Sunday, April 20, 2014
In local derbies, incident and controversy are often part and parcel of the nights entertainment, and when the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels hosted the Plymouth Devils in this Premier League Cup Southern Group match at the Oak Tree Arena that proved to be the case, writes Dave Thompson.
Both teams were without their ‘Number One’s’, who were riding for their respective Elite League clubs, and each tracked a guest, in Berwick Bandits team mates Claus Vissing, himself a former Rebel, and Matthew Wethers. The Devils also ran Rider Replacement for the injured Kyle Newman.
The Rebels were looking to take maximum points from their remaining group matches, in order to give themselves the best possible chance of progressing to the Semi-finals as the best group runner up, but the Devils had their own targets, and would do all they could to spoil the party.
From the word go the Rebels posted their intent, as Todd Kurtz blasted from the tapes, only for referee Ronnie Allan to call them back, deeming Kurtz start to be illegal. In the re-run Kurtz was quickly into his stride again, and whilst there seemed little difference between the two starts, Allan was satisfied with the latter, and allowed the race to continue. Claus Vissing also made a rapid exit from the tapes, joining his team mate at the front as they completed the lap. Vissing sat on Kurtz’ tail for a couple of laps, dropping off slightly over the final lap, as the Rebels took a quick maximum advantage. Matthew Wethers took the minor place, the R/R Kalle Katajisto never getting in the hunt.
Charles Wright made a miraculous save at the start of the reserves heat, after almost flipping his machine after the tapes rose. Wright appeared to move before the tapes rose, and stopped his own progress just before the referee let them go, and as he dropped the clutch for the second time, his machine reared high into the airs, almost depositing the Stockport rider out of the back door.
Wright got the bike under control, but was a long way behind before he set off in pursuit. At the front Kalle Katajisto made a quick start, and was being chased hard by Paul Starke, with Ben Reade a long way behind. Wright was chasing down Reade, closing quickly with every turn of the wheels, but he then slowed and pulled off the track, but had already been excluded for crossing the white line as he had fought to bring his bike under control at the start. Katajisto easily held off a late run by Starke to take the win.
Heat 3 saw Brady Kurtz make a fast getaway, but like Wright he made an initial move, only to stop his own momentum, and have to go again as the tapes rose. He still left the others flat footed as he bolted from the line to lead before the turn. Pontus Aspgren missed the gate entirely, and was last away. As Kurtz pulled away from Rasmus Jensen, and Roland Benko, Aspgren set about reeling in the latter. He was almost on terms, and looking to make a pass when he got it all wrong, locking up on the final turn of the penultimate lap, before touring round and pulling off before the finish.
Heat 4 saw Ollie Allen and Paul Starke rocket from the tapes and lead all the way. Sam Simota and Ben Reade never got in a blow as the Rebels pair pulled well clear to record the team’s second ‘full house’ on the night.
The Devils cut the home team’s lead again in Heat 5, with Wethers and Benko, who was in as rider replacement, getting the better of a level break, with Brady Kurtz getting squeezed out on the first turn. Pontus Aspgren gave chase, eventually overhauling Benko coming off the final turn of lap two. Kurtz closed up on Benko on the final lap, coming with a good late run that only just failed.
The visitors lost the services of Kalle Katajisto for Heat 6, as he pulled off the line moments before the start, and returned to the pits. As he left the track the two minutes ran out, and the Finn was excluded, and was replaced by Ben Reade. When the tapes finally rose it was the home duo of Vissing and Todd Kurtz who roared off the line to lead up, pulling clear of Simota and Reade from the second lap, adding a third maximum to the Rebels tally.
Rasmus Jensen and Roland Benko looked to have given the Devils a quick maximum in reply as the jetted from the line to lead up from Ollie Allen, but the Rebels skipper had other ideas, coming with a storming run from last place to charge out wide and pass Benko and Charles Wright off the final turn of the lap. Wright was next as he repeated the move on the very next lap, giving the Rebels a share of the points. Allen had the bit between his teeth, and careering around the widest of lines, he closed down Jensen over the final stages, only to see the lap counter run down, and Jensen take the win.
Jensen was back out in Heat 8 as rider replacement, and the visitors switched reserves to bring in the prolific Katajisto. The field broke level, with all four reaching the turn upsides. Todd Kurtz blocked out Jensen’s wide run, leaving the remaining trio to battle three abreast out on the wide line, with Kurtz taking the advantage into the back straight, and Paul Starke cementing third place on the inside. The race looked set for another Rebels advantage, until Katajisto conjured up a turbo charged run right out wide, winding up the speed over the closing lap, before making a neat cut back to the inside off the final turn, and inching his way to the front in the shadow of the winning line to share the points.
Brady Kurtz made another quick start in Heat 9, only to see the red lights halt his progress, and garnering an official warning from the referee in the process. In the restart the field broke together, before the Devils pair of Katajisto and Simota looked to have secured a maximum advantage in the first turn. However Simota’s tenure in second lasted only to the next curve, as Pontus Aspgren came through to claim the place. Brady Kurtz soon had the former Czech U212 Champion under pressure, and by the final bend of the lap he was through, giving the Rebels a share of the points. That was as good as it got for the home side, as Katajisto was already in the wind.
Todd Kurtz made the best start in Heat 10, but the reason was apparent as Ronnie Allan called them back for an uneven tape rise. Rasmus Jensen grabbed the lead in the restart, with Claus Vissing hot on his tail. Todd Kurtz recovered from a slow start, and accounted for Roland Benko off the final turn of the lap. At the front Vissing was exploring all possible lines on the Highbridge circuit, trying to find a route to the front. He tried inside and out, and back inside again, but his young countryman had it all under control, as he held off Vissing’s efforts to the flag, and the points were shared.
With the Devils introducing Ben Reade as rider replacement, the Rebels added to their total in Heat 11 by taking a 4-2 advantage, but not before another uneven tape rise brought the riders back for a restart, after the riders went through the tapes. The second running saw Ollie Allen, and Matt Wethers dispute the early running, but it was the Rebels skipper who took the advantage after a breathtaking, fence scraping run around the opening bends. Charles Wright was next away, and put Wethers under strong pressure over the final stage of the second lap, and the beginning of the next, but the experienced Australian had too much in hand as he snuffed out the challenge. Meanwhile, Allen was gone for all money, despite a late rally from the Devils guest rider.
That advantage gave the Devils the option to use a tactical rider in the next heat, and they wasted no time in giving the job to Kalle Katajisto. As the tapes rose the writing looked on the wall for the Rebels, as Katajisto broke rapidly, with Roland Benko on his outside, putting the visitors on an 1-8 advantage as they reached the turn. With the race at their mercy, and the chance to cut the Rebels 10-point lead to just three, Katajisto, head down and charging like a bull in a china shop, ran out to the widest of lines, pushing the unfortunate Benko hard up against the fence. The young Hungarian had two choices, take the fall, or knock off the throttle, and with space quickly running out for him, he chose the latter, dropping to the back of the field.
Katajisto’s move had just cost his team dear, and worst was to follow, as Brady Kurtz quickly made up ground, and slipped through the inside off the final bend to grab the lead. Paul Starke was soon charging after the Finn, closing him down over the next three laps, but eventually his run could not bring the second place he was looking for. Katajisto’s impetuousness had turned the visitor’s 7-point advantage into a shared heat, and in the final analysis probably cost them the match.
Heat 13 treated the watching fans to a superb battle between the Rebels pair and Matt Wethers, as they regularly swapped place over a stunning opening lap. Wethers was first to show from the tapes, before Vissing took the lead up the inside of the first turn, before Wethers repaid the compliment around the outside of the next, with Vissing and Ollie Allen getting it back down the back straight. Wethers cut back inside, and took control again off the third turn, moving inside Vissing again, only to see Allen come sailing around the outside to grab the lead into the home straight. As the race settled it looked like Allen had the race in his pocket, but Wethers had other ideas, putting in a big run over the final lap, and as he charged around the wide line, his speed carried him past Ollie Allen down the back straight. Allen hit back, but could not get back on terms, as Wethers snatched the heat from under the Rebels noses.
With the Rebels just needing to maintain the status quo to take maximum points from the match, confusion reigned in Heat 14, as Kalle Katajisto pulled away from the tapes just scant seconds before the green light came on, before returning to the pits. The announcement was made that he was excluded for exceeding the two minute allowance, and he even returned to the track, taking up position on the 15 metre handicap line.
As the riders readied themselves the referee called Katajisto back to the line, with the official explanation that in the original running, the two minute allowance had never started, and it was only after the Finn returned to the pits that the two minutes was started.
As the tapes rose Rasmus Jensen got a very fast start, similar to those that had seen the two Kurtz brothers called back in earlier heats, but on this occasion the referee let it go. Jensen streaked away from Pontus Aspgren, with Katajisto in third place. Off the second turn Katajisto shot down the inside, demoting Aspgren to third place. Aspgren gave chase, and although not far behind didn’t look to be gaining significantly, when he locked up badly on the final turn of Lap 3, losing any slim chance he had of regaining second place. The resulting 1-5 advantage put the Devils just 6-points down going into the final race.
The nominated heat saw Ollie Allen and Claus Vissing take to the track for the Rebels, with Matt Wethers and Rasmus Jensen providing the opposition. From the Rebels point of view, the start couldn’t have gone any worse, as Wethers and Jensen bolted off the line to lead up Ollie Allen. Allen quickly got on terms with Jensen, as he ran out wide, tight up against the fence. Moving by the Devils rider off the turn, he set off after Wethers, quickly reducing the deficit. Vissing was not far away, and was on Jensen’s case, putting him under pressure for third. As the field entered the third lap, Allen was pressing Wethers, and Vissing was doing likewise to Jensen.
As they reached the second turn, Vissing and Jensen got tight, and Jensen slid off. He lay on the track, and took a long time to get to his feet, gesticulating in the direction of the referee’s box. As the riders entered the final lap, and with all three close together, the red lights came on, and Jensen was excluded. With the race and the meeting still being a ‘live’ prospect, as the result was far from certain, most people watching fully expected a re-run, despite the final lap being started, but to their amazement Ronnie Allan called it, awarding the race, and ending the Rebels hope to take maximum points from the meeting.
In the aftermath he got it from both sides, as he was roundly booed by the home supporters, and then had Jensen ride round in front of the referee’s box, protesting, as he clearly felt that he had been taken out in the incident with Vissing.
Despite a number of refereeing decision that clearly irked both sets of supporters, and the fact that his last one denied the Rebels the chance gain maximum points, the meeting had a bit of everything, drama, controversy, debate, and above all had produced some superb racing from both sides, in all it had almost everything, just as a local Derby should.
For the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels it was a good all round performance, with skipper Ollie Allen posting the top score of 11+1, not far behind came former Rebel, and fans favourite, Claus Vissing on 10+2. On the opposite side of the pits there are without a doubt still some problems, which were highlighted by the fact that all but 5 of their points came from just three riders. Top of the shop was their productive reserve Kalle Katajisto, with 15+1 from his 7 rides, whilst guest Matt Wethers, added a creditable 12-points. Only Rasmus Jensen shone from the rest, with an 11-point haul, and just what the result might have been if they had all fired is open to conjecture, but clearly they could have upset the Rebels. Both guests had given a good account of themselves, which could mean that the Rebels will have to be on their mettle when the Berwick Bandits come to call later in the season.
The two teams renew rivalry tonight (Saturday 19th April) when they contest the return leg at the Devils St Boniface Arena home.
SOMERSET REBELS 49
1. Claus Vissing (G) - 2*, 3, 2, 1*, 2 = 10+2
2. Todd Kurtz - 3, 2*, 2, 1* = 8+2
3. Brady Kurtz - 3, 0, 1*, 3 = 7+1
4. Pontus Aspgren - R, 2, 2, 1 = 5
5. Ollie Allen - 3, 2, 3, 2, 1* = 11+1
6. Charles Wright – Exl, 1*, 1, 0 = 2+1
7. Paul Starke - 2, 2*, 1*, 1 = 6+2
PLYMOUTH EVILS 43
1. Matthew Wethers (G) - 1, 3, 2, 3, 3 = 12
2. Kyle Newman – Rider Replacement
3. Roland Benko – 1*, 1, 0, 0, 0 = 2+1
4. Rasmus Jensen- 2, 3, 0, 3, 3, Flx = 11
5. Sam Simota - 1, 1, 0, 0 = 2
6. Kalle Katajisto - 0, 3, T, 3, 3, 4^ 2* = 15+1
7. Ben Reade - 1, 0, 0, 0 = 1
Heat 01: (Re-run) Todd Kurtz, Vissing, Wethers, Katajisto (5-1) (5-1) 58.00
Heat 02: Katajisto, Starke, Reade, Wright (Exl) (2-4) (7-5) 59.19
Heat 03: Brady Kurtz, Jensen, Benko, Aspgren (Ret) (3-3) (10-8) 58.06
Heat 04: Allen, Starke, Simota, Reade (5-1) (15-9) 58.37
Heat 05: Wethers, Aspgren, Benko, Brady Kurtz (2-4) (17-13) 58.31
Heat 06: Vissing, Todd Kurtz, Simota, Reade (for Katajisto – exl 2 minutes) (5-1) (22-14) 57.62
Heat 07: Jensen, Allen, Wright, Benko (3-3) (25-17) 58.03
Heat 08: Katajisto, Todd Kurtz, Starke, Jensen (3-3) (28-20) 58.72
Heat 09: (Re-run) Katajisto, Aspgren, Brady Kurtz, Simota (3-3) (31-23) 58.47
Heat 10: (Re-run) Jensen, Vissing, Todd Kurtz, Benko (3-3) (34-26) 58.84
Heat 11: (Re-run) Allen, Wethers, Wright, Reade (4-2) (38-28) 59.22
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Katajisto (Tactical), Starke, Benko (4-4) (42-32) 59.33
Heat 13: Wethers, Allen, Vissing, Simota (3-3) (45-35) 59.21
Heat 14: Jensen, Katajisto, Aspgren, Wright (1-5) (46-40) 59.13
Heat 15: Wethers, Vissing, Allen, Jensen (Flx) (3-3) (49-43) Awarded