IOW 32 Sittingbourne 30 Cradley 17 Plymouth 16
Warriors consolidated their lead in the inaugural No Brakes League competition after another solid team performance at the Smallbrook Stadium saw them extend their overall advantage after two completed rounds.
With the Warriors holding a four-point lead from round one over nearest rivals Cradley and with several Island track specialists in the opposing sides, racing was sure to be hard fought and so it proved with Plymouth recruit Jason Edwards looking classy in winning the opening heat with Sittingbourne hotshot Freddy Hodder holding off Warriors Arran Butcher for the minor places.
Sittingbourne’s positive start continued in heat two as Steve Boxall, so impressive in last week’s team challenge, continued his winning form sweeping through from the back to pick off Plymouth’s Jake Turner and the Warriors George Congreve who took the second and third spots in that order.
Heat three produced a ding-dong battle between the Warriors Brayden McGuinness and Cradley’s Alfie Bowtell with the home favourite taking a notable scalp in the fastest time this season, however Cradley bounced straight back in the next race as Connor Coles quickly passed Warriors early leader Ben Morley.
Heat five saw Plymouth’s Jake Turner hound Bowtell without being able to make a telling move with Butcher again in third spot before Plymouth hit trouble in heat six as early leader Edwards slowed with a sickly sounding engine allowing Congreve to outpace Coles for a valuable Warriors race win.
Heat seven and the Warriors turn to hit trouble as McGuinness burst through the tapes resulting in a fifteen-metre handicap. With Boxall in the race, the home man’s chance of a win was slim and so it proved as the Sittingbourne visitor lead from tapes to flag with McGuinness doing well to come through for second ahead of Chris Watts and Kai Ward. Heat eight was decided from the tapes with a comfortable win for home skipper Morley whilst Cradley’s Kelsey Dugard was clearly struggling and after the race opted to withdraw from the meeting due to a recurrence of a previous shoulder injury.
The race format allows Team Managers to nominate one opposing rider to take a fifteen-metre handicap – the intention to provide added passing and excitement into the meeting – and the first to have to take the handicap was Sittingbourne Steve Boxall. The heat certainly delivered on excitement. Butcher was sharp away and had a lead over Coles coming out of the first two turns with Boxall making up much of his handicap. Coles and Boxall then fought a pulsating personal battle – all the time allowing Butcher to extend his advantage at the front of the field and take the chequered flag, whilst Boxall’s last bend charge saw him pip Coles to the second place points.
Heat 10 saw Bowtell on handicap and whilst chasing race leader Hodder and second placed Congreve, the Cradley man slid off on bend four fortunately without serious consequences and without altering the race order.
Heat 11 had Edwards on handicap with Coles replacing the injured Dugard and from the tapes it was McGuinness who raced into clean air with the Plymouth man having to give second best to the Warriors Aussie after overcoming Coles who finished third.
Onto heat twelve with plenty going on. Ben Morley from the handicap line was joined by Plymouth’s Jake Turner who was penalised for a starting offence. When the heat got going Sittingbourne’s Jacob Clouting went to the front as Turner got by Morley. Watts fell, remounted but retired. Turner mounted a challenge on Clouting but overcooked the last bend allowing Morley into second and as the fallen Plymouth rider got to his feet to push the bike home for a single point, he was helped by someone from the pits which, very sadly, resulted in an instant disqualification.
Heat 13 and a crashing fall for Chris Watts who couldn’t avoid Plymouth’s Nathan Hargrave who had slid off on bend 3. Hargrave excluded and remarkably after a few minutes to re-gather his composure Watts bravely returned to collect a valuable point, the heat won by Congreve for the Warriors ahead of Sittingbourne’s Chad Wirtzfeld.
Heat fourteen and after a short break, Chris Watts comes out again to take the place of Kelsey Dugard and for the second time on the night Clouting makes a clean get away with Butcher pushing hard but having to settle for second with Watts a valiant third ahead of Plymouth’s Kai Ward.
Heat fifteen and another tight race with the riders all very close but emerging from the first bend it was Turner who led home Hodder, McGuinness, and Coles in that order. With a four-point advantage on the night the Warriors were assured of winning the round, but could they extend their overall lead?
The final heat had all the big guns out together and with an amazing burst of speed down the back straight it was Jason Edwards who took control of the race and won with ease. Steve Boxall was again fully committed as he came home second ahead of Bowtell with Morley missing out.
Final scores on the night:
IOW: 32 – Ben Morley 7, Brayden McGuinness 9, George Congreve 9, Arran Butcher 7.
Sittingbourne: 30 – Steve Boxall 10, Freddy Hodder 9, Jacob Clouting 8, Chad Wirtzfeld 3.
Cradley: 17 – Alfie Bowtell 6, Connor Coles 7, Kelsey Dugard 1, Chris Watts 3.
Plymouth: 16 – Jason Edwards 8, Jake Turner 7, Kai Ward 1, Nathan Hargrave 0.
Overall, after two rounds:
IOW 64 Sittingbourne 52 Cradley 45 Plymouth 30
After the meeting Warriors Team Manager Steve Piper said,
“That was an excellent performance from the boys. Just one last place in sixteen races – and that in the final heat – says it all. The riders work so well together and to increase our lead in the competition in the way that we have is terrific. What’s also important is that off track every one of them have their own special way of contributing to team spirit and we’ve now put ourselves in with a great chance of taking this title. We know we will have a target on our backs in rounds 3 and 4 nevertheless we are a good unit, and we know what we must do”.
Image shows Brayden McGuiness in red helmet for the Warriors in action against Connor Coles in white helmet for the Cradley Heathens.