Somerset Rebels race to victory over Birmingham Brummies

PUBLISHED: 10:09 13 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:23 15 July 2019

Somerset Rebels rider Todd Kurtz celebrates his Heat 1 win. Picture COLIN BURNETT

Somerset Rebels rider Todd Kurtz celebrates his Heat 1 win. Picture COLIN BURNETT

After stunning Scunthorpe by 20-points a week before, Garry May warned his men against any complacency against Birmingham and they duly delivered

Henry Atkins (B) leads Chris Harris (R), James Shanes (Y) & Ellis Perks (W) before his Heat 4 spectacular crash.  Picture COLIN BURNETTHenry Atkins (B) leads Chris Harris (R), James Shanes (Y) & Ellis Perks (W) before his Heat 4 spectacular crash. Picture COLIN BURNETT

Whilst Garry May was able to call upon the services of Ben Barker, to cover for the still recuperating Nico Covatti, the Brummies were plagued with a double injury problem, with both Ashley Morris and Tero Aarnio having failed late fitness tests. Aarnio aggravated a hand injury on his return for Belle Vue on Monday evening, following a recent spell on the sidelines, whilst Morris injured his thumb at Poole in June and it has still not recovered sufficiently for him to return. Ellis Perks was brought in to substitute for Morris, with Aarnio's rides being covered by Rider Replacement, with all the Brummies being able to take his rides.

Before the meeting, Rebels reserve, Henry Atkins paraded his senior 250cc ACU British Grass Track Championship winner's trophy before the crowd. At the tender age of eighteen, not only is Atkins British Champion, but this victory is totally unprecedented, as this was his third victory in this class, and he is the first rider ever to win the title three years in a row.

The Rebels started in tremendous fashion, when Todd Kurtz, who has been suffering of late, burst from the gate to lead the field to the turn. Rory Schlein got the better of Adam Ellis in the first bend and dropped in behind the flying Kurtz. Ellis did close Schlein down slightly in the latter stages but he could never fully get on terms and the Rebels duo ran out to a bloodless maximum points deposit to open their account on the night. The Brummies latest signing, along with Danyon Hume, Nick Agertoft, was last away and never saw the light of day.

The other new Brummies signing, Danyon Hume blasted from the gate to lead the way in Heat 2, with Anders Rowe and James Shanes battling for second place, whilst Henry Atkins at the rear, was slowly away. Rowe soon got the upper hand over Shanes and set off in pursuit of Hume. Meanwhile, Atkins slowed dramatically in the opening turns of the third lap and it appeared as though he would pull up. Almost as suddenly, his machine picked up again and he was back at full speed but too far behind to make any impression. As this was going on, Rowe had closed down Hume and heading down the back straight for the last time, he powered up the inside of his rival, stunning him with a great pass inside the third bend, to fly into the lead and take the win, amid cheers from the home fans.

Chris Harris (B) and Rory Schlein (R) tie up Heat 15 over Paco Castagna (W) anf Ellis Perks (Y) Picture HAGGIS HARTMANChris Harris (B) and Rory Schlein (R) tie up Heat 15 over Paco Castagna (W) anf Ellis Perks (Y) Picture HAGGIS HARTMAN

The original running of Heat 3 was called back by the referee, Dave Robinson, and Paco Castagna was issued with a warning for moving at the start. As the tapes rose for the re-run, it was Rebels guest, Ben Barker, who was quickest into his stride, leading before they reached the bend. Valentin Grobauer and Ellis Perks contested second place, with the latter just getting the upper hand before Grobauer threw in an unsuccessful challenge on the inside of the second curve. The German's participation in the race was short-lived, as his machine slowed on the next lap and he was forced to retire a lap later. With Barker long gone, the race points were shared, with Castagna bagging a fortunate third place.

After not getting in the race in Heat 2, Henry Atkins fortunes appeared to have changed for the better as he muscled his way to the front, in a battle of elbows with Ellis Perks, who was taking the replacement ride, in Heat 4. Chris Harris came next but by the time he reached the third bend, he had powered by Perks to settle in behind Atkins. The pair started to pull away and all looked set fair for a second Rebels maximum in just four heats. Then, as the field approached the third turn on the penultimate lap, disaster struck for the unfortunate Atkins. Coming off the third bend, he picked up a massive amount grip. His bike suddenly picked up with such speed, Atkins had no time to react or get off his steed. His errant machine, with the front wheel high in the air, sped across the bend and hammered high into the air fence on the fourth bend, with the airborne Atkins following suit. Fortunately for the Devon based rider, he somehow managed not to catapult over the top of the barrier, falling to the ground directly below his point of contact. It was a high speed, appalling and nasty looking crash & after the initial shock, the crowd fell silent. But to everyone's amazement, Atkins jumped straight back onto his feet, and followed by loud applause from the watching crowd, walked away to the pits as though nothing had happened. The race was immediately stopped and awarded, with shared points and the Rebels man being excluded.

A fourth shared heat followed, when Valentin Grobauer came out on top of a three-way battle to the first curve, with Adam Ellis and Nick Agertoft in pursuit. Grobauer, moving Ellis wide in the opening bends, led into the back straight but had no answer to the power of Ellis on the run to the third bend. At the same time, Ben Barker made a similar move on Agertoft, to move into third place. Grobauer gave chase to Ellis but the Marmande born rider had too much in hand and he never got in a blow. The race ran out without another change in the order, leaving the Rebels still 4-points to the good, 17-13.

Paco Castagna took the Tero Aarnio ride in Heat 6 but the best he could do was press the rapid starting Rory Schlein after the first curve. He kept up the pressure for a couple of laps before Schlein's superior speed took him away from the Italian to take a tape to flag win. Todd Kurtz, who was just last away, took his chance to grab third into the first bend and held the place to the flag to push the Rebels a further 2-points clear.

A tapes malfunction, with the outside not rising, caused a re-start of Heat 7. When the race eventually got underway, with the now repaired tape mechanism working perfectly, it was Chris Harris who got over the top of the fast starting Paco Castagna, clamping him hard to the kerb, as they raced into the first bend. With Ellis Perks beating Anders Rowe into the curve, the race was virtually settled from that point on. Harris pulled a gap and took a comfortable win, with Rowe chasing Perks with all he had, but never able to get in a blow and unable to prevent a shared heat.

The Brummies took advantage of more Henry Atkins misfortune to record a 2-4 win in Heat 8. James Shanes made a quick exit from the gate to lead up Todd Kurtz and Atkins. Kurtz gave chase and pressed Shanes all the way and at one point was right on his back wheel but probably caught him in the wrong place, as his run took him close to Shanes coming off the second bend of Lap 4 but the gap never opened and his run was blocked. Meanwhile, Atkins, now in an easy third place, fell foul of a sick machine as he slowed rapidly on Lap 3 and eventually retired, leaving Nick Agertoft to take a very fortunate third place.

Laurence Rogers was probably hoping to build on the previous heat's result as he introduced Adam Ellis as the replacement rider in Heat 9 but it didn't work out well for the Brummies boss. Ellis made the gate but had to contest the run to the turn with Ben Barker on his outside. Barker was the winner of that race, with Valentin Grobauer close behind the pair. As they headed down the back straight, Grobauer took the widest of lines to sweep past Ellis on the run to Bend 3. With Barker heading home, Ellis got down to business, in his quest to regain second place but every move he made was countered by Grobauer. Just as it looked as though Ellis had conjured up a run to pass Grobauer, the German found another answer to the question posed and used it to the full. Every time he was challenged, Grobauer wrung a bit more speed from his machine and took the flag in second, to give the Rebels a maximum advantage just when it was most welcome.

Heat 10 saw Rory Schlein make another lightning start from the gate, leading up Ellis Perks and Todd Kurtz, who lifted badly off the line. Perks kept Schlein honest for a couple of laps, culminating in a big run around the final turns of the second lap. However, the run didn't produce the desired first place and Schlein went on to pull away from Perks to take a relaxed win, with Kurtz taking third to give the Rebels another advantage, to lead by 10-points, 35-25.

Adam Ellis got a huge flyer in Heat 11 but it was missed by the referee, and the race continued, with Chris Harris in second place and James Shanes, in for Nick Agertoft, taking third. Already a few bike lengths up, Ellis pulled clear of the chasing pack after the first turn, going on to win unchallenged, with Shanes easily outpointing Anders Rowe for third, to cut the Rebels lead by 2-points.

Laurence Rogers appeared to miss a trick in Heat 12, introducing Ellis Perks as a Tactical Substitute against Valentin Grobauer, rather than Adam Ellis, who had prevailed the last time he met Grobauer. The move did produce a shared heat, after Grobauer bolted from the tapes, holding off Perks into the curve, before going on to outpace his rival to the flag, in a pretty quick time, 56.94. With Henry Atkins slowly away, Paco Castagna took a simple third place to share the points but you can't help but speculate, had Birmingham used Adam Ellis instead of Perks, whether they would have taken a heat advantage.

Birmingham were 8-points in arrears, 40-32, with three heats to run, and still in with a chance of getting something from the encounter but that all changed from the very next heat. Adam Ellis made a lightning start from the inside gate in Heat 13 but unfortunately for him, Rory Schlein was even quicker away on his outside. The Rebels 'Number One' made his rapid exit pay as he pinned Ellis to the inner in the first bend, allowing Chris Harris free rein around the outside. Harris powered down the wide line on the back straight to challenge Ellis on his outside. With Ellis holding the line, Harris made a sweet cutback to charge inside him off the final turn of the lap and dropped into second place behind his teammate. The pair then took an untroubled maximum advantage to give the Rebels the match, barring a total disaster, as they led 45-33, with two heats remaining.

There had been some superb racing up to this point of the meeting but the best was about to happen as the riders for Heat 14 came to the tapes. As the tapes flew, Anders Rowe shot from the line to lead up, with Ellis Perks and James Shanes on his tail. Ben Barker probably made his worst start of the night, being last away from the gate. Barker stuck it out in the dirt and came steaming around the whole field to lead down the back straight. At that point, many riders would have cleared off into the distance but Barker immediately recognised that Rowe was being pressed hard by the Brummies pairing, and knocked it off to fall back alongside Rowe. With Rowe occupying the inside of the track, Barker took up station on his outside, matching his speed to Rowe's around each lap. As every lap ticked down, Barker was constantly checking around him to watch for any challenges, as he protected Rowe from attack. Reviewing the race later in a post-meeting interview, he admitted that he was probably looking behind him more than he was looking forwards throughout the race. It was one of the best pieces of team riding that has been seen at the Oaktree Arena for some time and the pair flashed over the line together, with Barker only just getting the win in a second successive 'Full House' for the Rebels. In truth, it didn't really matter which of the two riders were given first place, as the spectacle drew a round of applause in appreciation for a great ride.

With the meeting now beyond doubt, the final nominated heat had nothing but pride riding on it for the Brummies. Garry May nominated Rory Schlein and Chris Harris as his two participants, whilst Birmingham surprisingly left out Adam Ellis, in favour of Paco Castagna and Ellis Perks. Paco Castagna made the gate, leading into the first bend in front of Schlein and Harris. Coming off the second turn, Harris took the wide line, to power by both Schlein and Castagna before the third bend. Schlein pressed Castagna over the next couple of laps, throwing in a wide challenge on the back straight of the third lap. The challenge was rebuffed but only as far as the final turn of the lap, where Schlein executed a smart cutback to go under Castagna to grab second place as the lap concluded. Once both Rebels were in the van, it was all over for the Brummies pair as Harris and Schlein ran out a closing maximum advantage, the Rebels third successive one, and their fifth of the meeting.

Ellis Perks, the Brummies guest, topped their score cart, with a creditable 9+2, with Adam Ellis backing him up, posting a 9-point score. James Shanes followed with 7+1, and Paco Castagna with 7-points, rounding out the rest of the Brummies effective scoring.

Top of the shop for the 'Cases' Somerset Rebels, was Rory Schlein, carding a paid maximum of 13+2 for his five rides. Chris Harris came next, dropping just one point to an opponent, with 13+1, a performance that won him the Somerset 'Rider of the Night' award, chosen by Andrew March, the organiser of the 'Cases' Somerset Rebels Annual Golf Day, which this year will take place on Wednesday 7th August, once again hosted by the Brean Golf Club. The Rebels guest, Ben Barker, weighed in a great supporting 10+1, whilst all the rest contributed good points to the cause, with the exception of the hapless Henry Atkins. Garry May must have been pleased with his charges, as they took a 20-point win for a second successive week.

Whilst the Brummies kept it relatively close on the early stages, at no point did the Rebels look in any danger of losing the tie, and over the second half of the meeting, they were always in command. Following the Redcar meeting, some two weeks before, the track curator had been hard at work on the racing surface, and a good amount of new material had been laid on the track. The new covering of shale is of the old red type previously used at the Oaktree Arena and it replaced the darker style dirt, which had been laid earlier in the season. The effects were stunning, with super quick race times all through the meeting, with only five times recorded above 57-seconds, in fact, the fastest time of the night, Adam Ellis's 56.01 seconds was only 0.33 seconds outside the track record, 55.68, which has stood for almost five years.

The Rebels next action will at the Oaktree Arena, on Wednesday, July 17, against the Berwick Bandits, which will be followed by road trips to Edinburgh (July 19) and Berwick (July 20).

Meeting statistics

Somerset Rebels - 55

1. Rory Schlein - 2*, 3, 3, 3, 2* = 13+2

2. Todd Kurtz - 3, 1, 2, 1 = 7

3. Valentin Grobauer - R, 2, 2*, 3 = 7+1

4. Ben Barker (G) - 3, 1*, 3, 3 = 10+1

5. Chris Harris - 3, 3, 2, 2*, 3 = 13+1

6. Anders Rowe - 3, 0, 0, 2* = 5+1

7. Henry Atkins - 0, F/X, R, 0 = 0

Birmingham Brummies - 35

1. Adam Ellis - 1, 3, 1, 3, 1 = 9

2. Nick Agertoft - 0, 0, 1, (JS - 1) = 1

3. Paco Castagna - 1*, 2, 2, 0, 1*, 1 = 7+2

4. Ellis Perks (G) - 2, 1*, 1*, 2, 2, 1, 0 = 9+2

5. Tero Aarnio - Rider Replacement

6. Danyon Hume - 2, 0, 0 = 2

7. James Shanes - 1*, 2, 3, 1, 0, 0 = 7+1

SCB Referee: Dave Robinson

Heat Details

Heat 01: Kurtz, Schlein, Ellis, Agertoft (5-1) (5-1) 56.19

Heat 02: Rowe, Hume, Shanes, Atkins (3-3) (8-4) 56.94

Heat 03: (Re-Run) Barker, Perks, Castagna (Warned), Grobauer (Retired) (3-3) (11-7) 56.38

Heat 04: Harris, Shanes, Perks, Atkins (Fell / Excluded) (3-3) (14-10) Awarded

Heat 05: Ellis, Grobauer, Barker, Agertoft (3-3) (17-13) 56.01

Heat 06: Schlein, Castagna, Kurtz, Hume (4-2) (21-15) 56.06

Heat 07: (Re-Run) Harris, Castagna, Perks, Rowe (3-3) (24-18) 56.79

Heat 08: Shanes, Kurtz, Agertoft, Atkins (Retired) (2-4) (26-22) 57.25

Heat 09: Barker, Grobauer, Ellis, Hume (5-1) (31-23) 57.19

Heat 10: Schlein, Perks, Kurtz, Castagna (4-2) (35-25) 57.38

Heat 11: Ellis, Harris, Shanes, Rowe (2-4) (37-29) 56.69

Heat 12: Grobauer, Perks, Castagna, Atkins (3-3) (40-32) 56.94

Heat 13: Schlein, Harris, Ellis, Shanes (5-1) (45-33) 56.44

Heat 14: Barker, Rowe, Perks, Shanes (5-1) (50-34) 58.19

Heat 15: Harris, Schlein, Castagna, Perks (5-1) (55-35) 57.69

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