Somerset Rebels race to historic victory over Belle Vue Aces
- Credit: Archant
The vagaries of the English summer almost prevented this historic first visit of the Belle Vue Aces from being entered into the record books, writes Dave Thompson.
After a dry day, and with no precipitation forecast, the Oaktree Arena was hit by a late band of rain, which threatened to call a halt, even before the turnstiles opened.
However, it relented and the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels and their visitors took to the track under heavily overcast skies.
The Aces were without Dan Bewley, who was away on National duty with the British U21 squad, with 2016 Rebel Zach Wajtknecht stepping in. The Rebels operated Rider Replacement for Danish star Patrick Hougaard, who suffered a broken shoulder whilst riding for Slangerup in Denmark on Wednesday.
The Aces made a bright start in their bid to avenge the defeat handed to them by the Rebels, on their home track at the National Speedway Stadium, just over a month ago. Max Fricke and Steve Worrall were quickly into their stride, with Josh Grajczonek close up. Worrall just edged into the lead at the turn, whilst Fricke accounted for Grajczonek in a tight first bend. From that point on the pair pulled out a lead, which they weren’t to lose, despite the Rebels skipper giving a determined chase to the flag. Lewis Kerr retired on the second circuit, after making a tardy getaway from the tapes.
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That opening maximum by the Aces was quickly wiped out as the home side took the next two heats, both by a 4-2 advantage. Heat 2 saw Jake Allen make a lightning start, with partner, Cameron Heeps close up. But visions of immediately wiping out the Aces advantage were handed a blow, as Zach Wajtknecht made a neat inside pass on Heeps as the exited the second turn. At the front Allen was peerless, streaking away to take the heat in a time, 56.97, which was just a couple of tenths outside Steve Worrall’s opening heat. Heeps gave chase to Wajtknecht, and although the Aces guest couldn’t get fully away, he had enough in hand to thwart any challenge coming his way.
Charles Wright was back in Rebels colours for the first time since a combination of injury and illness had kept him out of the side following the Rebels defeat of the Rye House Rockets on May 19th. He made his return a winning one when he bolted to the front and accounted for Kenneth Bjerre with a sweeping outside move around the opening turns. Once at the front, he rode a superb race to keep the former Grand Prix rider in his wheel tracks and take the win. Bjerre, who has just been handed a wild card for the upcoming Danish Grand Prix, has been in fine form for the Aces this season, so this was a notable feather in Wright’s cap, and followed on from his superb 3 wins on the trot for Redcar on Thursday, before their meeting was abandoned after Heat 9. Richard Lawson took third place, whilst feeling extremely battered and bruised, after suffering an horrendous crash with Coty Garcia in that same meeting at Redcar the previous evening.
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After a brief respite, Jake Allen was back on track to take the Rider Replacement ride in Heat 4, not only that he carried on where he left off, with another blinding start to come around Aces skipper Craig Cook in the initial bend. Cook kept up the pressure, but Allen produced a stunning ride to answer all his questions and take a fabulous win over the Oaktree Arena track record holder. Cameron Heeps was slowly into his stride, trailing Aces reserve, Jack Smith, for the first lap, before sweeping by him as they headed down the back straight on the next circuit, to give the Rebels a third heat advantage on the turn.
Charles Wright was another Rebels rider making a quick return to keep the Rebels scoreline ticking upwards, and once more he took the scalp of another of the Aces top men, this time their ‘Number One’, Max Fricke. Wright blazed from the gate, with Fricke and Richard Lawson close up. The trio hit the turn, three abreast, but it was Wright who rode a great opening turn to eclipse Fricke and lead every remaining inch of the way. Fricke got the better of Lawson as they hit the back straight, but he had no answer to Wright, who completed a relatively comfortable four laps to take the win. Lawson was never in danger from a slow away Steve Worrall in third place and gave the Rebels a fourth 4-2 on the spin.
Heat 6 was shared, with Craig Cook taking the win, but not before being called back for an outrageous jump in the original running. In the restart, he was very quickly away again, but this time in the correct fashion, as he led up to the turn, easing out Josh Grajczonek at the bend. From that point on Cook pulled well clear to win unchallenged from Grajczonek and Lewis Kerr, who accounted for Zach Wajtknecht at the start.
Heat 7 went a similar way score wise, with the Aces again supplying the winner in the form Kenneth Bjerre. Bjerre made a great gate to lead up, with Charles Wright, in for Patrick Hougaard, pressing to the opening turns. What chance Wright had to add Bjerre to his list of scalps disappeared as he took a bad lift exiting the second bend, which saw him head for the safety fence. He quickly brought the bike back under control, but the damage was done, and Bjerre was away at the front. Despite chasing hard for all four laps, Wright couldn’t get back into a challenging position, and Bjerre took a comfortable win. Jake Allen kept up his scoring run, easily accounting for a lack lustre Justin Sedgmen to take third place. The rain had returned, with heavy drizzle falling over the last few heats. However, it wasn’t the weather that caused immediate problems.
Confusion reigned at the start of Heat 8, in fact it was still not clear who was who under the Rebels race caps at the completion of the race. The initial announcement indicated that Jake Allen was in for Lewis Kerr, and an issue with the correct colours, and an announcement that Heeps had finished third caused further confusion, but when it was all sorted out, Allen took Cameron Heeps’ place alongside Kerr. The Aces replaced Jack Smith with Zach Wajtknecht. For the record, Steve Worrall made a blinding start to lead before the bend, with the other three close together. Allen took up the chase, and Kerr accounted for Wajtknecht on the outside of the second turn, and that was really the race settled.
The Rebels got the scoring machine rolling again in Heat 9 as they posted their first maximum advantage of the evening when Richard Lawson and Charles Wright made great starts and ran Craig Cook out of the race at opening bends. With the drizzle still unrelenting, Cook got no further than the third lap, after getting filled in in the early stages, leaving Jack Smith to give a forlorn chase to the Rebels pair. Lawson took the win, which following his exploits the previous evening was warmly applauded by the Rebels fans.
With the rain easing somewhat, the riders were out for Heat 10, which many in the watching crowd must have thought it would be that last action they would see. The Aces pairing of Kenneth Bjerre and Justin Sedgmen bolted from the gate to lead up on a ‘Full House’, but it wasn’t to be. Sedgmen was soon swallowed up by the Rebels pair, as both Jake Allen, a reserve replacement for Lewis Kerr, and Josh Grajczonek swept by, first Allen inside the second turn, and then Grajczonek on the outside of the back straight. With Bjerre in the wind the Rebels settled into the places, with Sedgmen retiring on the final lap.
At the conclusion of the heat, the rain finally stopped, and the riders were quickly out for the next heat, with Cameron Heeps in for Jake Allen and Josh Grajczonek quickly returning for the rider replacement ride. As the tapes rose the Aces pairing of Max Fricke and Steve Worrall were rapidly into their stride to lead up. Any challenge that might have come from Josh Grajczonek quickly disappeared as he pulled up almost immediately after the tape rise, leaving Cameron Heeps to chase the Aces pair. It turned out to be an unequal chase, with the Aces completing a bloodless maximum advantage. To cut the Rebels lead to just 4-points.
Despite the visitors supplying the next two heat winners, they couldn’t make any further inroads into the Rebels lead, as the home side packed the places to share the points. Heat 12 saw Kenneth Bjerre make a flying start to lead all the way. Jake Allen, replacing Cameron Heeps, and Charles Wright quickly established themselves in the remaining scoring places to nullify Bjerre’s win. As Bjerre had headed the field early, the remaining three hit the turn three abreast. As Wright took up the chase, Allen had to account for Zach Wajtknecht before sweeping by his partner down the back straight. He put down a hard chase on the flying Dane and appeared to be reducing the gap slightly until he caught a lift on the final lap to rule out any slight chance he might have had to challenge for the lead.
Max Fricke led from the tapes in Heat 13, with Richard Lawson, rider replacement, Josh Grajczonek and Craig Cook together to the opening bends. The Rebels pair soon had Cook on the back foot, and the Aces captain gave it best on the second lap, pulling up whilst at the back. Although chasing hard, Lawson couldn’t make any appreciable impression on Fricke’s lead, and the heat ran out to a share of the points.
The Rebels dealt a telling blow to the visitors in Heat 14, as they slammed in a maximum advantage at a crucial point in the match. The early running was disputed by Richard Lawson and Justin Sedgmen, with Jack Smith in third place, making the final outcome look pretty unlikely at this point. As Lawson lead out of the second turn, Allen turned on the afterburner, first charging by Smith down the back straight, and then putting in a sustained run which saw him in the tyre tracks of Sedgmen as the entered the second lap, before completing his run into second place down the back straight, much to the delight of the Rebels faithful, who greeted the move with a huge roar. Once there it was game over for the Aces, with the home pair not allowing Sedgmen back into the hunt.
The final heat took to the track to be greeted by a double rainbow, but would the Rebels take the whole ‘Pot of Gold’ and prevent the Aces from taking anything from the meeting, only time and Heat 15 would tell. The Rebels tracked Richard Lawson and Charles Wright, whilst the Aces sent out Steve Worrall and Kenneth Bjerre. When the tapes rose, Lawson was quickly away, clamping Worrall to the kerb in the opening turn to head the field. Charles Wright came with a wet sail around the outside line, sweeping beyond both Worrall and Lawson as they hit the back straight for the second time. As Wright made the best of his way home the focus returned to second place. Worrall steadily reeled in Lawson, and by the third lap he was in a position to deliver his challenge. As they approached the final two turns of the lap, Worrall hit the outside line and charged by to give chase to Wright, but the Rebels man was gone beyond all recall and ran out a comfortable winner. With Bjerre never getting into the race, Lawson took a comfortable third place.
With the Aces being unable to take a final heat advantage, the Rebels ran out winner by a 50-40 scoreline and denied the visitors a consolation point in their quest to head back towards the top of the league standings. The win put the Rebels up into sixth place, one above Swindon, who have a couple of matches in hand.
For the visitors, Max Fricke (10+1), Kenneth Bjerre (11pts), and Steve Worrall (10+1) had all performed well, but Mark Lemon must have been disappointed with the remainder of his team, who could only muster 9-points between them.
On the other hand Garry May was delighted with the win, which saw Jake Allen produce a superb 15+2 from his seven rides to top the home score chart. Allen admitted afterwards that he had been struggling mechanically recently, and had been finding points hard to come by, but he felt he’d turned the corner. Without doubt he had produced his finest display of the season so far and recaptured the kind of form that had put him on people radar as one of the best reserves in the Premiership.
Charles Wright was another whose form was back to his best, after a few weeks of injury and sickness issues. His 14+2 put him firmly up there, alongside Allen, for the Rider of the Night trophy, and in the end he was to carry it off. The Trophy was awarded by Elliot Bloxsome, on behalf of his father’s company, Covec/Bull-it Jeans who sponsored the meeting. Elliot admitted that it had been a hard decision, as the two had been outstanding in the Rebels victory. On top of his ‘Rider of the Night’ award, Wright had also laid his Heat 15 hoodoo to rest with his stunning victory. His Heat 15 record has something of chequered history, and his reaction after the race told how delight he must have been to finally get that monkey off his back.
Richard Lawson had also produced a fine performance in posting an 11-point haul, especially in view of his exploits at Redcar on Thursday, which had seen him in a somewhat ‘second hand’ condition for this meeting. Josh Grajczonek has been superb of late, but he suffered a rare off night, but he can be forgiven that after his fine run of form, which had kept the Rebels in contention in many of this season’s encounters.
The action at the Oaktree Arena next week focuses on the second round of the British Sidecar Speedway Championship, with Rebels next on track action coming in their away fixture at Leicester on June 10th, followed by a return to the Oaktree Arena, against Kings Lynn on 16th June.
Somerset Rebels - 50
1. Josh Grajczonek - 1, 2, 1*, R, 1* = 5+2
2. Lewis Kerr - R, 1*, 1*, (JA-2) = 2+2
3. Charles Wright - 3, 3, 2, 2*, 1*, 3 = 14+2
4. Richard Lawson - 1, 1, 3, 2, 3, 1 = 11
5. Patrick Hougaard – Rider Replacement
6. Jake Allen - 3, 3, 1*, 2, 2, 2, 2* = 15+2
7. Cameron Heeps - 1, 1, 1 = 3
Belle Vue Aces – 40
1. Max Fricke - 2*, 2, 2*, 3 = 9+2
2. Steve Worrall - 3, 0, 3, 3, 2 = 11
3. Kenneth Bjerre - 2, 3, 3, 3, 0 = 11
4. Justin Sedgmen - 0, 0, R, 1 = 1
5. Craig Cook - 2, 3, R, R = 5
6. Zach Wajtknecht (Guest) - 2, 0, 0, (JS-1), 0 = 2
7. Jack Smith - 0, 0, 1, 0 = 1
SCB Referee: Graham Reeve
Heat 01: Worrall, Fricke, Grajczonek, Kerr (Retired) 1-5 (1-5) 56.78
Heat 02: Allen, Wajtknecht, Heeps, Smith 4-2 (5-7) 56.97
Heat 03: Wright, Bjerre, Lawson, Sedgmen 4-2 (9-9) 57.69
Heat 04: Allen, Cook, Heeps, Smith 4-2 (13-11) 58.00
Heat 05: Wright, Fricke, Lawson, Worrall 4-2 (17-13) 57.66
Heat 06: (Re-Run) Cook, Grajczonek, Kerr, Wajtknecht 3-3 (20-16) 57.28
Heat 07: Bjerre, Wright, Allen, Sedgmen 3-3 (23-19) 58.18
Heat 08: Worrall, Allen, Kerr, Wajtknecht 3-3 (26-22) 58.91
Heat 09: Lawson, Wright, Smith, Cook (Retired) 5-1 (31-23) 59.98
Heat 10: Bjerre, Allen, Grajczonek, Sedgmen (Retired) 3-3 (34-26) 60.66
Heat 11: Worrall, Fricke, Heeps, Grajczonek (Retired) 1-5 (35-31) 60.57
Heat 12: Bjerre, Allen, Wright, Wajtknecht 3-3 (38-34) 60.56
Heat 13: Fricke, Lawson, Grajczonek, Cook (Retired) 3-3 (41-37) 60.81
Heat 14: Lawson, Allen, Sedgmen, Smith 5-1 (46-38) 61.94
Heat 15: Wright, Worrall, Lawson, Bjerre 4-2 (50-40) 61.06