Friday April 21, 2017
Anyone witnessing this match up, and then referring to the League table, which had been current before the start of the meeting, could have been forgiven for thinking they were in need of an eye test.

Who would have thought that the first league meetings between these two clubs in fourteen years, would have seen them both occupying the bottom two places in the table, but that was the situation. What followed was to belie the notion that these were two lowly teams, for they produced an encounter of the highest quality and massive excitement.

The Rebels evening had started badly, when they learned that they had been denied the use of a guest, former Rebel Brady Kurtz, as a replacement for Patrick Hougaard, who had been called up by his National Federation to compete in a Danish Championship Qualifier, and had to ride the meeting using the Rider Replacement facility only, with all but Rohan Tungate able to take a ride.The Swindon Robins were at full strength, including the man, who many considered, should be wearing the World Crown at the moment, former 'Cases' Somerset Rebels Skipper Jason Doyle. Doyle had been denied, what rightfully should have been his, after a horror fall in the Polish Grand Prix, whilst at the head of the world table, and just three weeks before the final event.

The opening salvo went in the Robins favour as they took a narrow advantage when Doyle just outpointed Rohan Tungate to the turn. Tungate pressed all the way, but could never force an error, as Doyle won with a little ease. Meanwhile Paul Starke was making ground after a slow getaway, and looking as though he could wrest third place only to run very wide late on, handing the onus back to 2016 Rebel, Bradley Wilson-Dean.

The match was all square again after the second heat, which turned out to be a tale of two Rebels, but not how you may think. Much against recent events in Heat 2, Jan Graversen flashed out of the gate, leading every inch of the way, and winning with a double handful, meanwhile, the normally reliable Jake Allen made the most pedestrian of starts, appearing to give the rest of the field at least five minutes start. Once on the run, Allen quickly accounted for yet another former occupant of the Somerset pits, Zach Wajtknecht, but that’s as far as it went, as he was unable to make inroads into Emil Grondal’s second place.

Charles Wright got the better of fast starting Adam Ellis in Heat 3, storming down the back straight to lead. Paul Starke, taking the replacement ride was making ground on Ellis and Frenchman David Bellego after a slow start, but as he got on their tail, Bellego got into bother and looked as though he might fall, causing Starke to lay down his machine, only to see Bellego recover, leaving a frustrated Starke on the floor and excluded for his troubles.

Heat 4 saw the man who was to be the star of the show take to the track. You might think that man was Jason Doyle, but he wasn’t even in the race, nor was it Nick Morris who was. In fact it was none other than 'Cases' Somerset Rebels very own Cap’n Fantastic, Josh Grajczonek. Morris was quickly away, with Grajczonek tight on his rear wheel, and that was the way it stayed until Grajczonek put in a sustained run from the opener of Lap 3, completing his pass with a superb inside move on bend three.

Jason Doyle added win number two to his tally in the next, as he shot off the tapes and clamped Charles Wright hard to the kerb. As he hit the third turn you could almost see him do a double take, as he looked to his inner to see Jake Allen steaming underneath. Doyle was quickly back in control, grabbing back the lead onto the home straight, before taking a comfortable victory. Wright dropped to the back, but had gained a place by the completion of the lap, demoting Bradley Wilson-Dean to the rear, to take a share of the points.

Rohan Tungate found his winning form in Heat 6, flying off the tapes alongside Nick Morris. As they reached the turn, Tungate muscled his way to the front, moving Morris wide in the process, and going on to take a smooth win. Paul Starke took third, closing Morris down on the final lap, and keeping him up to his work.

Disaster struck for the Rebels in Heat 7, where Josh Grajczonek took up the running from early leader Adam Ellis on the outside of bend three. He went on to open up a huge lead, and was winning ‘Pulling a Cart’ when his machine just stopped, leaving David Bellego and Ellis to take a fortuitous and totally unexpected maximum advantage and bringing the scores level at 21-21. Josh later admitted, rather sheepishly, that the stoppage was his own fault, although he didn’t elaborate further.

The tapes went up unevenly in Heat 8, and the race was immediately called back. In the restart, Bradley Wilson-Dean bolted from the tapes, fighting off an early challenge from Paul Starke. As the race progressed, Starke was chasing hard, when his machine gave up the ghost, trailing a plume of smoke, which will bring a hefty repair bill for the Herefordshire born racer. The irony was that this particular engine was going to be serviced the following day, and he had just switched back to last year’s engines, of which this was one, after struggling with his 2017 equipment. Jake Allen limited the damage by taking second place.

The scores were level again after the next heat, but the talking point wasn’t the equilibrium, but another fantastic ride by the Rebels skipper. Nick Morris made a great start, and ran both Rebels wide on the opening turns, leaving a huge gap for Emil Grondal to exploit, giving the Robins the prospect of another ‘Full House as they raced down the back straight. On the next lap, both Grajczonek and Charles Wright moved by Grondal and set about chasing Morris down. Grajczonek, who had been last in the opening turn, came flying down the back straight on the penultimate lap, making a stunning inside pass on Morris to hit the front and go on to take the win amidst wild cheers from the home fans.

Both Heats 10 and 11 were shared, but the former looked far from a shared heat as David Bellego and Adam Ellis trapped in front, but the pair seemed to take each other’s ground, which left Ellis floundering at the rear. Paul Starke set about chasing down the leader, and never let the pressure off, but Bellego had all the answers, never letting Starke get in a blow. Rohan Tungate took third place from the luckless Ellis.

The two team captains met for the first time in Heat 11, and it was Josh Grajczonek who came out on top, following a lightning start, which saw him leading by a long way at the turn. Jason Doyle chased, but was never near enough to land a blow, and Grajczonek blew away the Grand Prix winner. Bradley Wilson-Dean won the battle with Jan Graversen for third place.

The Rebels regained the lead in Heat 12, with a stunning opening turn from Charles Wright. Wright hugged the line to find the shortest way between two points, and once at the head of affairs he was never troubled. Jake Allen made a slow start, but was soon all over Adam Ellis and Emil Grondal, almost making it by both riders. He was beaten off, but quickly accounted for the Dane on the next lap. He charged after Ellis but the French born Englishman gave him no encouragement, holding second place to the flag.

No words can adequately describe Heat 13, with the two skippers again in the fray from the start. The pair ran to the turn side-by-side, with Rohan Tungate close up. They then engaged in a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle that lasted from the tapes to the flag. The pair were never more than a few inches apart, each trusting the other to give him room to race, and race they did, in spades. First one and then the other would edge in front, not just once or twice, but many times a lap. The result seemed in doubt the whole way, until Doyle just eked out a lead, and looked to have stolen the race away, but if that’s what was running through his mind, Grajczonek was about to change it for him. One final time, the Rebels skipper wrung out the last ounce of power from his machine. Finding a stunning line, he powered up the inside of Doyle into the final turn, and in a hard but fair move, shrugged off Doyle as the pair flashed over the line locked together. Amid a huge cheer, Grajczonek was announced the winner, delivering Doyle’s second defeat of the night, by his own hand, and so ended one of the best races seen at the Oaktree Arena for some time.

Holding a meagre two point lead, the Rebels looked to have stolen the match when Charles Wright and Jake Allen swallowed up the fast starting David Bellego, and put themselves on a maximum advantage, which would have seen the Rebels home, but no one told the Frenchman the script. He came charging back at the pair, and approaching the third turn on Lap 2, he split them, powering between the duo to hit the front. Wright gave chase, keeping the pressure up and looking for the advantage that would see them take a four point lead into the last race, but it never came, as Bellego held him off to the line.

In the final heat there was drama right up to the last, as first the Robins pair of Jason Doyle and the quick returning Bellego hit the front from the off, putting themselves on a match winning 5-1, having moved Josh Grajczonek wide in the opening turns. Grajczonek fought back, and as Doyle made an error, he was through to second and off in pursuit of Bellego. Hitting the opening turns of the next lap, Grajczonek was flying, and catching Bellego hand over fist, only to close him down so quickly, he appeared to clip his back wheel, and sending himself sideways across the turn. By the time he had recovered, Doyle was back in second place, with Grajczonek now trying forlornly to close the gap. His task was too much, and the Robins duo ran out the heat 5-1, to take the match 44-46.

It had been a tremendous meeting, full of great racing for all positions, with passing galore, and had been played out before another good sized Oaktree Arena crowd. Despite losing the 'Cases' Somerset Rebels had battled hard, and barring a couple of unfortunate retirements, may well have carried off the win for themselves. On the evidence of Friday evening, there will be teams visiting the Oaktree Arena, who will be in for a shock.

Josh Grajczonek’s performance, quite rightly, carried off the Somerset ‘Rider of the Night’ award for him, as he posted a top scoring 13-points total. However it had to be his two rides against Nick Morris and Jason Doyle that were major contributors in the decision. Those rides were worth anyone’s admission money alone. He was backed up by a 10+1 from Charles Wright, and a hardworking 8+1 from Jake Allen, who suffered at the gate all night.

For the Robins, David Bellego had been superb, posting a 13+1, dropping only one point to an opponent, and eclipsing Jason Doyle’s 12-point tally in the process. Nick Morris had a tough night, and his 7+1 did not see him win a single race.

Having hosted Poole and Swindon on consecutive weeks, things don’t get any easier for the Rebels, as they host the Kings Lynn Stars next Friday, who include recent SGB Premiership Pairs winners, Chris Holder and Robert Lambert amongst their number.

Somerset Rebels - 44
1. Rohan Tungate - 2, 3, 1*, 0, 0 = 6+1
2. Paul Starke - 0, Fx, 1, R, 2 = 3
3. Charles Wright - 3, 1*, 1, 3, 2 = 10+1
4. Patrick Hougaard R/R – Rider Replacement
5. Josh Grajczonek - 3, R, 3, 3, 3, 1 = 13
6. Jake Allen - 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 1* = 8+1
7. Jan Graversen - 3, 1, 0 = 4

Swindon Robins – 46
1. Jason Doyle - 3, 3, 2, 2, 2* = 12+1
2. Bradley Wilson-Dean - 1, 0, 3, 1* = 5+1
3. Adam Ellis - 2, 2*, 0, 2 = 6+1
4. David Bellego - 1*, 3, 3, 3, 3 = 13+1
5. Nick Morris - 2, 2, 2, 1* = 7+1
6. Emil Grondal - 2, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 2
7. Zach Wajtknecht - 0, R, 1 = 1

SCB Referee: Barbara Horley

Heat Results
Heat 01: Doyle, Tungate, Wilson-Dean, Starke (2-4) (2-4)57.50
Heat 02: Graversen, Grondal, Allen, Wajtknecht (4-2) (6-6) 58.50
Heat 03: Wright, Ellis, Bellego, Starke Flx (3-3) 9-9 Awarded
Heat 04: Grajczonek, Morris, Graversen, Wajtknecht ret (4-2) (13-11) 57.75
Heat 05: Doyle, Allen, Wright, Wilson-Dean (3-3) (16-14) 57.56
Heat 06: Tungate, Morris, Starke, Grondal (4-2) (20-16) 57.66
Heat 07: Bellego, Ellis, Allen, Grajczonek ret (1-5) (21-21) 58.94
Heat 08: Re-run Wilson-Dean, Allen, Wajtknecht, Starke ret (2-4) (23-25) 58.79
Heat 09: Grajczonek, Morris, Wright, Grondal (4-2) (27-27) 58.68
Heat 10: Bellego, Starke, Tungate, Ellis (3-3) (30-30) 59.06
Heat 11: Grajczonek, Doyle, Wilson-Dean, Graversen (3-3) (33-33) 58.28
Heat 12: Wright, Ellis, Allen, Grondal (4-2) (37-35) 58.32
Heat 13: Grajczonek, Doyle, Morris, Tungate (3-3) (40-38) 58.96
Heat 14: Bellego, Wright, Allen, Grondal (3-3) (43-41) 59.13
Heat 15: Bellego, Doyle, Grajczonek, Tungate (1-5) (44-46) 58.18

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