Warriors 51 Rockets 39
The Isle of Wight ‘Wightlink’ Warriors opened there 2023 speedway racing season by seeing off the spirited challenge of the Rye House Rockets in front of large and appreciative crowd at the Smallbrook Stadium.
The visitors arrived without one of their star men as Luke Bowen was left with little option but to stand down as the cost of renewing his racing insurance made it uneconomic to compete. His absence was covered by the Rider Replacement facility.
After a four-year absence from racing Rockets number one Steve Boxall rolled back time to scorch from the tapes to win heat one ahead of Warriors skipper Ben Morley and with Warriors Rhys Naylor safe in third spot, the meeting opened with a shared heat.
Heat 2 belonged to Ben Trigger for the visitors with Warriors packing the minor places before the home side took the lead in the next race thanks to a 4-2 advantage, Brayden McGuinness winning (pictured by Robert Buckett) despite a scary moment on the last bend with Chad Wirtzfeld in third.
Heat 4 and Morley v Boxall round two goes the way of the Warriors skipper after holding off constant pressure and with George Congreve in third place the Warriors edge further ahead.
The new racing formula allows team managers to handicap two of their opponents’ riders and the first handicap was delivered by Rockets team manager Russell Paine who opted to put Warrior McGuinness back 15 metres in heat 5. Ben Trigger was again fast away and breathing clear air whilst behind McGuinness was able to pass Rocket’s Chris Watts to share the heat 3-3.
Heat six saw the second handicap this time played by Warrior’s manager Steve Piper with Jack Kingston starting off the 15-metre mark. Warriors were good off the gate but on lap 2 bend 3 Rhys Naylor, in second place at the time, fell and the race was stopped. Sadly, Naylor suffered a recurrence of a wrist injury and had to withdraw from the meeting. The re-run of the heat turned out to be a straightforward win for Ben Morley thus a shared heat.
Heat seven was a classic with Boxall on handicap, but taking very little time to pass Warriors Arran Butcher before setting off in pursuit of George Congreve whence ensued a real handlebar to handlebar scrap that Boxall took with a brave inside pass off the final bend. Score 23-19.
Heat 8 looked tough on paper for the Warriors with the Rockets tracking Boxall and Trigger. Boxall gated to lead but McGuinness slipped inside Trigger off bend 2 whilst Butcher’s persistence saw him pass Trigger in a drag race to the finishing line. Another drawn heat.
Heat 9 and Jack Kingston makes a good start for the Rockets but is passed round the outside off bend two by Congreve and with Butcher a steady third the Warriors move out to 30-24.
Heat 10 and Steve Boxall is at it again. Missed the start but leads coming out of bend 2 on lap 1. Rocket’s Sam Woods can’t help his partner as McGuinness and Wirtzfeld pack the minor places.
Heat 11 and Morley is the handicap rider. Jack Kingston makes another fast break from the tapes and Warriors are happy to sit in for the minor placings.
Heat 12 and Butcher times his gate to perfection with Kingston in second, sadly the Rocket misjudges bend three and comes down gifting Wirtzfeld a second place and the Warriors a 5-1. Score 41-31.
Heat 13 Morley v Boxall round three and whilst the home man leads on the first lap, his opponent goes to the dirt on bend four to execute a lovely pass. Boxall goes 17 from 18 on the night in a super display. The heat is shared with McGuinness third. Match safe for the Warriors.
Heat 14 and Warrior’s gate in front, Kingston falls again on bend 3 leaving an easy 5-1.
Heat 15 and Trigger with a jet-propelled start initially with Chris Watts alongside, however Butcher rounds Watts and the visitors end up with a consolation 4-2 heat win that sees a really entertaining meeting finish 51-39.
IOW: Ben Morley 11+1, Rhys Naylor 1+1, George Congreve 13, Arran Butcher 9+3, Brayden McGuinness 9+2, Chad Wirtzfeld 8+3.
Rye House: Steve Boxall 17, Sam Woods 1, Like Bowen R/R, Ben Trigger 9, Jack Kingston 9, Chris Watts 3+1.
In the training challenge between the Wizards and Crayford Kestrels, the home side could not clip the visitors wings as they suffered a 12-24 defeat.
IOW: Morgan Williams 5, Sam Peters 2, Harley Freeman 4+1, Steph Whitlock 1+1.
Crayford: Nathan Hargrave 7+1, Josh Couzins 4+1, James Laker 4+2, Charlie Wood 9.
After the meeting Warriors co-owner Barry Bishop said,
“What a super meeting to get 2023 underway. We had great racing and commitment from all the riders and the support from the terraces was absolutely first class. Good luck to our friends from Rye House as they build their campaign to re-establish their track and we look forward to welcoming them back later in the year.
And I just loved the riders who took part in our youth races. They are the future of our sport, and it is important that we invest time in their development. It was also great to give William Cairns some track time. For a teenager those demonstration laps were so impressive, and he has a truly bright career ahead of him.
Now we must turn our attention to next Thursday and Round 2 of the Nora No Brakes Racing League fixture. We worked hard to establish a lead in the competition at Iwade and will have to be at our best again. Hopefully Rhys Naylor will be ok to ride, but we must wait and see how his wrist reacts following the knock tonight.
Massive thanks to everyone who came tonight. It was brilliant. Thank you.”