Isle of Wight speedway captain Ben Morley capped a fine nights racing when he was crowned winner of the Vincent’s Motorcycles and Antiques Handicap Individual Challenge (Round 1) on his home track at Smallbrook Stadium on Tuesday.
This individual event for up to 12 riders was broadly based on the speedway model used extensively in the USA where riders starting positions are determined by their ability based on their average points score. Less experienced rider went from the starting gate; more experienced riders started 15 metres back from the tapes, whilst the star men had a 30 metre gap to make up.
When racing started it was soon clear that the handicapper had done his homework as the riders used speed, skill and track craft to manoeuvre alongside, around or inside their competitors. This produced close racing with nearly every heat recording a pass in one form or another.
Certainly the supporters were richly entertained and whilst this type of meeting may not be to the traditionalists taste, the enthusiasm of the riders on the wide sweeping Smallbrook track was clear to see. Whilst disappointing to lose 2 riders to injury and sickness before the start, the remaining 10 riders need to be congratulated for their whole-hearted efforts.
As would have been forecast, home heroes Ben Morley and Alfie Bowtell were always in the mix whilst Warrior favourite Danno Verge should be very pleased with his contribution to the action. Former Warrior Nathan Stoneman (Kent) was always tenacious hounding his opponents all race whilst Kent colleague Taylor Hampshire carried on his impressive form from last week and, aided by a kind handicap, was the dark horse in the field.
So after the qualifying heats and semi finals it was Morley, Bowtell and Stoneman who eased through to the Grand Final with Hampshire claiming the final qualifying position. From a scratch start it was Morley to show first but the riders were almost inseparable for 2 laps until Morley and Bowtell started to move ahead. On lap 3 it looked like Morley was in control but as we have seen, you write Bowtell of at your peril and a blistering last lap saw the 2 Warriors cross the finish line side by side. It seemed an age for the result to come through but when it did it was Morley declared the winner – a remarkable feat as it was revealed later that he rode most of the Final with a broken footrest.
Final Result: 1st Ben Morley, 2nd Alfie Bowtell, 3rd Nathan Stoneman, 4th Taylor Hampshire.
Other scorers: Danno Verge 8, Ryan Terry-Daley 5, Adam Extance 2, Tom Woolley 7, Alex Spooner 7, Jamie Bursill 2