Somerset Rebels race to KO Cup semi-final first leg success

Action from the Somerset Rebels KO Cup 1st leg win over Belle Vue Aces. Picture: COLIN BURNETT

Action from the Somerset Rebels KO Cup 1st leg win over Belle Vue Aces. Picture: COLIN BURNETT - Credit: Archant

What a difference a month makes! This time last month, the Belle Vue Aces inflicted the only home league defeat this season on the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels, when they triumphed 42-48, writes Dave Thompson.

Action from the Somerset Rebels KO Cup 1st leg win over Belle Vue Aces. Picture: COLIN BURNETT

Action from the Somerset Rebels KO Cup 1st leg win over Belle Vue Aces. Picture: COLIN BURNETT - Credit: Archant

But on Wednesday evening, in the initial leg of the SGB Premiership KO Cup semi-final, the Rebels repaid that reversal in emphatic style, despite losing their leader and reigning World Champion, Jason Doyle, after he had completed only two of his four programmed rides, to win 52-38.

The Aces arrived minus injury victim, the hugely talented, Dan Bewley, whilst the Rebels were, to begin with, at full strength. Belle Vue took the Rider Replacement facility to cover Bewley’s absence, with all but their top two riders, Max Fricke and Craig Cook, eligible to take his rides.

The meeting got underway with a called back heat and a warning for Bradley Wilson-Dean for moving at the start. Undeterred, Wilson-Dean made a superb start in the re-run, leading on the run to the turn, with the remaining trio getting away to a level break. Jason Doyle stayed out wide, and by the mid-point of the back straight he was clear of Steve Worrall, taking the replacement ride, and Max Fricke. He soon joined Wilson-Dean at the front, as the pair blocked out the opposition, with a great team ride to give the Rebels an opening ‘Full House’.

Another advantage looked on the cards in the initial stages of Heat 2, as Jake Allen made a rocket start to lead before the bend, with Aaron Summers looking to take second place, as he battled Dimitri Berge in the curve. His cause was done no favours as he locked up badly in the middle of the turn, causing him to drop to the rear. As hard as he tried, Summers could not recover from the mistake, while he did briefly challenge Mark Riss on the second lap. Berge kept Allen up to his work, although the Rebels man won with plenty in hand.

Action from the Somerset Rebels KO Cup 1st leg win over Belle Vue Aces. Picture: COLIN BURNETT

Action from the Somerset Rebels KO Cup 1st leg win over Belle Vue Aces. Picture: COLIN BURNETT - Credit: Archant

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Unlike his first ride, Steve Worrall made a rapid exit from the tapes in Heat 3, leading for all four laps. Richard Lawson and Nico Covatti led up Rohan Tungate, with Lawson making second place his own. Tungate, for his part, made a good run outside of the fourth turn, to demote Covatti to the rear, before the opening lap was complete. From there on it was ‘as you were’, all the way to the chequered flag, as the Aces cut the Rebels small lead in half.

Heat 4 took two attempts to get underway, with Mark Riss taking a huge flyer to destroy the tapes in the original start, earning him an exclusion. Dimitri Berge took his place in the restart but it was Aaron Summers, making up for his Heat 2 run, who made the gate, to lead up from the other three riders. With Berge running to the fence in the opening turns, Jack Holder was all set to follow Summers through, only to find Craig Cook up his inside and Berge up the outside, as he was shuffled to the back. If they thought Holders was done, they had to think again as he carved between them off the final turn of the lap. That only served to fire up Cook, who charged under Holder into the second turn of the next lap, before running him hard to the fence as they hit the back straight. With Summers making the best of his way home, Holder stuck to the back of Cook like a limpet but despite a final lap challenge, could not win back second place.

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Mark Riss, in as rider replacement, flew from the tapes to lead up Heat 5, with Max Fricke making it a 5-1 for Belle Vue, as he powered to the front down the back straight. However, that was as good as it got for the Aces, as first Richard Lawson pushed Riss back to third on the second lap, before Nico Covatti completed Riss’s journey from first to last, passing the Memmingen born rider, up his inner, on the penultimate lap to give the Rebels a share of the points.

The Aces once again cut the home sides lead in half as they took the heat advantage in Heat 6. Jason Doyle had made a speedy start, only to see a very wide running Craig Cook sail down his outer as they ran the back straight. Once at the front, Cook showed blinding speed to pull well clear, inflicting a massive defeat on the World Champion. He won by almost the whole length of a straight, with no one in the field able to match his pace. Dimitri Berge also took the wide line but his outside challenge on Doyle at the close of the lap was easily repelled as they reached the opening turns of lap two. Bradley Wilson-Dean, who had been a virtual spectator in the first half of the race, put in a real shift in the second half, closing down Berge as he went but in spite of his hard work, the Aces man had his measure to give Belle Vue a 4-2.

Up to this point the visitors had kept the Rebels on a tight leash but relaxed their hold slightly and the Rebels pounced immediately. Jack Holder trapped quickly to just get the better of Steve Worrall into the first bend of the next heat. As soon as they hit the turn, Jake Allen headed for the dirt and running hard up against the fence, he came with a wet sail down the back straight to sweep by both Worrall and Rohan Tungate before the third turn. Holder also took to the wide line, ramping up the speed as he went. Tungate took up the chase and although he closed Allen on the final lap of the race, he could never get on terms, as the Rebels hammered home a maximum advantage.

Aaron Summers hit the front early in Heat 8, clamping Mark Riss to the kerb on the opening curve. Rohan Tungate was out again, taking the replacement ride, and as he hit the turn he ran Bradley Wilson-Dean wide. The move didn’t have the desired effect, as it only served to push Wilson-Dean into the fast dirt line by the fence. The two times New Zealand Champion took full advantage, charging to the front as they negotiated the back straight. Tungate, who was now in last place, was quick to see the move and followed Wilson-Dean’s lead, moving out to wide to the fence. He built up his speed, firstly pushing Riss back to last place, before storming past Summers on the second lap. Over the next two laps, he appeared to be reeling in Wilson-Dean and was in a position to throw in his challenge, coming hard up the inside of bend three, only for the Rebels man to block him out and take a great win.

Regardless of lifting off the start, Craig Cook was still fast enough to the turn to lead Heat 9 from Richard Lawson and Dimitri Berge. Nico Covatti wasn’t far behind and at the curve he ran for the dirt, stoking up the fires with a powerful back straight run, which almost carried him into the lead. Cook fended off the third bend challenge, and from that point on, pulled away to take a comfortable win to signal the start of a run of four shared heats.

In Heat 10, a potential disaster struck to Rebels. Jason Doyle, Bradley Wilson-Dean and Rohan Tungate made a fairly level break and all three arrived at the first bend together. Things got very tight and it appeared that there was slight contact between Tungate on the inner, and Wilson-Dean racing in the middle of the trio. The contact sent Wilson-Dean into the path of Doyle, coming round the outside, and the pair tangled and careered into the air fence in a horrendous high speed crash. Both were down for a while, before Doyle first and the Wilson-Dean eventually got to their feet and walked back to the pits under their own steam. The meeting was delayed, as Doyle was seen by the meeting medical staff, eventually withdrawing from the meeting, having sustained a hip injury. Wilson-Dean was able to carry on, but his machine wasn’t so lucky and in a post meeting interview he estimated the repair bill would run to almost £1000.

Jake Allen was brought in as the Injured Rider Replacement and took Doyle’s place in the re-run but as the tapes rose it was Tungate who made the break, with Allen and Wilson-Dean in pursuit. Wilson-Dean took the widest of lines but to no avail as Tungate was sitting comfortably with a clear track in front of him. At the flag, Allen took second and Wilson-Dean third, with Steve Worrall never getting in the hunt, for a second successive shared heat.

Heat 11 saw Jake Allen back at the tapes for a normal programmed ride but unlike the previous heat, he got no further than the third turn. His race partner, Jack Holder, made a flashing start to lead up from the rider replacement, Dimitri Berge and Max Fricke. As Allen dropped the clutch, his machine lurched forwards and came to a halt and then seemed to spring into life, before slowing to a crawl. Once again it sparked into life, before slowing again down the back straight, causing Allen to give it best and pull off the track. In the meantime, Holder was making the best of a very comfortable way home and although Berge gave chase, he never got on a blow.

For the third successive heat, Jake Allen was in the line up, after Nico Covatti had failed to appear on track before the 2 minutes time allowance had expired. Thankfully for the young Australian, there was no repeat of his earlier mechanical ills. He blazed from the gate to take up the running well before the first bend, leaving another returnee, Dimitri Berge, and Steve Worrall and in his wake. Aaron Summers was last away but was close enough to Worrall to mount a challenge on the inner of Bend 3. However, he was unable to make it through but on the second turn of the next lap, he was through into third place, only to lose out to the wide running Worrall as they approached the third curve. That was how the race settled, with the fourth shared heat on the bounce.

Heat 13 brought Richard Lawson to the tapes, alongside Jack Holder, to deputise for Jason Doyle. But the race took some while to get started. Firstly, just as the two minutes ran out, Craig Cook’s second machine, the first having suffered mechanical problems, stopped, leaving him not under power, literally as the light went out. Having then got his machine started, Mark Lemon send him back out, to start off a 15-metre handicap. There then followed a few minutes of confusion about which gates the riders should start from, until the realisation that the rules had been changed for this season, and there was no necessity to change the gate order and the race got underway.

As the tapes rose, Max Fricke bolted from the gates to lead the field into the turn but he had no answer to Jack Holder’s storming back straight run. Holder was second away and as they hit the turn he was only heading for one place, the line around the fence. He charged off the second turn, sweeping past Fricke, almost as if the Aces man was stood still. Holder started to pull out a discernible gap but almost immediately his machine started to pour out smoke and the further he went the worse it got. He looked like a lone ‘Red Arrow’, trailing his plume of smoke, as all the Rebels fans held their breath, hoping against hope that his bike wouldn’t go bang. Their prayers were answered as Holder crossed the line with his machine intact. The problem later diagnosed as a split oil line, leaking oil onto the hot exhaust. Lawson took a comfortable third place, untroubled by a tailed off Cook, who ended his race by retiring in the final bend of the contest.

The Rebels had broken the deadlock, moving into a handy 10-point lead, but they weren’t finished yet. Richard Lawson quickly returned to the track to partner Jake Allen in Heat 14. Both were fast away at the tape rise but it was Allen who prevailed at the bend. Leaving Lawson to battle it out with Dimitri Berge, who had also made a good start. Down the back straight Lawson secured second place but a determined Berge kept up the pressure and on the third turn moved to the outside of Lawson, who promptly ran wide out of the turn to chop off his run, in a hard but fair move. That was the end of the Young Frenchman’s resistance, as he never troubled the Worcestershire based rider again, leaving the Rebels to extend their lead by a further 4-points as they banked their third maximum advantage of the night.

Heat 15 had a strange look about it, especially from the Rebels point of view, with Jason Doyle sidelined and Jack Holder’s machines not mechanically ready, it was the previous heat pairing, Richard Lawson and Jake Allen, who came out to do battle. The Aces also left out Craig Cook, who like Holder, didn’t have a machine he could race, so Mark Lemon elected to run Max Fricke and Rohan Tungate.

As the tapes flew, so did Fricke and Lawson, but it was Jake Allen who surprised them all with a fantastic burst around the outside, which first carried him into second place behind Fricke and then as he kept it wide, building speed as he went, put him within striking distance of the Belle Vue top man. Approaching the third turn on the penultimate lap, Allen was tracking Fricke and as the Victoria born rider moved off the inside line, Allen, as quick as a flash, spotted his opportunity and switched direction in an instant as, in his signature move, he dive bombed under Fricke to take the lead with a sublime cut back and block pass. It was a move that Allen himself later admitted he had not been able to use all year. He pulled out a gap to Fricke and as he crossed the line, his joy was there for all to see, as he gave a jubilant punch of the air. Behind the pair, Tungate and Lawson were having a battle of their own, they passed each other a couple of times, with Tungate just getting the better of the deal with a wide run off the final turn only just sneak the place.

Whilst the Rebels now have a good lead to take into the second leg, after a fabulous 52-38 win, the final result didn’t reflect the fantastic standard of racing throughout the whole meeting, a standard that both teams had contributed too in equal parts. Passes were made on all lines from inside to out and there were fantastic battles all through both teams, a testament to the hard work put in by the track curator and his team. After the problems suffered earlier in the season, they have now brought the track back to somewhere near its very best.

Mark Lemon stated after the meeting, and in no way making any excuses, the Aces had had their fair share of problems on the evening but conceded they had been beaten fair and square. His top three riders, along with reserve, Dimitri Berge, had all contributed at least 8-points, but it hadn’t been enough.

After losing Jason Doyle, the Rebels might have struggled, but it’s a measure of the spirit in the team that they all pulled together to ensure that his loss would cause minimum disruption. Everyone contributed with points but the undoubted star of the show was Jake Allen. Jake, by his own admission, has had an up and down season but has got it all together at the right part of the season and in his last two matches as shown why the Rebels signed him in the first place. For the second week running, not only had he produced the top score (16+1), he also, like the last meeting, carried off the ‘Somerset Rider of the Night’ award, this time in the absence of a meeting sponsor, chosen by none other than his team manager, Garry May.

The ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels will now carry a handy lead up to the National Speedway Stadium, for the return leg next Wednesday, but in spite of never having been beaten there by more than 8-points, Garry May and his charges will be taking nothing for granted, and as always, Garry’s attitude will be to go all out for the win.

Before then, the Rebels have a date with the Poole Pirates, as they contest the first leg of the Play Off Semi-Final, in a BT Sport televised meeting at the Oaktree Arena next Monday, the 17th September.

Meeting statistics

Somerset Rebels = 52

1. Jason Doyle - 2*, 2 = 4+1 (WITHDRAWN)

2. Bradley Wilson-Dean - 3, 0, 3, 1* = 7+1

3. Nico Covatti - 0, 1*, 2, X = 3+1

4. Richard Lawson - 2, 2, 1*, 1, 2*, 0 = 8+2

5. Jack Holder - 1, 3, 3, 3 = 10

6. Jake Allen - 3, 2*, 2, R, 3, 3, 3 = 16+1

7. Aaron Summers - 0, 3, 1, 0 = 4

Belle Vue Aces = 38

1. Max Fricke - 0, 3, 1*, 2, 2 = 8+1

2. Dan Bewley – Rider Replacement

3. Steve Worrall - 1, 3, 0, 0, 1* = 5+1

4. Rohan Tungate - 1, 1, 2, 3, 0, 1* = 8+1

5. Craig Cook - 2, 3, 3, R = 8

6. Dimitri Berge - 2, 0, 1, 0, 2, 2, 1 = 8

7. Mark Riss - 1*, X, 0, 0 = 1+1

Heat Results

Heat 01: (Re-Run) Wilson-Dean, Doyle, Worrall, Fricke (5-1) (5-1) 57.34

Heat 02: Allen, Berge, Riss, Summers (3-3) (8-4) 57.31

Heat 03: Worrall, Lawson, Tungate, Covatti (2-4) (10-8) 57.07

Heat 04: (Re-Run) Summers, Cook, Holder, Berge (for Riss, Exl – Tapes) (4-2) (14-10) 57.81

Heat 05: Fricke, Lawson, Covatti, Riss (3-3) (17-13) 58.12

Heat 06: Cook, Doyle, Berge, Wilson-Dean (2-4) (19-17) 57.07

Heat 07: Holder, Allen, Tungate, Worrall (5-1) (24-18) 58.37

Heat 08: Wilson-Dean, Tungate, Summers, Riss (4-2) (28-20) 59.12

Heat 09: Cook, Covatti, Lawson, Berge (3-3) (31-23) 58.38

Heat 10: (Re-Run) Tungate, Allen, Wilson-Dean, Worrall (3-3) (34-26) 58.75

Heat 11: Holder, Berge, Fricke, Allen (Retired) (3-3) (37-29) 59.25

Heat 12: Allen (for Covatti, Exl – 2min), Berge, Worrall, Summers (3-3) (40-32) 59.38

Heat 13: Holder, Fricke, Lawson, Cook (15mts) (Retired) (4-2) (44-34) 59.06

Heat 14: Allen, Lawson, Berge, Tungate (5-1) (49-35) 59.63

Heat 15: Allen, Fricke, Tungate, Lawson (3-3) (52-38) 59.30

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