Somerset Rebels provide ‘offer of a lifetime’ opportunity to a supporter

Somerset Rebels speedway action

Somerset Rebels speedway action - Credit: Archant

With several ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels riders on duty for the Elite League Swindon Robins, there was a free space in the diary at the Oaktree Arena on Friday evening, and this brought about the opportunity of a lifetime for one lucky fan, writes Dave Thompson.

To fill in the blank space in the fixture list a challenge match was arranged between a Somerset Select septet, and a National League Select side. With the NL Select side being made up of riders from several different teams, there wasn’t a natural choice of team manager for the side. To fill the gap, Somerset Speedway offered the opportunity for a fan to take on the task of managing the leaderless group of riders. The job was put up for tender, with the highest bidder getting the job for the evening, and the person to step forwards to pit his wits against such a formidable opponent as Garry May, was Rogiet, Monmouthshire resident, Richard Hayes. Richard is now a regular at the Oaktree Arena, having spent his formative speedway years following the Newport Wasps, until the South Wales side’s demise a few years ago. He’s a graduate of Swansea University, and is now planning for his Masters. For his sins, he says “Don’t judge me”, he’s a Liverpool supporter, and has been lucky enough to watch them at Anfield, and hopes to again, next season. With the Somerset Select fielding a strong looking team, being headed by both Paul Starke & Bradley Wilson Dean, Richard knew he would have a tough task on his hands, even with the Rebels Jake Allen, captaining and heading his septet. Apparently Richard was not shy about learning a few tricks from Garry May, and rumour has it that he stole a page from Mr May’s tactical playbook regarding dealing with a team with a particularly strong heat leader. As Garry has done on other occasions, he told his side not to worry if one of the particularly strong guys got out in front, let him go and concentrate on beating the other opponent, and not run a last place, in order to share the points, and then take your opportunities when they arise. As it had done for the Rebels on previous occasions, it looked as though it might also work for Richard, as his riders kept the match tight, until late in the piece. Jake Allen set the ball rolling for the NL side, as shot from trap four to come over the top of the field and lead every inch of the way in Heat 1. Paul Starke got away in third place, but passed his race partner, Luke Chessell, by the conclusion of the opening lap, and despite closing in the latter stages of the race, he could never get on terms with the flying Allen. Heat 2 saw Somerset asset, Nick Phillips, bolt from the gates to take a good lead over the first lap, and looked like he may start to run away with it until he almost came to grief when he got it all wrong on the second bend of lap two. How he managed to stay upright, only those with the foresight to correctly predict the winning lottery numbers would know. Hitting the fence, he allowed Shelby Rutherford through, before getting on an even keel and giving chase, but the damage was done, as Rutherford raced into a lead he was not to lose, giving the visitors another share of the points. Heat three looked to be shaping into a titanic battle between James Shanes and Darryl Ritchings, who fought out the first lap and three quarters, side-by-side, with no more than a cigarette paper’s width between the pair. That is until Shanes locked it up on bend three of Lap 2, and got spit out over the high side. The re-run took place without the excluded Shanes, but the new star of the show wasn’t Ritchings, but Connor Mountain, the current Mildenhall ‘Number One’ He flashed from the traps, and was never headed, and with Ritchings taking third place behind the rapid Rob Shuttleworth, the NL Select, with Richard Hayes at the helm, headed the Somerset Select by a score of 8-10. Heat 4 saw Bradley Wilson Dean, pour on the coals from the first turn, leaving the remaining trio floundering in his wake, but the visitors had heeded their Team Manager, and filled the places to retain their lead. Not content with a two point lead, the NL select, doubled that in Heat 5, again courtesy of a flying Jake Allen getaway. Whilst Allen, who was trying out a new engine, cruised to victory, it was that man Shuttleworth who took second place for Somerset. James Shanes appeared to be suffering the after effects of his earlier hard fall, as he struggled to keep tabs on Ben Hopwood, leaving the NL Select to grab another advantage.

If our ‘Guest Team Manager’ was starting to feel the warm glow of success creep through his body, Paul Starke and Luke Chessell were on hand to administer the Ice Cold Dagger of speedway reality. Starke bolted from the line faster than a cheetah on roller skates, and as soon as Chessell joined him off the second turn, and beat of the second lap challenge of Dan Greenwood, the Somerset side had levelled the scores at 18-points each. A shared heat followed, before Somerset put their foot on the gas, opening up a 6-point lead by Heat 10. The shared Heat 7 came from the tactic of letting the very fast starting Bradley Wilson-Dean go into a big lead, whilst Darryl Ritchings and Connor Mountain contained Nick Phillips to nullify the flying Wilson-Dean’s win. Heat 8 saw the first of three straight 4-2’s from the home side, the first coming after a ding-dong battle saw Luke Chessell finally get the better of Ben Hopwood to take the win, but what looked like a nailed on shared heat, was quickly turned on its head, when Ryan Terry-Daley, who for a long time had been some way behind, suddenly conjured up a big run off the final two bends to grab third, right in the shadows of the winning post, from Shelby Rutherford. Dan Greenwood careered off the tapes to easily lead up Heat 9, but as they hit the back straight Rob Shuttleworth came with a storming run to cruise into the lead. James Shanes took third to give Somerset another heat advantage, but that advantage could have been a 4-point one, had the Dorset youngsters powerful burst over the closing turns, not just failed by inches at the flag. The field broke level in the next, with all four contesting the first turn together. Connor Mountain and Darryl Ritchings just lead at the turn, but neither had any answer to Paul Starke, who came with a wet sail, charging into the lead around the widest of lines as they ran to the back straight for the first time. By this time Luke Chessell was at the back, with the NL pairing holding a comfortable second and third, that is until Ritchings inexplicably dropped it on the final bend to gift Chessell the point. Heat 11 saw the NL Select strike back with an advantage of their own, when Jake Allen got over the top of Bradley Wilson-Dean in the first turn to grab the decisive advantage. Wilson-Dean could not strike a blow back, as Allen took the win, with Ben Hopwood easily taking third from Nick Phillips. Another shared heat followed, but it was far from a dull affair. At the front of the pack, Connor Mountain and Rob Shuttleworth hammered it out, with first one and then the other grabbing the lead, at the same time you needed two pairs of eyes to watch a similar battle unfold, this time between Ryan Terry-Daley and Shelby Rutherford. The upshot was that Connor Mountain headed battle one, with Terry-Daley winning out over Rutherford. Shared Heat equals Boring Speedway? Not on your life! If Heat 12 was good, there are no words to describe the top Heat of the night, so I won’t! Seriously though, it was a stunner. Jake Allen led up with a jet propelled start, which ordinarily might have won him the race, but before he knew it, he was three abreast with Paul Starke and Bradley Wilson-Dean, careering into the third turn. Wilson-Dean then produced a move out of the very top drawer to hit the front, only to see Paul Starke charge under the pair at the very next bend to take up the running, but they were all three, still in a heap. Eventually Starke worked a lead, whilst the other two fought it out. Allen did get an opportunity later in the race, but as he delivered his run for second, a small error set him back a few yards, and the race was done. The maximum advantage gave the Somerset Select an 8-point lead, 43-35. Despite being behind, the NL select could still force a draw, but they would need to produce two maximum advantages to pull it off. They gave it a good go, but couldn’t quite make it. They did take an advantage in Heat 14, but came up short with a 4-2. Darryl Ritchings led up, with James Shanes in close order, and Shelby Rutherford in third. Whilst Shanes was close, he could never quite get to Ritchings, but neither was he in any danger of falling into the clutches of Rutherford, who had his own hands full fending off Nick Phillips, until Phillips fell at the end of the third lap. In doing so he also denied a re-run, as he quickly cleared the track. Heat 15 promised to be a cracker, with a virtual repeat of Heat 13, this time with the addition of Connor Mountain in place of Greenwood. Once again Jake Allen trapped into the lead, but that lasted only to the second bend. As Allen moved wide to block the outside run of Paul Starke, Bradley Wilson-Dean made a stunning cut back from gate 4, to charge up Allen’s inside on the second turn and grab the lead, not to be outdone, Allen then switched back inside, and replicated the move, on Wilson-Dean, on the very next turn. Unfortunately they got very close, and Wilson-Dean went down, with the close following Starke, quickly laying down his machine to avoid a serious accident. The outcome was an exclusion for Allen, with Wilson-Dean and Starke walking back to the pits under their own steam, but the bad news didn’t end there for Richard Hayes, and his NL Select side, for in the re-run, Connor Mountain got no further than the first turn, before his machine gave up the ghost, grinding to a halt at the next. Somerset duly raced to an unopposed 5-0, to leave the scores at 50-39. Despite the 11-point loss, the NL Select had put up a great fight and not a bad result for a budding Team Manger, well done Richard. Of the NL riders on show, the two who impressed the most were Connor Mountain for the NL Select, with 9, paid 10, and Rob Shuttleworth for Somerset, whose 9-point haul belies his fourth spot in the Belle Vue Colts averages.

Next week, the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels will be back in action, with a home meeting on Friday against Rye House, before they make the long trip to Workington the following evening.

Race statistics.

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Somerset Select - 50

1. Paul Starke - 2, 3, 3, 3, 3 = 14

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2. Luke Chessell - 1*, 2*, 3, 1 = 7+2

3. Rob Shuttleworth - 2, 2, 3, 2 = 9

4. James Shanes - Flx, 0, 1, 2 = 3

5. Bradley Wilson-Dean - 3, 3, 2, 2*, 2* = 12+2

6. Nick Phillips - 2, 0, 0, F = 2

7. Ryan Terry-Daley - 1*, 0, 1, 1* = 3+2

NL Select - 39

1. Jake Allen - 3, 3, 3, 1, X = 10

2. Ben Hopwood - 0, 1, 2, 1 = 4

3. Connor Mountain - 3, 1*, 2, 3, R = 9+1

4. Darryl Ritchings - 1, 2, F, 3 = 6

5. Dan Greenwood - 2, 1, 2, 0 = 5

6. Bradley Andrews - 0, 0, 0 = 0

7. Shelby Rutherford - 3, 1*, 0, 0, 1 = 5+1

SCB Referee: Chris Gay

Heat Details

Heat 01: Allen, Starke, Chessell, Hopwood (3-3) (3-3) 57.12

Heat 02: Rutherford, Phillips, Terry-Daley, Andrews (3-3) (6-6) 62.50

Heat 03: Mountain, Shuttleworth, Ritchings, Shanes (Flx) (2-4) (8-10) 59.37

Heat 04: Wilson-Dean, Greenwood, Rutherford, Terry-Daley (3-3) (11-13) 58.66

Heat 05: Allen, Shuttleworth, Hopwood, Shanes (2-4) (13-17) 58.22

Heat 07: Wilson-Dean, Ritchings, Mountain, Phillips (3-3) (21-21) 58.25

Heat 06: Starke, Chessell, Greenwood, Andrews (5-1) (18-18) 58.06

Heat 08: Chessell, Hopwood, Terry-Daley, Rutherford (4-2) (25-23) 61.34

Heat 09: Shuttleworth, Greenwood, Shanes, Andrews (4-2) (29-25) 60.44

Heat 10: Starke, Mountain, Chessell, Ritchings (Fell) (4-2) (33-27) 57.56

Heat 11: Allen, Wilson-Dean, Hopwood, Phillips (2-4) (35-31) 59.31

Heat 12: Mountain, Shuttleworth, Terry-Daley, Rutherford (3-3) (38-34) 60.62

Heat 13: Starke, Wilson-Dean, Allen, Greenwood (5-1) (43-35) 59.09

Heat 14: Ritchings, Shanes, Rutherford, Phillips (Fell) (2-4) (45-39) 60.88

Heat 15: Starke, Wilson-Dean, Mountain (R), Allen (Exl) (5-0) (50-39) 59.38

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