Monday, April 7, 2014
Brady Kurtz heralded his much discussed arrival to Somerset Rebels at the Oak Tree Arena in spectacular fashion.
Posting a five ride paid maximum, which included a blindingly fast opening win, just 0.6 seconds shy of Leigh Adams 7-year-old track record, and a battling last to second in the final heat to give the Rebels a maximum advantage, after a start that was slower than a snail on Valium He was nothing short of sensational.
The occasion was the first leg of the Premier League Shield, against a strong looking Newcastle Diamonds side. In similar fashion to football’s Charity Shield, the Premier League Shield is normally run between the previous season’s League winners, and KO Cup winners, but with ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels doing the double, the League Cup winners were their opponents for this running. With Newcastle already having racked up 60-points against Redcar, and taken the scalp of the much fancied Workington Comets, the Rebels appeared to have a tough task ahead of them if they were to take a winning lead into the second leg on Sunday, and when Christian Henry shot out of the gate in Heat 1, those thoughts looked to be spot on.
Henry led all the way, and despite Nick Morris closing him down in the middle of the race, he won with something in hand. Todd Kurtz held off a persistent Ludvig Lindgren to give the Rebels a share of the race points.
Charles Wright’s introduction in the latter part of last season was a revelation; with many considering that he made the difference between winning and not winning the league title. Wright has started the season the way he finished the last, scoring plenty of points, and in Heat 2 that was evident as he blasted from the tapes to lead up. His race partner, Paul Starke was not far away, and the pair squeezed out the dangerous Chris Schramm into the first turn. Wright took up the running on the back straight, and the pair pulled clear over the next couple of laps to record the first Rebels ‘Full House’ of the night. Schramm only got as far as the final bend of the second lap, before retiring from the race.
Heat 3 saw Brady Kurtz’s’ first competitive outing at the Oak Tree Arena, and what an introduction it turned out to be. As the tapes rose, Kurtz was only second away, behind his team Partner Pontus Aspgren. Around the opening turns the young Australian powered to the front on the wide line. Once at the front he was gone in the wind, with Aspgren easily accounting for the Diamonds pair of Stuart Robson and Lewis Kerr, to post the Rebels second maximum in as many races. To the watching fans, it was obvious that Kurtz was fast, but just how fast was only clear when the time was announced, 56.68 seconds, a mere 0.6 seconds outside the track record, set 7 years ago by fellow Aussie, and former World Number 2, the great Leigh Adams.
Heat 4 was shared, as Rebels skipper Ollie Allen made the best of a battle with Lewis Rose to the first turn. Anton Rosen and Paul Starke were not far away, with Rosen grabbing third spot on the outside of the second bend, before passing Rose down the back straight. Once in second place, Rosen pressured Allen, challenging around the final turn of the lap. In the last half of the race, he again closed on Allen, and came with a big run around the closing bends, and to the line, but could not catch the Norwich man. Behind the pair, Rose and Starke were having their own private battle, with victory eventually going to Rose, to give the Diamonds a share of the points.
The Rebels were soon back on the offensive, posting their third maximum advantage in Heat 5. Brady Kurtz powered off the line to lead Christian Henry to the turn. Pontus Aspgren was next away, and as Henry moved wide into the second turn, Aspgren made a very neat cut back to demote the experienced Australian to third spot. He moved to the front on the next lap, leading home the young Kurtz, as the pair pulled well clear of their opponents, as Ludvig Lindgren took third spot late in the race.
Trailing by 12-points the Diamond quickly introduced the tactical ride, with Anton Rosen sporting the ‘Black and White’ in the very next heat. Clearly eager to ensure Rosen didn’t take the win, Nick Morris bolted from the tapes, but was just too eagerly, giving Margret Vardy an easy decision as he obliterated the tapes.
Charles Wright was drafted in to take his place, but nearly didn’t make the start, as his bike gave up the ghost on the line, and by the time he took his place again, there were only seconds to spare. As the tapes rose for the second time, Wright was Rosen’s nearest challenger, but the Swede got the drop around the opening curve. If Wright thought his second place was safe, he was mistaken, as Chris Schramm powered underneath him off the second turn. From there on the pair engaged in an enthralling side-by-side battle over the first couple of laps, with first one and then the other gaining a slight advantage, and as Rosen won unchallenged, it was Wright who emerged victorious in the battle for second place, as the Diamonds cut the advantage to 7-points.
Paul Starke was the reserve switch in Heat 7, and when the tapes rose he was last away, with Ollie Allen and Lewis Kerr battling for the lead. Allen was to take the advantage from the first turn, and as Kerr moved wide, Stuart Robson moved through into second place. Starke got into his stride, and by the start of the second lap, he swept underneath Kerr on the first turn, and set off in his pursuit of Robson. With Starke closing fast, Allen slowed in front, in what appeared to be an effort to slow Robson down, but in truth he was in trouble, with his bike in an uncooperative mood. On the final turn of the third lap, Robson was on him, and on the run to the final lap flag, he was through, but at the same time Starke came powering around the outside, and tight up against the fence he made it three wide, as he roared in to the lead on the home straight. With the crowd cheering him on he rode out the final lap in fine style to hold off a determined Robson to complete a astonishing race win.
The Diamonds fought back, and again reduced the Rebels lead to 7-points as they took a 2-4 advantage in Heat 8. Charles Wright took the reserve ride, and was quickly away, but couldn’t shake off Christian Henry, who took up the running on the first turn. The third person in the run to the turn was Lewis Rose, and he grabbed second spot behind his team mate to give the Diamonds a potential ‘Full House’. Wright was in no mood to let that happen, and by the end of the second lap he had Rose’s measure, and set off after Henry, but despite closing him down, he ran out of laps before he could get on terms, and had to make do with second place.
Not to be outdone the Rebels restored their lead in the next heat, with Brady Kurtz executing a spectacular pass on the fast Anton Rosen. Rosen blasted from the tapes to lead up Kurtz, and hold a good lead into the turn. Kurtz stuck it out in the dirt, and powered around the fence line. From the second turn he reeled in Rosen, catching him as they came off the final turn of the lap. To the rising cheers of the crowd he charged down the home straight, squeezing through the small gap, Rosen had left between himself and the fence, and although Rosen never gave up the chase, and closed Kurtz down at the end, he never got in another blow. Pontus Aspgren, quietly and unfussed, easily held a comfortable third spot from Chris Schramm.
Maximum advantage number four came the Rebels way in Heat 10. Charles Wright replaced Todd Kurtz in the Blue helmet, and led from the tapes alongside Lewis Kerr, with Wright getting to the turn first. Nick Morris entered the first turn in last place, but his powerful run around the wide line saw him emerge in second place down the back straight, before he went to the front approaching the third curve. Morris rode the widest of lines for the whole race, and he and Wright had no real opposition from the first lap onwards.
Garry May again switched the reserves in Heat 11, as the Diamonds threw in their second tactical ride of the night, with Christian Henry wearing the signifying helmet colour. Unlike his Heat 7 ride, Stake jetted from the tapes to lead up Ollie Allen, and Ludvig Lindgren, with the tactical rider languishing in last place. Allen was soon at the front, leading into the first turn, with Lindgren following him through. However Lindgren’s tenure in second spot was only temporary, with Starke outrunning him around the opening curves. Allen continued to lead, until Starke came by on lap three. The pair looked to have another maximum in the bag, but the gremlins appeared to strike Allen again, as Lindgren, who seemingly held up his tactical seeking partner for most of the race, charged into second spot on the penultimate bend of the race, before he put in a big run to the line. Despite his charge, Lindgren just failed to get up.
Heat 12 saw the reserves switch again, with Charles Wright replacing the previous heat winner, Paul Starke. The Rebels broke on a 5-1, with Brady Kurtz leading the way. In the first turn, Wright ran very wide, allowing the Diamonds pair of Robson and Schramm, who had a huge lift at the start, through the inside and into the scoring places. Wright gathered himself up, and ran down Schramm, and came tearing down the outside approaching the third turn on Lap 2. As Schramm moved to defend the line, Wright was already thinking ahead, and had cut back inside to glide by the Essex man, and into second spot. He wasn’t done either, chasing down Robson; he got in a challenge at the final two bends of the next lap, but the experienced Wearsider had it under control, and Wright couldn’t find a way past into second place. Meanwhile Kurtz was gone beyond Robson’s recall, and the Rebels had ensure the match win. It would now be just a matter of by how many points.
The top heat saw Nick Morris add his second win after his earlier exclusion, bolting from the tapes to lead every inch of the race. Ollie Allen was slow away, and struggled to gain any ground on Anton Rosen, and Ludvig Lindgren, eventually pulling off the track on the second lap, with obvious machine issues. Morris at the head of affairs was streaking away, eventually taking the win with consummate ease.
Heat 14 saw Charles Wright storm off the tapes, but he had the company of Lewis Kerr on the run to the turn, but it was Wright who made it pay on the run up. Pontus Aspgren was last off the gate, but was soon in third place, passing Lewis Rose before the turn, and steadily reeling in Kerr. Kerr put up stubborn resistance, but Aspgren didn’t panic, and in a completely unflustered manner he bided his time, and kept probing away at Kerr. Entering the final lap he was almost upsides, and moved out onto the wide line, and came charging down the back straight, continuing the outside run into the final two bends, before cutting back inside off the final bend to pounce on Kerr as they reached the line, and give the Rebels their fifth maximum advantage of the night. The pass may have looked ‘Last Gasp’, but there was an inevitable look about it from a long way out.
In his first home meeting in Rebels colours, Brady Kurtz had not only recorded one of the fastest times recorded at the Oak Tree Arena; he had taken three wins, and was still on for a paid maximum, and to top off his night he found himself in the nominated heat, alongside Nick Morris. For their part Newcastle tracked Anton Rosen, and Christian Henry. The Rebels chose gates one and three, and when the tapes rose, Nick Morris careered off the inside gate to lead up with Christian Henry close up. As Morris pulled away, Anton Rosen soon went by his team mate to take up the chase.
Brady Kurtz made a shocking start, and was a long way off the others before the turn, but he got himself together, and started to reel in Henry in the third spot. By the end of the first lap Kurtz was flying, and coming off the final turn he was closing Henry down hand over fist, before charging around his outside as they negotiated the first turn again. He continued the run to such effect that by the closing turns of the same lap he had Rosen in his sights, and as they ran around the closing turns of the lap he moved inside the flying Swede to take up second spot on the run to the line at the start of Lap 3. Once he had beaten off the two Diamonds, Kurtz pulled away from them with ease, to complete a stunning introduction to his home supporters, and showed that he could do it from the best or worst of starts.
Whilst the score line might suggest otherwise, the meeting had produced some high quality racing, not just from the Rebels, but from both teams. Although on the wrong end of the 59-34 score line, the Diamonds showed enough to suggest that they shouldn’t suffer the same fate too many times this season. In Anton Rosen, they have an undoubted star, and on another night he would have received the back up to keep the scores much closer. One thing is for certain, they will provide much sterner opposition back on their own patch in the 2nd leg.
For the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels, the star of the show was Brady Kurtz, whose exploits on the night were remarkable for one so young. His performance in posting the top score of the evening, with his paid maximum of 13+2, not only earned him the plaudits of the fans, but also the ‘Rider of the Night’ award from a group of friend who were spending the evening at the track as part of a ‘Stag Night’. Brady received his award from the ‘Best Man’, George Atwell, and the soon to be Groom, Robert Knowles. The sight of Brady receiving his award, flanked by the Best man, and the Groom, dressed in a very dubious ‘Stig’ costume, brought the house down, and Brady was clearly amused by the whole thing.
Despite Brady’s superb performance, there were others in Rebels side that could not go without a mention. Nick Morris recovered after his exclusion to go unbeaten in his remaining three races, Charles Wright and Paul Starke were superb in the reserve berths, and on this form could both be pushing for the main body of the team at some point. Ollie Allen was unfortunate to suffer all night with machine problems, and the points he posted do not reflect the effort he put in, or what he deserved. Todd Kurtz had an horrendous night, and could only post a single point, but he was out testing after the meeting, and after swapping bikes with brother Brady, it became clear that he too was suffering with mechanical issues.
The one person who has not yet received a mention is Pontus Aspgren, who since signing for the Rebels has shown just what a good piece of business his capture could turn out to be. He has scored good points in all four of the Rebels matches so far, topped by a superb 14+1 at Ipswich, a track that he had never ridden before. His easy laid back style, and the quiet, often unnoticed way that he accumulates points, is reminiscent of another Swede well known to and much loved by Rebels fans, Emil Kramer. In the eyes of the Rebels supporters, Aspgren may never topple Kramer from his mantle as the ‘King of the Oak Tree Arena’, but he is certainly capable of being a very worthy Prince.
Somerset Rebels 59
1. Nick Morris - 2, Ex, 3, 3, 3 - 11
2. Todd Kurtz - 1*, 0, 0 - 1+1
3. Brady Kurtz - 3, 2*, 3, 3, 2* - 13+2
4. Pontus Aspgren - 2*, 3, 1, 2* - 8+2
5. Ollie Allen - 3, 1, 1, R - 5
6. Charles Wright - 3, 2, 2, 1, 3 - 13+1
7. Paul Starke - 2*, 0, 3, 3 - 8+1
Newcastle Diamonds 34
1. Ludvig Lindgren - 0, 1, 2, 1* - 4+1
2. Christian Henry - 3, 0, 3, 0^, 0 - 6
3. Stuart Robson - 1, 2, 0, 2 - 5
4. Lewis Kerr - 0, 0, 1, 1 - 2
5. Anton Rosen - 2, 6^, 2, 2, 1 – 13
6. Chris Schramm - R, 1, 0, 0 – 1
7. Lewis Rose - 1, 1*, 1, 0 - 3+1
SCB Referee: Margaret Vardy
Heat 01: Henry, Morris, Todd Kurtz, Lindgren (3-3) (3-3) 57.68
Heat 02: Wright, Starke, Rose, Schramm (Retired) (5-1) (8-4) 58.00
Heat 03: Kurtz, Aspgren, Robson, Kerr (5-1) (13-5) 56.68
Heat 04: Allen, Rosen, Rose, Starke (3-3) (16-8) 57.88
Heat 05: Aspgren, Brady Kurtz, Lindgren, Henry (5-1) (21-9) 57.72
Heat 06: Rosen (Tactical), Wright (res for Morris – Exl Tapes), Schramm, Todd Kurtz (2-7) (23-16) 58.22
Heat 07: Starke, Robson, Allen, Kerr (4-2) (27-18) 58.56
Heat 08: Henry, Wright, Rose, Todd Kurtz (2-4) (29-22) 58.27
Heat 09: Brady Kurtz, Rosen, Aspgren, Schramm (4-2) (33-24) 57.78
Heat 10: Morris, Wright (res for T Kurtz), Kerr, Robson (5-1) (38-25) 57.69
Heat 11: Starke, Lindgren, Allen, Henry (Tactical) (4-2) (42-27) 59.53
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Robson, Wright, Schramm (4-2) (46-29) 58.72
Heat 13: Morris, Rosen, Lindgren, Allen (Retired) (3-3) (49-32) 58.68
Heat 14: Wright, Aspgren, Kerr, Rose (5-1) (54-33) 59.25
Heat 15: Morris, Brady Kurtz, Rosen, Henry (5-1) (59-34) 58.63