Friday April 07, 2017
A piece of ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels history was made on Friday evening, as the team took to the track in their first ever full home meeting in the top flight of British Speedway.

The occasion was the 1st leg of the Quarter-Final of the SGB Premiership Knock Out Cup, and Leicester Lions provided the opposition.

Leicester arrived minus two of their regular septet, with Erik Riss and Josh Auty both engaged, albeit on opposing sides, for their respective SGB Championship teams at Edinburgh’s Armadale. Auty’s absence was covered by Rider Replacement, whilst Sheffield’s Lasse Bjerre stepped into Riss’ boots. The Rebels were at full strength, but Rohan Tungate’s mechanical problems, suffered at Kings Lynn on Wednesday, continued to dog him.

From Leicester’s point of view, the meeting got underway to a good start as they opened with a heat advantage following Tungate’s machine literally going off with an enormous bang as they reached the first turn. Kim Nilsson had made a flying start with Paul Starke and Tungate in hot pursuit until Tungate’s machine reported its demise in dramatic fashion. Starke continued the chase but was unable to make inroads into Nilsson’s lead, and with Josh Bates, taking the replacement ride, unopposed in third the Lions took the heat advantage.

The meeting was back on level turns following Heat 2, with Jake Allen and Jan Graversen bolting from the gate to contest the lead with Josh Bates. Whilst Allen kept it tight, leading with a nice run around the inner, Bates took the wide line to dispatch Graversen as they ran the final turns of the lap, and ran back into the home straight. Once away at the front Allen won with plenty in hand from the chasing Bates, and with Graversen easily accounting for Danny Ayres, equilibrium was maintained.

The deadlock was immediately broken in the Rebels favour after a closely contested opening of Heat 3 saw Patrick Hougaard emerge from the pack to lead out onto the back straight. Charles Wright found himself shuffled to the back of the pack, but in true Wright fashion, he was having none of it. In a full flow move, starting at the second turn of Lap 2, Wright powered around the wide line, swallowing up Kacper Gomólski off the turn, and then running down the back straight and sailing by Lasse Bjerre on the next bend, to join Hougaard at the head of affairs. Once at the front the pair pulled away to record the maximum advantage, with the win going to Hougaard.

Heat 4 saw the honours shared, with Danny King, who has not been enjoying the best start to the season, coming good with a lightning start, which saw him win almost virtually unchallenged from the off. Josh Grajczonek and Jan Graversen packed the places to easily account for Danny Ayres, providing the first of a series of shared heat, that weren’t to be broken until Heat 9.

Charles Wright made a quick start to the next heat, but for the referee’s liking, it was just too quick. Dave Robinson immediately called them back and issued Wright with a warning for his trouble. The inevitable happened in the re-run, with Wright slowly out of the gate, as the Lions duo of Lasses Bjerre and Kim Nilsson charged to the front, with Patrick Hougaard close up, but in the manner of his previous ride, Wright was having none of it. He careered after the rest of the field, and as they hit the back straight he was up into second place and in hot pursuit of Bjerre. Down the back straight he got his nose in front, but Bjerre was up to the task and was soon back in front.

The pair battled it out over the next three laps, with each taking a slight advantage several times. As they ran into the last lap, Wright came with a powerful outside run, but as the hit the second bend, he suddenly cut hard back inside, in a stunning move that left Bjerre wondering where he had come from. The Dane fought back immediately, but Wright toughed it out, and by the third bend now had a visible advantage, but Bjerre came back at him off the final turn, however, Wright now had it all under control to take the win. Nilsson took third as Hougaard retired.

Danny King produced another faultless ride in Heat 6, as once again he produced a lightning start from the tapes to lead every inch of the way. The remaining three contested a very tight first turn, with Paul Starke emerging in second from Rohan Tungate and Josh Bates, as the latter tried to muscle his way through. Tungate held him off, but Bates was persistent and wasn’t fully out of the running until he made a mistake on the opener of Lap 3, almost hitting the air fence in the process, and leaving the heat points shared.

Heat 7 ended with shared points, Jake Allen excluded and Lasse Bjerre lying prostrate on the track and being attended to by the medical staff. Josh Grajczonek was quickly into his stride, with Kacper Gomólski and Bjerre packing the places. Allen, after a slow start, was making up ground fast, grabbing third place from Bjerre up the inside of the second turn. The pair then engaged a thrilling battle, passing and re-passing each other until Allen made a hard drive up the inside of the final bend of the penultimate lap. He almost made it through, but in the process he took Bjerre’s front wheel, sending him and his machine tumbling down the track in a nasty looking fall. Thankfully Bjerre was not badly hurt and after being attended to for some time, walked off the track under his own steam, but in the event, he took no further part in the meeting. Allen was excluded, and the race awarded.

Whilst Jake Allen was rightly excluded in the previous race, Paul Starke’s exclusion in Heat 8 was not so clear cut. Starting off gate three, with Kacper Gomólski on his outer, Starke had run to the bend with Gomólski alongside, as Jake Allen, quickly back on track in place of Jan Graversen, led up on the inside. As they reached the turn, there was clear contact between Starke and Gomólski, with Starke and his machine being thrown into the air, as he took a huge high side from the contact.

Referees sometimes get a hard time and their job is a difficult one, having to make a decision in a split second, and often from a difficult viewpoint. Dave Robinson’s view from the box was that Starke, on the inner, had run into Gomólski and as such was the cause of the stoppage. However, from the first bend viewpoint, it was less clear cut, as it appeared that Gomólski had tried to move left, across the front of Starke, causing the high side as he contacted Starke who was defending his line.

In the re-run, Allen was again quickly into his stride, but this time had to deal with a hard charging Gomólski. The pair were metaphorically knocking spots off each other as they exchanged the lead over and over again until Allen worked an opening on the final circuit that saw him take the win. Josh Bates chances disappeared at the gate as he took a huge lift at the start.

The deadlock was finally broken when the Rebels took the heat advantage in Heat 9. Patrick Hougaard made a superb start to lead around the opening turns from Danny King with Charles Wright close up. Wright, for his part, ran Danny Ayres very wide, but in doing so left King in a clear second place. With Hougaard making the best of the start and heading for home, Wright set about chasing down King. He did it to such effect that by the time they were completing the second lap, he threw in a challenge. King managed to hold him off, and a slight mistake, resulting in a lift for Wright saw the Lions skipper given the breathing space he needed to repel the challenge. From there on in Wright, despite a hard chase, could never quite get back to a position where he could mount an effective challenge, but with Hougaard in the wind, the points fell in the Rebels favour.

Another 4-2 advantage was quickly added, this time courtesy of Rohan Tungate and Paul Starke. The pair, with Tungate leading the way, contested the early running with Kacper Gomólski. Gomólski just edged it out of the gate, but Tungate soon had his measure, grabbing the lead inside the opening bend. Gomólski pressed Tungate all the way and tried every line to find his way to the front, but no matter what question he asked, Tungate had the answer. It was an enthralling battle, in which, Gomólski looked to have unlocked the answer to Tungate’s puzzle several times, but the Rebels man always had that final piece of the jigsaw up his sleeve, holding the Lions racer to the line. Starke took a comfortable third from Bates, who eventually retired on the final lap.

The situation got even better for the home side in Heat 11, when they hammered home a maximum advantage to open up a 12-point lead running into the final phase of the tie. Josh Grajczonek made a rapid exit from the gate, with Kim Nilsson challenging his early pace. As Grajczonek established a lead off the turn, Jake Allen, who was last away, moved to the outside, and coming with a wet sail, stormed around both Lions riders in one fluid move as they headed down the back straight. Once he had accounted for the opposition, he joined Grajczonek at the front to record a serene full house.

The Lions looked to have provided the winner of a shared Heat 12, but the picture changed rapidly at the first bend. Kacper Gomólski had led off the tapes, with the Rebels pairing of Wright and Graversen filling the places. As they reached the second bend, Wright forsook his preferred line, producing a superb inside run to hit the front. Almost at the same time, the brief hope of another home side advantage disappeared, as Graversen was swallowed up by Josh Bates. Gomólski harried Wright, but barring a quick challenge on the third turn, he never troubled the lead again, and with Bates comfortable in third, the points were shared.

With Garry May building a team that has strength in depth, without a ‘Big Hitter’, there will be times when Heats 13 and 15 will be particularly difficult for the Rebels, and so it proved on Friday. As the tapes rose on Heat 13, Kim Nilsson and Danny King flashed from the gate, leaving Josh Grajczonek and Rohan Tungate floundering in their wake after the initial charge to the turn. Tungate’s cause wasn’t helped by the return of the machinery problems that have troubled him of late. With a sick and spluttering bike, he could make no impact on affairs, and the Lions ran out easy winners to reduce their deficit back to just 8-points.

That reverse may have spelt trouble for some teams, but the Rebels are a tough bunch, and just put their heads down and got on with it. Jake Allen once more came to the fore, blazing from the gate to lead up, and clamping Josh Bates hard to the second turn kerb. Patrick Hougaard quickly took advantage of the opening Allen had created, sweeping to the front to join his teammate. The pair then set about riding a superb team race to block out Bates, even though Hougaard seem particularly uncomfortable with the outside line. Realising the problem, the pair effortlessly swapped places, with Allen taking the outer, before flashing across the line together. There wasn’t much in it, but the record will show that it was Hougaard taking the win, with Allen in second.

Allen’s heroics on the night had earned him a Heat 15 place, alongside the Rebels other top scorer, Charles Wright. However, they were to come up against the Lions top pairing of King and Nilsson. Once more the Lions duo blazed from the gate, and try as they might the home pair could make no impact at all, with Wright retiring on the final lap, as Nilsson again led King home to a maximum advantage, to reduce the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels advantage for the second leg to 8-points.

With the demise of Lasses Bjerre, the Lions had done well to keep the deficit to just the 8-points, and much of that was due to their top two’s efforts in Heat 13 and 15. Kacper Gomólski had provided good back up, whilst Josh Bates had been unable to provide the firepower he had shown in recent outings, but despite that the Lions will be a totally different proposition on their home shale, and the Rebels will have to be on top of their game to progress, but as they have shown in the past write them off at your peril.

For their part in the tie, the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels had once more shown that they are better than many believe, and are certainly a unit that will provide stiff opposition for many, especially at the Oaktree Arena. Garry May’s strength in depth policy certainly paid dividends again, with reserve Jake Allen heading the scorecard, with superb paid 13-points (11+2), and Charles Wright next up with paid 10-points (9+1). Wrights often stunning rides had not only seen him as second top score, with a ride in Heat 15, but also earned him the ‘Rider of the Night’ award, presented by Ian Jefferies of the local tourism group, who were enjoying the evening's racing, along with first time visitors, Wellington and District Camera Club, in what for many was their first experience of Speedway, with their members capturing many great images of the sport.

The next action for the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels will be the Good Friday ‘double header’ against multiple top flight championship winners the Poole Pirates, with the first leg taking place at Wimborne Road, starting at 11:00 am, and concluding with the return at the Oaktree Arena at 7:30 pm on the same evening.

Somerset Rebels = 49

1 Rohan Tungate - R, 1*, 3, R = 4+1
2 Paul Starke - 2, 2, f/x, 1 = 5
3 Charles Wright - 2*, 3, 1, 3, R = 9+1
4 Patrick Hougaard - 3, R, 3, 3 = 9
5 Josh Grajczonek - 2, 3, 3, 1 = 9
6 Jake Allen - 3, X, 3, 2*, 2*, 1 = 11+2
7 Jan Graversen - 1, 1*, 0 = 2+1

Leicester Lions = 41

1 Kim Nilsson - 3, 1*, 1, 3, 3 = 11+1
2 Josh Auty – Rider Replacement
3 Kacper Gomólski - 0, 2, 2, 2, 2 = 8
4 Lasse Bjerre (Guest) - 1, 2, 1* = 4+1
5 Danny King - 3, 3, 2, 2*, 2* = 12+2
6 Josh Bates - 1, 2, 0, 1*, R, 1*, 1 = 6+2
7 Danny Ayres - 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 0

Heat Details

Heat 01: Nilsson, Starke, Bates, Tungate (Ret) 57.63 (2-4) (2-4)
Heat 02: Allen, Bates, Graversen, Ayres 57.93 (4-2) (6-6)
Heat 03: Hougaard, Wright, Bjerre, Gomólski 58.44 (5-1) (11-7)
Heat 04: King, Grajczonek, Graversen, Ayres (3-3) (14-10)
Heat 05: (Re-Run): Wright, Bjerre, Nilsson, Hougaard (Ret) 58.10 (3-3) (7-13)
Heat 06: King, Starke, Tungate, Bates 57.50 (3-3) (20-16)
Heat 07: Grajczonek, Gomólski, Bjerre, Allen (Exc) AWARDED (3-3) (23-19)
Heat 08: (Re-Run): Allen, Gomólski, Bates, Starke (f/x) 58.81 (3-3) (26-22)
Heat 09: Hougaard, King, Wright, Ayres 58.44 (4-2) (30-24)
Heat 10: Tungate, Gomólski, Starke, Bates (Ret) 58.12 (4-2) (34-26)
Heat 11: Grajczonek, Allen, Nilsson, Ayres 58.44 (5-1) (39-27)
Heat 12: Wright, Gomólski, Bates, Graversen 58.50 (3-3) (42-30)
Heat 13: Nilsson, King, Grajczonek, Tungate (Ret) 58.82 (1-5) (43-35)
Heat 14: Hougaard, Allen, Bates, Ayres 59.41 (5-1) (48-36)
Heat 15: Nilsson, King, Allen, Wright (Ret) 59.04 (1-5) (49-41)

Share This:   Facebook Twitter