Somerset Rebels put visiting Belle Vue Aces to the sword
- Credit: Archant
There’s an old saying in sport, which goes something like ‘You can only beat what’s in front of you’, and that’s is exactly what a full strength ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels did on Friday evening at the Oaktree Arena, when they put a depleted Belle Vue Aces to the sword, writes Dave Thompson.
The Aces arrived at the Highbridge circuit, minus Kenneth Bjerre, who was competing in the Danish National Championship Final, and Max Fricke, his absence being caused by a neck injury sustained in Sweden on Thursday evening. David Bellego stood in for Bjerre, with Fricke’s rides being covered by Rider Replacement. Just minutes before the meeting was due to start, the Aces suffered another blow, when former Rebel Rohan Tungate was ruled out with a leg injury, suffered the evening before whilst taking a guest booking for the Leicester Lions at Swindon. Aces Team Manager, Mark Lemon, said afterwards that Tungate had intended to ride, but during the day the injury, a very badly bruised and swollen leg, had got gradually worst, and when he, Tungate, had reported to the paramedic to have the leg strapped, he had been ruled out as unfit to ride. This left the Aces unable to track a rider in three of Tungate’s four rides, with the other being covered by a reserve.
The Rebels started the meeting in top gear, providing the winners of the first four heats and taking heat advantages in each, as they quickly raced to a 12-point lead. Richard Lawson made a lightning start to Heat one, getting better of the fast starting David Bellego into the first turn. Cameron Heeps was not far away in third. Bellego pressed Lawson hard for all four laps, and at the same time had Cameron Heeps applying the same pressure from behind. Bellego did enough to keep Heeps at bay, before throwing in a late, powerful run around the outer of the final two bends. As good as that run was, Lawson had it all under control as he flashed across the line to take the win.
The reserve pairing of Jake Allen and Lewis Kerr were rapidly into their stride in Heat 2, with Allen cutting off the Aces Dan Bewley at the turn. Meanwhile, Kerr had an unfettered run around the wide line to take up the running as they headed down the back straight. Bewley is an unquestioned talent, but no matter how good he is, he is at the mercy of his machinery, and it was one of the simplest components that let him down, as he suffered a puncture to end his participation on the third lap, leaving the Rebels to take a maximum advantage unchallenged.
A second full house quickly followed; when another rapid exit saw the Rebels Duo of Charles Wright and Patrick Hougaard dominate the Aces pairing of Steve Worrall and Dan Bewley, in for Fricke and Tungate respectively. As the Rebels pair pulled well clear, Bewley took a fall as he entered the second lap, and was excluded. The re-run was a carbon copy of the first start, and the home duo raced to a very easy maximum advantage.
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For the third race on the turn, the Rebels hit the front early, but not before the original start had been called back after an unsatisfactory start. As the re-run got underway, Lewis Kerr and Josh Grajczonek made the early running from Craig Cook. Grajczonek flew to the front down the back straight, with Kerr just holding off Cook. As they made their way to the completion of the lap, Cook threw in a challenge for second but was held off by Kerr, before powering past the Kings Lynn born rider, to take up the chase on Grajczonek. Cook may be the Oaktree Arena track record holder, but that counted for nothing as Grajczonek cleverly held him off with plenty in hand.
Now in tactical territory, Mark Lemon took the strange decision not to throw it in straight away, and it proved a costly mistake as the Aces hit back in Heat 5, posting their first of two maximums on the evening. As the tapes rose, their pairing of Steve Worrall and David Bellego bolted from the traps to lead up Charles Wright and Patrick Hougaard. Bellego took up the running on the outside line of bend three, and apart from a brief moment, as Charles Wright closed down Worrall on the second circuit, they went on to take maximum points, virtually unchallenged.
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Normal service was quickly resumed for the Rebels in the next heat. Richard Lawson again made a rapid start, this time beating Craig Cook and Cameron Heeps into the turn. Heeps got up the inside of Cook in the second turn but could make it stick. From that point on, Cook was all over Lawson, but the Rebels man rode a superb race to see off all challenges from his fellow Cumbrian. Cook tried every line in the book, but Lawson covered them all to pull off a superb win, with Cameron Heeps taking third to give the Rebels another heat advantage.
With the Aces now being back in tactical territory, Mark Lemon again made a strange decision, as he sent out Craig Cook for Max Fricke, wearing the Black and White helmet, in a heat where he could only track one rider in the absence of Rohan Tungate, and again it was to prove a costly error. The field broke level, but Josh Grajczonek did just enough to get over the top of Cook and clamp him hard to the kerb. Meanwhile, Jake Allen had a free run around the wide outside, and made full use of it, powering to the front, off the second bend. Cook gave chase to the Rebels skipper, but had no answer to the Australian, who covered every move with some ease, allowing Allen to race away to a fast time, and leave the Aces tactical move in tatters.
Dan Bewley was introduced into Heat 8, in a reserve switch, taking the place of Jack Smith, who had replaced him in Heat 6. From the tape rise, it was the Rebels who made the best start, with both Aces close up. Down the back straight Lewis Kerr took up the running, with the other three racing together. Bewley and Heeps had a coming together, as the young Ace hit into the side of Heeps, causing him to drop to the rear of the field. The Rebels man was quickly back into his stride, and moved past Bewley to join Steve Worrall in a battle for second place. The pair raced side-by-side over the second lap, with just inches separating them. Heeps rode a wide line, forcing Worrall even wider in his attempt to pass to wrest second place away from Heeps. As they hit the third lap, Worrall switched his attack to the inside, and again was alongside Heeps entering the back straight. It was a titanic battle that had everyone on the edge of their seats, until Heeps eventually prevailed as Worrall again switched to the outside down the back straight, where he appeared to hit the fence, causing him to lift. From the outside, it looked as though Worrall would fall, but he kept it running to complete the race in third place, as the Rebels posted their fourth maximum of the night.
Heat 9 was shared, but not before the Rebels had again led up on a maximum advantage, with Craig Cook in third. Cook quickly chased down Patrick Hougaard, and cut up his inside as they negotiated the final bend of the opening lap. He was soon on the wheel of Charles Wright, and this time took the outside route, throwing in his initial challenge on the opening turns of the second lap, before completing the task into the third turn. It was a superb ride from Cook and one which thoroughly deserved the win, but in truth it did nothing for the Aces cause, only preventing them from slipping further behind.
After suffering a retirement, a fall and two last places, the talent of Dan Bewley finally shone through as he showed what he can do in Heat 10. As the only representative for the Aces in the race, it didn’t get off to a good start for him, as the Rebels duo of Cameron Heeps and Richard Lawson led up, with Heeps taking up the running inside the turn. Bewley was close, and was soon in second place as he accounted for the rapid Lawson in the next bend. By the third turn, he was challenging Heeps, but was held off by the Rebels man. Undeterred, Bewley pressed Heeps all the way, never giving him a moment’s peace. Although he never fully got in a blow on Heeps, he was clear of Lawson, and finished second to Heeps, in a time that equalled that of Craig Cook in the previous race.
The Aces pulled back a couple of points in the next race, as Steve Worrall took the win, having been somewhat disappointing to this point. At tape rise, it was Josh Grajczonek who raced to the turn alongside Worrall and his partner David Bellego, with Grajczonek hitting the front as the Aces pair got in each other’s way. It was Worrall who emerged from the tangle, powering down the back straight to grab the lead as they entered the third bend. At the same time, Jake Allen, having made a slow start, challenged Bellego on the back straight, but was held off. He wasn’t completely done, for as Bellego was engaged in a battle with Grajczonek for second place, Allen closed again on the third lap, but just couldn’t find the drive to put himself in a position where he could get in a meaningful challenge. The fight between Grajczonek and Bellego was a superb spectacle, with the Frenchman pressuring Grajczonek all the way, giving him no respite whatsoever. As they entered the final phase of the race, Bellego threw in one final thrust, with a powerful run at Grajczonek, he closed with every turn of the wheels, but it was the Rebels captain who just prevailed as the flag fell.
The balance was quickly restored as the home side countered the heat advantage with one of their own. Charles Wright and Patrick Hougaard face the Aces reserve pairing of Dan Bewley and Jack Smith, in what appeared to be a one sided match up. However, the visitors shocked the crowd as they broke on a maximum advantage. That advantage was very quickly nullified, as the Rebels duo swamped Smith on the opening lap. At the front Bewley was making the best of his way home at a very rapid rate of knots. It was Wright who gave chase, but it took him another lap before he was on terms with Bewley, and the very final turn of that lap before he was able to move by the young British flyer. Although Bewley couldn’t get back on terms with Wright, he was never far away, and in the end, easily outpaced Hougaard for second place.
Heat 13 proved to be a bright spot for the Aces, in a night of little light in their camp. The whole field broke level, and contested a very closely fought first turn, before David Bellego and Craig Cook emerged in front of Richard Lawson and Josh Grajczonek. Once at the head of affairs the race was effectively over, as neither Rebel could get back on terms. Although both gave chase, there was little they could do to apply any pressure to the Aces duo, and the race ran out to the inevitable conclusion, with Lawson taking third, as Grajczonek retired late in the affair.
The final two races went the way of the Rebels, but they weren’t without excitement, as both races featured some good battling rides. In Heat 14, it was Jake Allen who made the best use of a level break, as he led into the turn from reserve switch, and only Aces rider, Dan Bewley, and Patrick Hougaard. Bewley quickly closed on Allen, as the pair engaged in a heat long battle for supremacy. Allen held sway, and never gave Bewley a sniff of a chance to grab the lead, but that didn’t deter the young Maryport born rider, who kept up the pressure all the way to the flag, again outpacing Hougaard for the second time in two rides. It was superb finish to Bewley’s night, with three fabulous and hard fought second places after a stuttering start to his meeting.
The final heat of the night also proved to be a land mark for another reserve, this time the Rebels very own Jake Allen. Allen had had a terrific night, and was duly rewarded with a final heat spot alongside another having a good night, Cameron Heeps. The Aces tracked the powerful duo of Craig Cook and David Bellego as their representatives. The original start was pulled back after a jump start by Cook, but as the re-run got underway the Rebels pairing hit the front at the turn.
Heeps was quick to get over the top of Cook and clamp him on the kerb, allowing Allen a relatively free run around the outside line. In stopping Cook’s run, Heeps left himself open to attack from Bellego, but he held firm to fend off the Aces guest. Cameron Heeps immediately came under pressure from both Aces men, but it wasn’t until another lap had gone by that Bellego finally made the pass. Heeps wasn’t going to lie down, and was straight back at Bellego as they hit the final turn of Lap 2, but couldn’t make the move stick. With Allen now in the wind, and Bellego giving a forlorn chase, the race settled with Cook at the rear and try as he might, he could make no inroads into Heeps third place, and retired between the final turn and the flag on the final lap.
It had been something day for Allen, as not only had he top scored for the Rebels, it was thought to be his first Heat 15 win, and he had been part of the team that had finished fourth in the Rebels Golf day, which had taken place early in the day at the local Brean Golf Club.
The Rebels had given an all-round team performance, with all contributing to the win, recording eleven heat wins, eleven heat advantages, four maximum advantages, and only two last places on the evening.
For the Aces, the bulk of their scoring had come from David Bellego (11pts), and Craig Cook (10+1). In the end, Dan Bewley had shown what he is capable of, and is a fantastic prospect for the future. Undoubtedly the Aces were hampered by the late withdrawal of Rohan Tungate, but it has to be said that it is conjecture to say that they lost the match because of his absence. Without question, had he ridden and recorded four wins, the Aces would have taken the win and the points, but considering his injury, and the superb form, fast starting and determination of the Rebels on the evening, he would probably have been hard pressed to produce anything like that standard, despite being in a good run of form himself of late.
The Rebels next outing will be on Monday, when they will be the visitors at Kings Lynn for the live televised BT Sport match, before returning to the Oaktree Arena on Wednesday for the previously postponed and rearranged match up with Wolverhampton.
Somerset – 55
1. Richard Lawson - 3, 3, 1, 1 = 8
2. Cameron Heeps - 1, 1, 2*, 3, 1 = 8+1
3. Charles Wright - 3, 1, 2, 3 = 9
4. Patrick Hougaard - 2*, 0, 1*, 1 = 4+2
5. Josh Grajczonek - 3, 2*, 2, R = 7+1
6. Jake Allen - 2*, 3, 0, 3, 3 = 11+1
7. Lewis Kerr - 3, 1, 3, 1 = 8
Belle Vue – 35
1. David Bellego (G) - 2, 3, 1, 3, 2 = 11
2. Steve Worrall - 0, 1, 2*, 1, 3 = 7+1
3. Max Fricke – Rider Replacement
4. Rohan Tungate – (WITHDRAWN) DNR, DNR, DNR = 0
5. Craig Cook - 2, 2, 1^, 3, 2*, R = 10+1
6. Dan Bewley - R, Flx, 0, 0, 2, 2, 2 = 6
7. Jack Smith - 1, 0, 0, 0 = 1
SCB Referee: Tony Steele
Heat 01: Lawson, Bellego, Heeps, Worrall (4-2) (4-2) 57.93
Heat 02: Kerr, Allen, Smith, Bewley (Ret) (5-1) (9-3) 57.41
Heat 03: Wright, Hougaard, Worrall, Bewley (Flx) (5-1) (14-4) 57.13
Heat 04: Grajczonek, Cook, Kerr, Smith (4-2) (18-6) 57.62
Heat 05: Bellego, Worrall, Wright, Hougaard (1-5) (19-11) 56.87
Heat 06: Lawson, Cook, Heeps, Smith (4-2) (23-13) 57.30
Heat 07: Allen, Grajczonek, Cook (Tactical) (5-1) (28-14) 57.00
Heat 08: Kerr, Heeps, Worrall, Bewley (5-1) (33-15) 58.19
Heat 09: Cook, Wright, Hougaard, Bewley (3-3) (36-18) 58.68
Heat 11: Worrall, Grajczonek, Bellego, Allen (2-4) (42-24) 58.03
Heat 12: Wright, Bewley, Kerr, Smith (4-2) (46-26) 58.56
Heat 13: Bellego, Cook, Lawson, Grajczonek (Ret) (1-5) (47-31) 57.87
Heat 14: Allen, Bewley, Hougaard (4-2) (51-33) 58.75
Heat 15: Allen, Bellego, Heeps, Cook (Ret) (4-2) (55-35) 58.22