Monday, August 25, 2014
The Ipswich Witches arrived at the Oak Tree Arena on the crest of a wave, having not lost a match since Brian Messenger took over the reins as team manager, writes Dave Thompson.
However their record at the Oak Tree Arena does not make appetising reading, and to top it off they came minus the services of talented reserve Adam Ellis. Ben Hopwood taking the ride in his place.
The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels, sitting on top of the league, had no such problems, fielding a full strength septet, who have been sweeping all before them on the Oak Tree shale. They left all those watching, and more importantly the visiting team, in no doubt that they would be all out to retain their table topping status, and push on to a second successive league title.
From the first flag fall the Rebels were so far in the groove they were out of sight, as they unmercifully tore into the Witches. Heat 1 took three attempts to get underway, with first Richie Worrall being pulled after a flying start, and then Nick Morris hitting the dirt on the outside of the first turn, with all 4 riders contesting both restarts. Finally Charles Wright blasted from the tapes, pinning fast starting Ritchie Hawkins to the inside, allowing Morris a clear run around the outside. Wright led out the pair for three laps, before Morris hit the front on the final lap, and pulling away to take the chequered flag from Wright and Hawkins in third. Richie Worrall never got in the hunt, pulling off the track before the flag.
Cameron Heeps looked to have secured a first win for the visitors, jetting off the line to easily lead up Todd Kurtz and Paul Starke. However Kurtz was soon on the move, pushing hard up the inside line to relieve Heeps of his position. At the same time Starke flew around the dirt line to engulf both of those on his inside. From that point on it was easy for the Rebels, with the only hint of a problem being the sight of Todd Kurtz steel shoe flapping loose for the final three laps of the race, as the home side recorded two consecutive maximum advantages.
Maximum number three followed in short order, with Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren supplying the points, right from the rise of the tapes. Kurtz gave the small group of visiting Witches fans a brief moment of hope, as he locked up on the second bend of the race, and when you say brief, think ‘Blink and you missed it’, as he never missed a beat, let alone lose the lead. Morten Risager and Gino Manzares never got in a blow on Kurtz or Aspgren, and the reason was clear, as the race time was announced, a recording of 56.65 sec, the second fastest time of the season.
The Witches must have thought they had run over a black cat, as they saw Olly Allen and Paul Starke blaze to the front from a level break, and pull well clear before the opening lap was out. Suddenly Starke slowed dramatically, grinding to a halt half way around the opening turns of lap 2, giving Rohan Tungate and Ben Hopwood an unexpected shared heat, with the fast disappearing Allen a long was clear at the flag. Starke’s misfortune was an errant cut out, which had come adrift.
Now 14-points in arrears, the visitors wasted no time in deploying the ‘Black and White’ helmet, with Richie Worrall being the ‘Chosen one’. Chosen one he may have been, but that doesn’t guarantee success, which was exactly as it proved. Brady Kurtz was again quickly into his stride, with his partner being squeezed out of the first turn by Worrall and Ritchie Hawkins. Aspgren gathered himself up, and in his usual unflappable style, set about running down the Witches pair. He wound up his machine and came with a storming run of the final bend of the lap to claim third place from the ‘Black and White’ wearing Worrall. He gave chase to Hawkins but couldn’t make a meaningful impression, as the home side added a 4-2 advantage to the tally.
The Rebels were back on the maximum trail in Heat 6, with Charles Wright adding a win to his earlier paid win. Nick Morris was quick of the gate to lead up, but Wright cruised by both Morris and Rohan Tungate as he negotiated the opening turns. He was quickly joined by Morris and the pair rapidly put the issue beyond doubt, putting a large amount of distance between themselves and their opponent, despite early pressure on Morris from Tungate.
The 18-point lead soon became a 14-point lead as the Witches hit a maximum of their own, right against the run of play. Todd Kurtz was very slowly away, whilst at the front, Olly Allen took an early lead. Allen doesn’t often leave much room on his outside, but on this occasion he left enough for Gino Manzares to come through. Once in front he dropped over Allen, leaving the Norwich based rider nowhere to go, but clip his back wheel. The resulting crash looked horrible as Allen smashed into the ground, rolled into the air fence, only to be buried underneath his machine, which had come to a halt on top of him.
The Rebels skipper has been in scintillating form of late, but this crash ended his participation for the night. In the final reckoning he was just battered and bruised, but it was enough to see him not take another ride that night. The re-run saw a similar start to the first race, with Kurtz very slowly away, but recovering grab second place from Morten Risager. The pair then engaged in a ding-dong battle, with Risager finally prevailing, after a bout of the pair swapping places onto the third lap of the race. Risager not only grabbed second spot, but got up to take the win from long time leader Gino Manzares.
Ritchie Hawkins took the tactical ride in Heat 8, with Cameron Heeps coming in for a reserve switch. Once again the Rebels foiled the tactical move as they virtually led from the off to flag. Paul Starke was first to show, quickly followed by Charles Wright. Once at the front the pair sailed away, with only Hawkins, who took the minor place, putting up any kind of resistance, as the Rebels posted their fifth 5-1 in 8 races.
Cameron Heeps hampered himself in Heat 9, as he moved at the start, and the race was released as he came to a halt. Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren didn’t need a second chance, as they serenely moved into the lead before the first turn. Once established on their favoured line the Rebels pair pulled well clear of Rohan Tungate, and the again seemingly anonymous Cameron Heeps.
Gino Manzares and Morten Risager just got the better of a level break in Heat 10, but their time at the head of affairs was severely limited, with first Charles Wright gliding up the inside of the pair to lead onto the back straight, whilst Nick Morris put in huge run off the final bend of the second lap to account for Risager, and grab third place. Morris continued his run, closing with a wet sail over the final laps, to close in on Manzares, but couldn’t peg back the charging American.
Heat 11 was, unusually, shared when the Ipswich supplied the winner. They might have posted the win, but it was far from easy, and Worrall had to hold off the close attentions of Todd Kurtz who on at least two separate occasions put in hard challenges, before jetting around the final lap, in an attempt to catch the St Helens man, which he only just failed to do on the line. Paul Starke, in for Allen, took the minor place from Richie Hawkins.
The Rebels posted their seventh and final maximum advantage on the night, taking Heat 12 almost without breaking a sweat. Brady Kurtz took the lead from the tapes and was never troubled. Paul Starke, who broke in third place, soon exerted his authority on matters blasting round Cameron Heeps in the opening curves. Brady Kurtz opened up a big gap, and made himself scarce, whilst Starke easily held Heeps and Risager for all four laps.
Todd Kurtz filled Olly Allen boots in Heat 13, and made a pretty good job of it despite not scoring a point. Nick Morris hit the front on the run to the bend, and was not seen again by the remainder of the field. Kurtz ran the wide line to account for Richie Worrall in the openers, and then swapped places with the Ipswich man over the next two laps, before producing a superb cutback to finally getting the better of his opponent, and pulling out a gap. Just as he looked to have secured another ‘Full House’ his motor expired, leaving the Witches to bank an unexpected share of the points. The motor in question was in fact a ‘Loaner’ from none other than brother Brady!
Paul Starke and Cameron Heeps made reserve switches in Heat 14, but it was the Rebels who came out on top. Gino Manzares, with Pontus Aspgren and Starke giving chase. Aspgren made an early challenge out wide, but failed in his attempt to pass. Undeterred he sat in the deep stuff, and built up a huge amount of momentum, which saw him fly around the young Statesider. Starke set about closing the gap between himself and Manzares, coming with a powerful last lap run, which only just failed.
Heat 15 saw Nick Morris and the unbeaten Brady Kurtz come to tapes, with Richie Worrall and Gino Manzares in the opposite gates. The race was to prove very costly for the Rebels. Brady was over eager in the first running and copped a warning from Mick Posselwhite for moving before the release. In the restart the Witches pair hit the front, with Worrall taking up the early running from Morris and Manzares. Kurtz was slowly away, but was now laying down some heavy beats, reeling in and passing the two ‘M’s’, and setting off to run down Worrall.
Worrall had Kurtz on his case before the lap was out. He was all over the back of Worrall and throwing down challenges left, right and centre, and was chopped off for his trouble. Unflustered he renewed his pressure, with his adversary switching lines to stop the young Australian’s run. Kurtz persevered, and threw down another hard challenge as the exited the second turn of lap three, only to find his path blocked once again, but this time he had nowhere to go as Worrall ruthlessly closed to gap. Kurtz clipped his bike and came down in a huge crash that saw him impact the back straight fence, just after the air fence.
Kurtz was down for some time, before eventually walking, with some assistance, into the ambulance, complaining of pain in his elbow. In the final analysis, Kurtz had fractured his arm, between the elbow and shoulder, and is expected to be out of 5 to 6 weeeks. On the plus side, it seems the Rebels will not be without skipper Olly Allen, who despite being battered and bruised, is expected to take his place in the line up for Sunday’s away fixture at Peterborough. Kurtz absence will be covered by Rider Replacement in that match and the return next Friday.
With the final league matches of the season, and hopefully the Play Off’s, looming, Kurtz absence is a problem the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels could do without, but it will be dealt with in the same manner that has always prevailed when the Rebels are up against the wall, with positivity and everyone pulling together.
Somerset Rebels - 59
1. Nick Morris - 3, 2*, 1, 3 2 = 11+1
2. Charles Wright - 2*, 3, 2* 3 = 10+2
3. Brady Kurtz - 3, 3, 3, 3, F/X = 12
4. Pontus Aspgren - 2*, 1, 2*, 3 = 8+2
5. Olly Allen - 3, Flx, Dns, Dns = 3
6. Todd Kurtz - 2*, 1, 2, R, (PS - 1) = 5+1
7. Paul Starke - 3, R, 3, 1*, 2*, 1 = 10+2
Ipswich Witches - 31
1. Richie Worrall - R, 0^, 3, 2, 3 = 8
2. Ritchie Hawkins - 1, 2, 1^, 0 = 4
3. Morten Risager - 1, 3, 0, 0 = 4
4. Gino Manzares - 0, 2*, 2, 2, 1 = 7+1
5. Rohan Tungate - 2, 1, 1, 1* = 5+1
6. Cameron Heeps - 1, 0, 0, 1, 0 = 2
7. Ben Hopwood (Guest) - 0, 1*, 0 = 1+1
SCB Referee: Mick Posselwhite
Heat 01: Morris, Wright, Hawkins, Worrall (Ret) 5-1 Time: 57.28
Heat 02: Starke, Todd Kurtz, Heeps, Hopwood 5-1 10-2 Time: 58.02
Heat 03: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Risager, Manzares 5-1 15-3 Time: 56.65
Heat 04: Allen, Tungate, Hopwood, Starke (Ret) 3-3 18-6 Time: 57.94
Heat 05: Brady Kurtz, Hawkins, Aspgren, Worrall 4-2 22-8 Time: 57.38
Heat 06: Wright, Morris, Tungate, Hopwood 5-1 27-9 Time: 57.59
Heat 07: Risager, Manzares, Todd Kurtz, Allen (Flx) 1-5 28-14 Time: 58.87
Heat 08: Starke, Wright, Hawkins, Heeps 5-1 33-15 Time: 58.32
Heat 09: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Tungate, Heeps 5-1 38-16 Time: 57.69
Heat 10: Wright, Manzares, Morris, Risager 4-2 42-18 Time: 58.93
Heat 11: Worrall, Todd Kurtz, Starke, Hawkins 3-3 45-21 Time: 58.81
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Starke, Heeps, Risager 5-1 50-22 Time: 57.69
Heat 13: Morris, Worrall, Tungate, Todd Kurtz - Retired 3-3 53-25 Time: 58.57
Heat 14: Aspgren, Manzares, Starke, Heeps 4-2 57-27 Time: 58.56
Heat 15: Race Awarded: Worrall, Morris, Manzares, Brady Kurtz (Flx) 2-4 59-31 (Awrd)