Former Wightlink Islander Mark Simmonds (pictured) rolled back the years last night at the Smallbrook Stadium in Ryde to deliver a stunning set of five unbeaten rides as he took the NORA British Upright Speedway Championship (sponsored by Freelance Installations) in emphatic fashion.
The original attempt to stage this meeting was curtailed by a serious accident involving Tim Curnock and Chris Mackett and it was a slightly reduced and amended field that took to the shale with each rider having four qualifying rides to determine who would contest C, B and A Finals.
From the off, it was clear that Simmonds was in determined mood making a sharp start to lead heat one all the way in what turned out to be the fastest time of the night at 56.3 seconds for the three laps. Also in that first race were two other fancied contenders and it was a battling ride from Darren Phillips to head home Dean Felton for second place.
In heat two the home support were delighted to see former Wightlink Islander Nick Simmons back on track in competitive action for the first time in 11 years and he too was quick away from the tapes to win his race, riding an upright engine for the very first time. The next race saw the first tumble of the evening as Alex Chadd misjudged bend two and came down, however he was quickly up and sadly for his chances he repeated the feat two races later, again without injury. Chadd’s fall in heat three forced the race to be re-started and evergreen Wayne Broadhurst took full advantage to set up a great personal series of qualification races where only Simmonds headed him home.
At the end of the preliminaries the leader board was:
Mark Simmonds 12, Wayne Broadhurst 11, Darren Phillips 10, Nick Simmons 9. All moved to the A Final.
Nigel Coates 6, Ben Phillips 6, Dean Felton 5, Alex Chadd 5. All moved to the B Final.
Keith Cornell 3, Graham Knowler 3, Giles Dismore 1, Roy Miller 1. All moved to the C Final.
In the C Final it was Keith Cornell who found some form to head home his rivals whilst the B Final saw Alex Chadd take the chequered flag to end a night that might have been so much better had it not been for those two early falls.
Then on to the Grand A Final with, quite rightly, the four best riders on the night eager for the title and what a race those four guys produced. With first choice of gate pick Mark Simmonds was out on track pre-race looking at his options and decided gate 4 was the place to be and so it proved as the Cornishman was yet again so fast away from the tapes that he had one hand on the crown from the 30-metre mark onwards.
Simmonds clearly had no idea of the fantastic race action being played out behind him as the other three racers were almost tripping over each other in a classic battle where no quarter was asked or given and that went right to the finishing line as Wayne Broadhurst rode a composed last two bends to secure second place whilst Darren Phillips and Nick Simmons crossed the line side by side with Phillips getting the third place verdict by no more than a tyre’s width. A fantastic end to a terrific advert for the Upright racing fraternity who showed yet again that skill and guile can overcome flat-out speed.
Wightlink Warriors co-owner Barry Bishop reflecting on the meeting said, “Firstly, I want to thank all the riders in both sections of our programme for delivering top notch entertainment yet again. Tonight, we were doing everything for our great friend Chris Mackett and he has been uppermost in our thoughts. Speedway is a close-knit family and together we all send our best wishes to Chris as he continues his recovery. To everyone who has contributed to the fund we are accumulating for him I say a heartfelt thank you and I’m sure we will have topped the £1,000 figure tonight.
After what happened first time around, I’m so relieved that we have been able to deliver an incident free top class night of entertainment and I will sleep well tonight.
Now I need to mention Lee Coleman who has worked overtime to bring the riders together for both meetings. I know he was thoroughly disappointed that he couldn’t make the re-staging and he will be delighted to know we’ve all had a great night. His contribution to this series has been immense and he deserves the biggest slap on the back from all of us. Thanks Lee. Really appreciate all that you have done.
Next, I have to say well done Mark on a terrific performance and a big thank-you to all his lovely supporters who have added to the atmosphere tonight. We’ve just seen a super final and to the other three guys in the race, thank you. You produced a sporting moment to be proud of and we will remember that race for a long time. I’m looking forward to 2023 already.
And finally, and I know I say it all the time, thank you to our wonderful volunteers and those who you don’t see but who do so much towards making the Warrior Way the only way.”