap, but as in Heat 11 he was chased down by Paul Starke, who roared around his outside on the wide line out of Bend 2. Bradley Wilson-Dean had made a slow start, but by the end of the lap he had recovered, and flew past Cockle off the final turn to grab third place. Once at the front, Starke made no mistake and pulled out a lead over Wajtknecht that he was not to lose. The shared race gave the Rebels the win 48-45, but once back in it at Heat 8, the visitors had made the Rebels work for the win, and with a little good fortune could very well have gone away with a win under their belt.
Despite a couple of races being, understandably, a little processional, it had been an enjoyable meeting, with some good racing to keep the fans entertained. From the Rebels point of view, it gave the newer 2016 riders some more track time and the chance to try some different set ups. Bradley Wilson-Dean top scored with 12+1, but he was disappointed with his performance, remarking in a post meeting interview that he couldn’t get off the start, and felt really slow. If that was slow, his opponents had better look out when he gets it right and feels fast. Zach Wajtknecht scored 11+1, and Jake Allen 11-points. In the reserve berths, Henry Atkins made a pleasing start to his senior racing career, with 3+1.
For the Warriors management it was the chance to see their team in full race action for the very first time this season, and they gave a good account of themselves, which bodes well for their coming return to National League racing.
Premier League racing underway at the Oaktree Arena next week, when the Scunthorpe Scorpions will be the visitors, including former Rebel Alex Davies, who recently guested for the Rebels, when they took on Rye House in the League Cup.
Somerset Rebels Select - 48
1. Jake Allen - 3, 3, 3, 2 = 11
2. James Purchase - R, 1, 0, 0 = 1
3. Luke Chessell - 2*, 1*, F, 3 = 6+2
4. Bradley Wilson-Dean - 3, 2, 3, 3, 1* = 12+1
5. Zach Wajtknect - 3, 3, 2, 1*, 2 = 11+1
6. Nick Phillips - 2, 1, 0, 1 = 4
7. Henry Atkins - 1*, 1, 1, 0 = 3+1
Isle Of Wight Warriors Select - 45
1. Paul Starke - 2, 3, 3, 3, 3 = 14
2. Kelsey Dugard - 1*, 0, 6^, 1 = 8+1
3. Lee Smart - 0, 2, 1*, 1* = 4+2
4. Mark Baseby - 1, Flx, 2, 2 = 5
5. James Cockle - 2, 2, 2, 0, 0 = 6
6. Matt Saul - 0, 0, 1* = 1+1
7. Tyler Govier - 3, 0, 2*, 2, F = 7+1
SCB Referee: Dave Watters
Heat 01: Allen, Starke, Dugard, Purchase (Ret) (3-3) (3-3) 58.31
Heat 02: Govier, Phillips, Atkins, Saul (3-3) (6-6) 62.41
Heat 03: Wilson-Dean, Chessell, Baseby, Smart (5-1) (11-7) 58.90
Heat 04: Wajtknect, Cockle, Atkins, Govier (4-2) (15-9) 60.06
Heat 05: Starke, Wilson-Dean, Chessell, Dugard (3-3) (18-12) 58.74
Heat 06: Allen, Cockle, Purchase, Saul (4-2) (22-14) 59.94
Heat 07: Wajtknect, Smart, Phillips, Baseby (Flx) (4-2) (26-16) 60.63
Heat 08: Dugard (tactical), Govier, Atkins, Purchase (1-8) (27-24) 62.08
Heat 09: Wilson-Dean, Cockle, Saul, Chessell (Fell) (3-3) (30-27) 60.12
Heat 10: Allen, Baseby, Smart, Purchase (3-3) (33-30) 59.50
Heat 11: Starke, Wajtknect, Dugard, Phillips (2-4) (35-34) 58.88
Heat 12: Chessell, Govier, Smart, Atkins (3-3) (38-37) 62.38
Heat 13: Starke, Allen, Wajtknect, Cockle (3-3) (41-40) 59.00
Heat 14: Wilson-Dean, Baseby, Phillips, Govier (Fell) (4-2) (45-42) 60.72
Heat 15: Starke, Wajtknect, Wilson-Dean, Cockle (3-3) (48-45) 59.56