Thursday, July 31, 2014
‘Hero’ is an accolade bandied about all too often at times, but I make no apologies for handing that well deserved tag to one Charles Martin Wright of the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels, whose stunning performance against the Sheffield Tigers, ensured that the Rebels won a difficult match up, at the Oak Tree Arena on Tuesday evening, writes Dave Thompson.
In the away meeting between these two teams, televised on Sky Sports TV on Monday night, the Rebels made a slow start, before eventually taking control and winning comfortably over an injury affected Tigers side. That encounter was marred by two crashes, which ensured the withdrawal from the return match of the Rebels skipper, Olly Allen and Tigers racer, Andre Compton.
In addition the Tigers duo of Leigh Lanham (Back), and Ty Proctor (Thigh) also withdrew due to injury. The visitors used Rider Replacement to cover Lanham, with former Tiger Hugh Skidmore deputising for Proctor, and Jason Bunyan replacing Compton. As on the previous evening, Richard Lawson stood in for Speedway World Cup participant Simon Stead, whilst the Rebels could only use Rider Replacement for Allen. Despite missing four regular riders, the fact that the replacements were fully fit, and every Tigers rider could take a rider replacement ride, probably made the visitors somewhat stronger than injury ridden septet that had taken to the track on Monday evening.
Unlike 24 hours earlier the Rebels got off to a flying start in Heat 1. As he had done at Owlerton, Ben Wilson made a rapid exit from the tapes, but in contrast to his home performance, Wilson could not sustain the lead, and as he ran wide, Charles Wright and Nick Morris took the invitation with gusto, charging through to lead off the second turn. The pair had the hammer down and quickly pulled clear to take an untroubled maximum advantage. Richard Lawson made a poor start, and was virtually anonymous at the rear for the whole race.
If the Rebels supporters thought that the opening win was to signal the start of a total rout of the Tigers, they were sadly mistaken, and over the next four heats the visiting side made nonsense of the form book. As the tapes rose on Heat 2, Sheffield top scorer from Monday’s match, Taylor Poole, was quickly into his stride, with Todd Kurtz upsides. As they reached the turn, Poole dropped over Kurtz, clamping him hard to the kerb. That was enough to give Poole the advantage as they ran to the back straight. Behind the battling pair, Josh Bates had suffered a big lift off the line, but soon had his machine in top gear, and overhauled Paul Starke through the opening turns. From there on the race settled, with only a brief challenge, by Kurtz, on the last lap, to give the home fans some hope.
Heat 3 raised Rebels spirits a little, but only for the briefest of moments. Before the referee could release the tapes, Jason Bunyan destroyed them, as he jumped the start by a mile. In the restart Pontus Aspgren hit the front from the tape rise, with Ben Wilson pressing hard. Brady Kurtz was next up, and as they hit the turn, he charged into the dirt, and stormed around the high line. Coming with a powerful run, he was in second on bend two, and running down the back straight he moved to the lead as they hit the third turn. Immediately he had taken up the running disaster struck, and for no apparent reason, and whilst in an untroubled position, he ran slightly wide, before crashing to the ground, and landing in a heap in the air fence. Cue rerun number two.
Pontus Aspgren again made a great start, leading from the off, with Wilson again chasing hard, but to no avail. The further they went the further Aspgren pulled clear, eventually winning in a canter, to share the heat.
Nick Morris took the rider replacement in Heat 4, but his form from heat 1 deserted him, as he fell out of the traps. Hugh Skidmore had led up, with race partner Josh Bates in behind. Morris recovered from his slow start, and closed up on Bates around the opening turns, but despite a big run wide, he couldn’t move by. Morris was clearly eager to pass Bates, and get to Skidmore at the front, but his eagerness produced too many errors, and the harder he tried, the more mistakes he made. Those mistakes allowed Bates to easily hold him off, despite Morris’s undoubted effort, and in the end the visitors took a maximum advantage and put the Rebels behind on the score chart.
Another shared heat followed, when Richard Lawson made the best of a level break. Behind him, Pontus Aspgren and Ben Wilson were next away, with Brady Kurtz getting clamped to the kerb by Wilson. With Wilson leaning heavily on Kurtz, the Rebels man was getting impatient, and decided enough was enough. He muscled his way beyond the leaning Wilson, and as he did so, he caught a little grip, which straightened him up and shot him straight across the Sheffield man’s bows, hampering the former British U21 Champion in the process. Wilson was not happy with the move and gesticulated towards the referee, but in truth it was just a racing incident, and that appeared to be the way Daniel Holt saw it, as he let the race continue. As Wilson took umbrage, and pulled up on the first lap, Lawson was charging clear at the front, chased home by Pontus Aspgren, with Brady Kurtz taking the minor point.
The Rebels levelled the scores in the next heat, but not before they had been given a fright as the Tigers duo of Skidmore and Poole broke on a 5-1, but they reckoned without the typhoon that was Charles Wright. Nick Morris initially demoted the pair from the lead, inside the second bend, but Wright came with a wet sail around the outside to pass the whole field as they ran down the back straight, and around the third turn. Once he struck the front he was immediately challenged by Skidmore, and the pair were never far apart for the whole race, with Skidmore putting in more serious pressure over the last two laps, but Wright beat off all his attentions right up to the flag. Morris easily held third to give the Rebels a 4-2 win.
Sheffield were toughing it out, and in the next heat they moved back into the lead, with a 4-2 advantage of their own, but not before a delay to allow the setting sun to drop out of the riders eye line. Brady Kurtz came in as rider replacement for Allen, with the Tigers introducing Richard Lawson for Leigh Lanham. As the tapes rose Kurtz made a good start, and was quickly into his stride, but had Lawson pressing hard on his outside. Kurtz held the line, leading into the back straight, and seemingly having the race in the bag. As they reached the third turn, and virtually in the same spot that saw him fall in Heat 3, Kurtz got it all wrong and locked up badly, going from first to last in the blink of an eye. With Lawson leading, brother Todd took up the chase, and on the second turn of lap two, he cut up the inside of the Cumbrian to lead. Lawson kept the pressure on, and a lap later he switched his wide run inside, and dived into the lead on the run to the third turn. Once back at the front, Lawson ran out the race to the flag, with Brady Kurtz in last after never getting back in the hunt after his mistake.
Heat 8 saw a stunning ride from Charles Wright, who looked to have thrown away the race with a slow start and then a mistake in the second turn, which dropped him to stone last. On the third turn he charged onto the high line, and started to lay down a huge run around the fence, by the time they returned to the start line he had already demoted Josh Bates to last place, and was now in full flow. On turn two he only had Ben Wilson in front of him, who he despatched with a superb cut back inside on the third turn. Paul Starke was having a nightmare night, and it got worse when he had to retire from third place just as Wright grabbed the lead. Wright’s run from last to first in just over a lap was truly stunning, but it still wasn’t enough to give the Rebels back the lead.
With the meeting halfway done, the Tigers still held a narrow lead, and the Rebels were finding the going tough, but things were about to change. Pontus Aspgren had been making good starts all night, and Heat 9 was no different. Aspgren shot off the line to lead up, with Hugh Skidmore on his tail. Aspgren made the better of the first turn, making Skidmore take the longest way round. The smooth riding Swede had the Australian’s number from the second turn, and never allowed him back into the race. As he pulled clear, Brady Kurtz, who had got an advantage over Taylor Pole in the opening curves, and once he had his measure, set off after Skidmore, but despite closing on him in the middle of the race, could not pass. The resulting 4-2 to the Rebels brought the scores level, and signalled the start of a run that would finally bring the meeting under the Rebels control.
Heat 10 saw the Rebels move into a lead they were not to lose, as they posted their second 5-1 of the night. Hugh Skidmore made a quick return to the track, as he look the Tigers rider replacement ride, but it wasn’t to be a profitable one. Charles Wright and Skidmore trapped first, with Nick Morris next up. Wright led inside the first turn, with Morris closing on Skidmore as they ran to the back straight. Morris took second place as they reached the third turn, but almost immediately lost it again, as Skidmore went up his inside on the next. Morris hit back again on the opener of Lap 2, and although he held on, he was never certain to keep the place, with Skidmore pressing him hard all the way to the flag.
Another maximum followed straightaway, but not before Richard Lawson appeared to jump the start. Although Lawson’s ‘flying’ start eluded the referee’s attention, his tenure at the front was short lived, with both Pontus Aspgren and Todd Kurtz quickly charging around his outside of the second turn and down the back straight. Kurtz hit the front, only to catch a big lift, and hamper his partner in the process. With Aspgren’s progress halted, Lawson took his chance to sneak by, but Aspgren hit back passing Lawson outside the third turn on the next lap. Once back in second Aspgren tied up the heat, backing up Kurtz to the line.
With Paul Starke clearly struggling, Todd Kurtz came to tapes for the Rebels in Heat 12, with Josh Bates taking the Tigers rider replacement spot. Taylor Poole made the early running, leading from the gate. Brady Kurtz was next into his stride, and at the close of the lap he came steaming around Poole’s outer to grab the lead as they ran back to the line. Meanwhile Todd Kurtz had accounted for Bates in the opening turns, and was pursuing Poole for second place. Poole had too much in hand for the elder Kurtz brother, who also had a closing Josh Bates to contend with in the closing stages of the race. As Brady pulled clear of Poole at the front, Todd also proved to have too much in the locker for the late run of Bates.
Heat 13 often produces plenty of incident, as the top two riders from each team contest the race, but tonight’s renewal was notable for the unusual sight of a rider being excluded for being lapped, whilst trying to score a point. The race had to be restarted after the original running was eventually stopped with Hugh Skidmore still on the track after a fall. The field had broken level, with Richard Lawson coming out on top at the turn. Nick Morris and Skidmore battled it out over the first two laps, and as Morris took up the running at the close of lap 2, Skidmore moved wide to block his run, just as Morris was turning back in. The pair came together and Skidmore slid off in the first turn, but failed to leave the track, as he preferred to stay and gesture at referee Daniel Holt, who clearly took the view that it was a racing incident and allowed the race to continue. Eventually he had no choice but to stop it with Skidmore standing in the middle of the track at turn one waving his arms.
In the restart the field again broke fairly evenly, again with Lawson taking an early lead, but it was clear for all to see, from the plume of smoke emitting from Morris’s bike that something was very much amiss with his machine. With his bike doing an excellent impression of a smoke trailing ‘Red Arrow’, Morris struggled round at the rear, with the engine still running, but a with distinct burning smell emanating from the bike, something clearly wrong elsewhere. As the laps ticked off, the gap was inexorably closing, as Lawson and Charles Wright bore down on Morris, who was trying desperately to make the last lap flag before the leading pair reached him. On the final bend he was still in with a chance, but the gap was closing rapidly, and inch by inch Lawson closed, as Morris nursed his sick machine to the line. With just inch to go, it was all over, as Lawson stormed past Morris, preventing him getting to his final lap before being overtaken. It was a valiant try by Morris to take the final point, but in the end it was a burnt out clutch that had scuppered his efforts, and given the visitors the unusual 2-3 advantage.
Heat 14 got underway with more movement at the gate than that seen in a Country and Western line dance. The referee called them all back and warned the riders about their indiscretion. In the restart, Pontus Aspgren bolted from the line to lead up from Taylor Poole and Todd Kurtz. However the pursuing pair was not far away and Aspgren took to the dirt to ensure he stayed at the front. However Pole got a good run inside, and came out of the second bend in front, and despite Aspgren trying all lines to get back to the front, he took the win. Behind the pair Kurtz was winning back his third spot, after being overhauled by Josh Bates on the third turn of Lap 2. Kurtz was back in third a few bends later, and that’s how it stayed to the line, with the points shared.
The final heat of the night brought Charles Wright to the line for his sixth outing of the night, with Pontus Aspgren backing him up. For the visitors Richard Lawson and Hugh Skidmore virtually picked themselves. Skidmore made the better of a level break, leading inside the second turn from Wright. By the time they returned to the start line, Wright had just grabbed the lead, but Skidmore fought back and retook first place from the Stockport racer. Having only dropped one point to an opponent all night, Wright was in no mood to do it again, and on the second lap he again moved wide, and charged around the fence to fly past Skidmore on the final two turns of the lap. This time he made it stick, and opened a lead he wasn’t to lose to the flag. In the meantime Pontus Aspgren was working an opening on Lawson, and as they ran to the last lap, he got a good run around the outside, which looked as though it would produce the goods. Just as he moved alongside, Lawson quickly moved wide, slamming the door shut, in a very hard move that almost saw Aspgren make acquaintance with the air fence, and ending the night with a shared heat.
It was a tough night for the Rebels, as Sheffield depleted team had fought hard, and for a long time looked as though they might spring a huge surprise. As they have done in the past, the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels had pulled it out of the fire with a strong performance in the latter part of the meeting, and it was Charles Wright who was the star of the show, with superb display of all round speedway. His 17-point tally over six rides was fantastic, with heats won from the front and from behind, they had all come the same to Wright, who dropped just a single point to an opponent, when finishing second to Richard Lawson in the incident filled Heat 13. It was also a performance that deservedly earned him the ‘Rider of the Night’ award. He was ably supported by Pontus Aspgren (12+1) and Todd Kurtz (9+1).
The Tigers had produced a battling performance, which for a long time looked as though it may produce a huge shock result, with Richard Lawson (11+1), Hugh Skidmore (10), and Taylor Poole (8) providing the bulk of the points. However in the final analysis, the Rebels proved too strong in the latter stages, and finally ran out 49-40 winners to take all three league points, and maintain their newly found second place in the League table. The Rebels will now complete their marathon run of matches, with Ipswich at the Oak Tree Arena on Friday, and the PL4’s at Peterborough on Sunday.
Somerset Rebels = 49
1. Nick Morris - 2*, 1, 1, 2*, exl (lapped) = 6+2
2. Charles Wright - 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 3 = 17
3. Brady Kurtz - Flx, 1*, 0, 1, 3 = 5+1
4. Pontus Aspgren - 3, 2, 3, 2*, 2, 0 = 12+1
5. Olly Allen - R/R
6. Todd Kurtz - 2, 2, 3, 1, 1* = 9+1
7. Paul Starke - 0, 0, R = 0
Sheffield Tigers = 40
1. Richard Lawson (G) - 0, 3, 3, 1, 3, 1* = 11+1
2. Ben Wilson - 1, 2, R, 2, 0 = 5
3. Leigh Lanham - R/R
4. Jason Bunyan (G) - 1*, 1, 0 = 2+1
5. Hugh Skidmore (G) - 3, 2, 2, 1, Flx, 2 = 10
6. Taylor Poole - 3, 0, 0, 2, 3 = 8
7. Josh Bates - 1, 2*, 1*, 0, 0 = 4+2
SCB Referee: Daniel Holt
Heat 01: Wright, Morris, Wilson, Lawson (5-1) (5-1) 57.90
Heat 02: Poole, Todd Kurtz, Bates, Starke (2-4) (7-5) 58.32
Heat 03: Aspgren, Wilson, Bunyan, Brady Kurtz (Flx) (3-3) (10-8) 58.06
Heat 04: Skidmore, Bates, Morris, Starke (1-5) (11-13) 58.28
Heat 05: Lawson, Aspgren, Brady Kurtz, Wilson (Ret) (3-3) (14-16) 57.91
Heat 06: Wright, Skidmore, Morris, Poole (4-2) (18-18) 58.41
Heat 07: Lawson, Todd Kurtz, Bunyan, Brady Kurtz (2-4) (20-22) 58.84
Heat 08: Wright, Wilson, Bates, Starke (Ret) (3-3) (23-25) 59.06
Heat 09: Aspgren, Skidmore, Brady Kurtz, Poole (4-2) (27-27) 57.75
Heat 10: Wright, Morris, Skidmore, Bunyan (5-1) (32-28) 58.59
Heat 11: Todd Kurtz, Aspgren, Lawson, Wilson (5-1) (37-29) 58.81
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Poole, Todd Kurtz, Bates (4-2) (41-31) 57.94
Heat 13: Lawson, Wright, Morris (Exl - Lapped), Skidmore (Flx) (2-3) (43-34) 58.97
Heat 14: Poole, Aspgren, Todd Kurtz, Bates (3-3) (46-37) 59.06
Heat 15: Wright, Skidmore, Lawson, Aspgren (3-3) (49-40) 59.03