Friday June 16, 2017
On the back of two successive home wins, the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels were hopeful of taking revenge for a narrow two point defeat, at the hands of the Kings Lynn Stars earlier in the season, but it was not to be.

As Jake Allen had proved in the Rebels recent defeat of the Belle Vue Aces, the performance of a team’s reserves is very often the difference between winning an encounter and losing one. Ironically, it was Allen’s Stars counterpart, German international Kai Huckenbeck and not Allen, who proved to be the difference between the two teams, with a stunning 13+2pt performance.

Both teams came into this fixture minus regular riders, the Stars without injury victims, Nicklas Porsing and Simon Lambert, their absence being covered by Rider Replacement for Porsing, whilst Liam Carr deputised for Lambert at reserve. The Rebels covered concussion victim Charles Wright’s spot with Rider Replacement, whilst Brady Kurtz and Rob Branford took guest spots for Michael Palm Toft and Cameron Heeps respectively, who were both claimed to race for their Championship sides.

Right from the outset, the Rebels were on the back foot when Chris Holder and Kai Huckenbeck combined for an easy maximum advantage in the opening heat, as the pair were quickly away and led every inch of the race, after the original start was called back with the home side holding the ‘Full House’. Huckenbeck was not even programmed to be in the race, but traffic problems on the way to the track had seen Lewis Rose arrive at the meeting with minutes to spare. He did make it to the start line, but had missed the two minutes, and was excluded. Initially, he was put off the 15 metre handicap, but left the track without realising, and was replaced by Huckenbeck.

The German was quickly back on show, as he came out for his first regular ride in Heat 2. He was fast away again, but the race got no further than the first turn, where Rob Branford went down in a tightly contested bend. In the re-run, Huckenbeck repeated his rapid start but had Jake Allen quickly on his heels. Allen made a superb cutback on the third turn to come under the Stars man but had no answer to Huckenbeck powerful run around the final bend of the lap. Allen came back challenging hard until a big locker on the second turn of the next lap put paid to his chances of taking the win. He chased hard to the end of the race, but the damage had been done and he never got back on terms with the flying Huckenbeck. Liam Carr got the better of Rob Branford to give the Stars their second quick-fire advantage.

Heat 3 saw the Rebels quickly nullify that heat advantage as they posted their first heat win of the night, as Jake Allen and Lewis Rose took the replacement rides. Rose must have been eager to get a ride under his belt, as he made a very ‘Previous’ start, and smashed through the tapes, earning himself an exclusion and a 15 metre handicap in the process. In the restart, Richard Lawson rode a fantastic race to defeat one of the Stars strong top end trio, as he bolted from the traps to lead up Troy Batchelor. Batchelor came with a wet sail off the second turn, charging down the outside line, only to see Lawson unceremoniously slam the door in his face. Whist Batchelor gave forlorn chase to Lawson; Jake Allen was beavering away in third, and closing down Batchelor with every lap that went by, but in the end Batchelor just had enough in hand to prevent the Rebels taking a maximum heat win.

A shared heat followed, but it might have been so much better for the Rebels. Brady Kurtz made a rapid exit to hit the front from the off but saw Robert Lambert sweep around his outside as they hit the second turn. Kurtz came back at Stars flyer as they approached the final turn of the lap, only to pull a horrendous locker at the vital time. That was the breathing space Lambert needed, and he took full advantage of the Kurtz mistake, and pull out a lead he was not to lose. Rob Branford was quickly into his stride and never gave Liam Carr a sniff at the final point.

The home side reduced their deficit to just two points with Heat 5 advantage, as Richard Lawson and Lewis Kerr, taking the replacement ride, made lighting starts to lead up with all the points heading their way. The prospect of the ‘Full House’ evaporated as Chris Holder took the wide line to pass Kerr around the final turns of the lap. By this time Lawson was in the wind, and any thoughts Holder might have of catching him were long gone. Kerr took a comfortable third place to give the Rebels the heat.

Kerr was soon back on track in the next heat but ended his race pulling up with a puncture late in the piece. Robert Lambert and Kai Huckenbeck blasted from the tapes, with Josh Grajczonek contesting the turn. Lambert led up, with Huckenbeck getting the better of Grajczonek off the second bend, but by the time they reached the opening turn of the next lap the Rebels skipper cut back under Huckenbeck to take second spot, but as Chris Holder found in the previous race, chasing down a distant leader proved an almost impossible task, and the Stars took the first of three heat advantages on the spin.

It was a similar story in Heat 7, when Brady Kurtz was left for dead at the tapes, after a woefully slow start. With the Stars on the maximum chase, Kurtz came charging after the visiting duo of Troy Batchelor and Liam Carr (Rider Replacement). In his haste to get after the Stars men, he inadvertently stopped the run of his partner, as he charged down the back straight, squeezing up reserve switch Rob Branford as he went. As they negotiated the second Lap, Kurtz was up into second place, but once again the leader was gone, and any hope he had of pulling that lead back was a forlorn one. Branford retired on the final lap, whilst well behind.

Garry May switched his reserves again in Heat 8, bringing in Jake Allen for Rob Branford. With Lewis Kerr leading from the tapes, Allen’ participation was short lived as he ran very wide on the second bend, hitting the fence and taking a fall. He was quickly up and walking back to the pits unaided, but was excluded to add to his troubles. In the restart, Kerr again made a flying start to lead up, but as he reached the last bend, Kai Huckenbeck came charging around his outside to grab the lead. Once at the head of affairs, the German racer powered away to win unchallenged, and with Allen sat in the Pits, the Stars raced to another advantage, putting them eight points to the good at 20-28.

If they were to extend their winning home run, and with the deficit ticking up, the Rebels needed to get in the game, and they did just that in Heat 9. After a fairly level break, it was Richard Lawson who emerged at the front after a tight opening curve, with Robert Lambert and Jake Allen (Rider Replacement) on his tail. Lambert charged hard after Lawson, harrying him all the way, but no matter what he tried the Cumbrian ace had all the answers. For his part, Allen went by Lambert down the back straight, only to see the GB International repay the compliment around the outside of the final bend. After that Allen never let Lambert get away, and pushed for all four laps in Lamberts wheel tracks. Liam Carr replaced Kai Huckenbeck at reserve, but never got into the race, as the Rebels took the advantage.

Another home advantage quickly followed, but not before Troy Batchelor had led the field. He was quickly away, with Josh Grajczonek and Lewis Kerr giving chase. Kai Huckenbeck, taking the replacement ride, effectively ended his race at the first turn, and although trying to get back in the running retired on the next lap In the meantime, Grajczonek had come with a strong outside run to fly by Batchelor as they ran the back straight. Batchelor came powering back, pressuring Grajczonek for all four laps, but the Rebels skipper kept it tight and never gave him the opportunity to spoil the party.

With the momentum now in the Rebels favour and the deficit down to just 4-points, Heat 11 proved to be a massive turning point in the encounter. Firstly Jake Allen missed the two minutes and was replaced by Rob Branford, and then the Rebels suffered a huge blow as Brady Kurtz was excluded following a tangle with Chris Holder in the opening bends. As the tapes rose, Kurtz and Holder were quickly into their strides and hit the first turn upsides. With Holder appearing to lean all over Kurtz on his inner, trying to clamp him to the kerb the pair tangled, and Holder hit the dirt in the second bend, causing Lewis Rose to lay his bike down to avoid the prostrate Holder.

Paul Carrington immediately excluded Kurtz, leaving Rob Branford as the Rebels only representative. The Stars duo duly went on to record a maximum advantage and put themselves back in the driving seat at a time when the home side were looking as though they may have weathered the storm. It seemed a harsh exclusion, as it appeared to be nothing more than a hard fought bend between two riders doing their best to come out on top, but from the Referee’s viewpoint in the box, quite possibly an understandable one. Kurtz later said that the fall was caused when his footrest caught in Holder’s wheel; such was the tightness of the pair’s battle. Whatever your view of the incident, it dealt a bitter blow to the home sides chances of victory.

Heat 12 was shared when Brady Kurtz made swift amends for his exclusion in the previous heat. Kurtz, Troy Batchelor (Rider Replacement) and Kai Huckenbeck contested the run to the turn, but it was Kurtz who emerged in front, but his tenure at the front was short lived. By the third turn, Batchelor was back in front, before Kurtz and he engaged in an enthralling battle, swapping places time and time again over the opening couple of laps. Kurtz made his final pass stick, but was not out of the woods, with his fellow Australian pressing him all the way, and even getting upsides again on the final lap, before Kurtz finally put the race to bed down the back straight. Huckenbeck took a comfortable third place, following an extremely tardy start from Jake Allen.

With just three heats to go, the Rebels were still in with a shout of victory, but it needed a huge effort to pull it off. They started well with their tough task, and inevitably it was Josh Grajczonek who produced a spectacular ‘Captains Ride’ to keep them in the hunt. Chris Holder appeared to have broken Rebel hearts as he blitzed from the gate to comfortably lead up from the Rebels duo of Grajczonek and Brady Kurtz. The race, and the Rebels fate with it, looked settled as Holder raced into the back straight of the third lap, with a very long lead over Grajczonek. But from nowhere the Rebels skipper conjured up a massive amount of speed, closing down what appeared to be about eight bike lengths in a short space of time, before executing a stunning cutback from the widest of lines to carve up the inside of Holder on the third turn, and steal away the win from the 2012 World Champion, and the man currently standing in 12th place in the 2017 title race. Kurtz took an easy third place to keep the Rebels in with a chance.

Heat 14 saw the end of the Rebels hope of salvaging some points from the encounter, as they needed two heat advantages, including at least one 5-1 to take a draw, or two 5-1’s to steal away the win. The Stars brought in their secret weapon, in the shape of Kai Huckenbeck, and that proved the Rebels final undoing. Richard Lawson made a great gate to lead up, but when Huckenbeck’s powerful back straight run carried him to the front off the third turn of the lap, Lawson had no answer. As hard as he chased, he couldn’t make any inroads to Huckenbeck’s increasing lead and eventually had to settle for second place. Troy Batchelor took an easy third place after another very slow start by Jake Allen.

The final heat was shared when Chris Holder led from the tapes. He was pressured all the way by Josh Grajczonek, but the Rebels captain, despite being in Holders wheel tracks could not find an opening, as the Stars top man held him off. Richard Lawson took third spot from Robert Lambert after the latter missed out in the opening turns for the second time in successive rides. The final score of 41-49 gave the Stars the maximum 4 league points, and left the Rebels to lick their wounds and reflect what might have been.

Whilst Garry May gave no excuses after the meeting, saying that the Stars are a strong team, which undoubtedly true, the Stars are not invincible, and with some different luck, the boot could have quite easily have been on the other foot. Once again the inclusion of a strong reserve had proved key to the success of a team, this time it was the Stars German International, Kai Huckenbeck who had proved the adage. Whilst Holder (12+1), Batchelor (10pts) and to a lesser extent Lambert (8pts) had contributed to the win, it was Huckenbeck’s stunning 13+2, which had eventually proved the difference between the two sides.

In the Rebels camp, Richard Lawson (12+10, Josh Grajczonek (10pts) and Brady Kurtz (8pts) had matched their counterparts, but the difference was at the reserve berths with the Rebels returning just 6+1 against the Stars 15+2. Jake Allen’s performance had been the antithesis of his showing against the Belle Vue Aces, where he raced with speed, grit and determination, but on Friday he appeared, at times to be slow and tentative, on a track that was far from the wet conditions encountered two weeks ago. Hopefully whether his problems were mechanical or otherwise, it’s clear that the Rebels need to be firing in all departments to ensure that they don’t end up in the relegation zone in their first season in the top tier, especially when they are forced to use Rider Replacement as they were on Friday.

The main meeting was followed by a six heat Southern Development League match between The Exeter Falcons and the Kent Kestrels.; The Kestrels dominated the match, running out 11-25 winners, with Bradley Andrews completing a three ride 9-point maximum, whilst the Falcons top scorer was Stevie Andrews with 5-points.

Somerset Rebels - 41
1. Josh Grajczonek - R 2 3 3 2 = 10
2. Lewis Kerr - 1 1 R 2 1 = 5
3. Charles Wright – Rider Replacement
4. Richard Lawson - 3 3 3 2 1* = 12+1
5. Brady Kurtz (G) - 2 2 X 3 1 = 8
6. Jake Allen - 2 1 Flx 1 X(2m) 0 0 = 4
7. Robert Branford (G) - 0 1* R 1 = 2+1

Kings Lynn Stars – 49
1. Chris Holder - 3 2 2* 2 3 = 12+1
2. Lewis Rose – X(2m) 0 0 1 3 = 4
3. Nicklas Porsing – Rider Replacement
4. Troy Batchelor - 2 3 2 2 1 = 10
5. Robert Lambert - 3 3 2 0 0 = 8
6. Kai Huckenbeck - 2* 3 1 3 R 1* 3 = 13+2
7. Liam Carr (G) - 1 0 1 0 = 2

SCB Referee: Paul Carrington

Heat Details
Heat 01: Holder, Huckenbeck, Kerr, Grajczonek (Ret) (1-5) (1-5) 57.00
Heat 02: Huckenbeck, Allen, Carr, Branford (2-4) (3-9) 57.37
Heat 03: Lawson, Batchelor, Allen, Rose (4-2) (7-11) 57.41
Heat 04: Lambert, Kurtz, Branford, Carr (3-3) (10-14) 58.00
Heat 05: Lawson, Holder, Kerr, Rose (4-2) (14-16) 57.28
Heat 06: Lambert, Grajczonek, Huckenbeck, Kerr (Ret) (2-4) (16-20) 57.07
Heat 07: Batchelor, Kurtz, Carr, Branford (Ret) (2-4) (18-24) 58.38
Heat 08: Huckenbeck, Kerr, Rose, Allen (Fell-Exl) (2-4) (20-28) 57.75
Heat 09: Lawson, Lambert, Allen, Carr (4-2) (24-30) 57.87
Heat 10: Grajczonek, Batchelor, Kerr, Huckenbeck (Ret) (4-2) (28-32) 58.19
Heat 11: Rose, Holder, Branford, Kurtz (Exl) (1-5) (29-37) 59.56
Heat 12: Kurtz, Batchelor, Huckenbeck, Allen (3-3) (32-40) 57.75
Heat 13: Grajczonek, Holder, Kurtz, Lambert (4-2) (36-42) 58.57
Heat 14: Huckenbeck, Lawson, Batchelor, Allen (2-4) (38-46) 58.00
Heat 15: Holder, Grajczonek, Lawson, Lambert (3-3) (41-49) 59.84

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