Kent Kings Speedway
Come and experience the thrills of our very own Kent Kings Speedway team
A meeting which began with the crushing blow of losing their number one Steve Boxall, who received an immediate interim racing ban for refusing to provide a sample as part of the Speedway Control Bureau's routine random drugs/alcohol testing programme, in the end gave the Kent SLYDE Kings' management plenty of room for continued optimism, so well did their young charges respond to the unexpected adversity to take an eighth win in a row.
The remaining five riders (with Nathan Stoneman serving a suspension of an entirely different kind after a head injury a week previously) had an average age of just 18.5 years and produced a teen titanic performance to sink Plymouth’s KOC hopes.
More than anything though this was a victory for the sport, with the best racing seen at Central Park Stadium this season and great credit is due to the visiting Devils side too, who were also quickly down to five riders, for the part they played. The Devon side's skipper Richard Andrews played a key role in that, engaging in three outstanding races. In heat three, Andrews and the in-form Taylor Hampshire swapped places at the front on almost every bend it seemed - with the Kings' number two prevailing. Next up was a brilliant race in heat 7 with Andrews doing his best to keep his side in contention against an inspired performance by the young Kings, holding at bay his counterpart in the home side, Jack Thomas. And the cream on top of the cake was a simply scintillating heat 14 where the two thrill merchant protagonists bringing the packed grandstand to its feet were Andrews again and Anders Rowe.
Those same three terrific teenagers (Hampshire, Thomas & Rowe) led the way for the homesters. After seeing their hard-won four-point lead from the first leg immediately cancelled out when Plymouth recorded what seemed then an ominous opening heat 5-1, there was an almost audible drawing in of breath and a determination to go again by the beleaguered Kings. Hampshire’s two race wins when out on track on his own due to Boxall’s absence, when it was really back to the walls stuff, completely turned the tie irrevocably in his side’s favour; whilst Rowe was lightning fast out of the traps on the way to a brilliant paid 13 haul. Thomas led from the front as skipper and even capped off a night of mixed emotions by beating the previously invincible looking Ellis Perks in the final heat. The two reserves played key parts too - Alex Spooner and comeback kid Jamie Couzins' 5-1 in heat two was hugely important in spurring on the side to the ultimate victory - with the reward a place in the semi final to be staged in September with cup holders Eastbourne to be the opponents.
Young James Laker answered a late call to fill in for the short-handed Devonians and his night ended very prematurely, fracturing his wrist in a freak second heat crash. That will rule the Sandwich-based Laker out of this Sunday's climax to the Southern Development League [SDL] campaign for the Kent junior side the 'Crayford Supporters'-sponsored Kestrels - when wins against the three opponents visiting the Old Gun Site training track in Iwade (Exeter, Weymouth & the Isle of Wight) will see a first SDL title clinched. That meeting (12/8) starts at Iwade at 1pm.
The following day (Monday 13/8) the SLYDE Kings return to Travel Plus Tours National League [TPTNL] action at Central Park taking on reigning champions Belle Vue Colts. The Manchester side are currently like Kent, occupying a top four berth and so the match up between the two teams will be a crucial encounter in the chase for the end of season championship play offs. With Boxall's ban from riding, the Kent management are looking to move quickly to enlist a new number one in time for that match and will have Perks as a 'Guest' for tomorrow's (Wednesday) visit to Birmingham in the TPTNL.
The circumstances of Monday left even the hugely experienced Kent co-promoter Len Silver astonished by the extraordinary unfolding events.
"Never in my long career in Speedway have I moved from 'High' to 'Low' and back again in such a short space of time as I did at last night's meeting against Plymouth. By late afternoon, even with the unbearable heat, the track had turned out better than expected so, by 5pm I was on quite a high, expecting some good racing.
"But by 6pm that turned to one of the worst "Lows" I have ever suffered as Steve [Boxall] arrived at the track and refused to take the drug test that was being administered by SCB officials. Steve's refusal came as a huge shock to me personally because, in all the years I have been closely associated with him, I have never ever known him to be involved in anything like so called recreational drugs or anything of that type at all."
"This ban, right before we were to start a vital Knock-out Cup quarter final, left us without a number one and unable even to cover his rides. At that point our prospects of getting through the tie seemed remote, remembering too we were already with Nathan [Stoneman] unable to ride due to the concussion he suffered the previous week; and myself and team boss Chris [Hunt] were extremely despondent."
The reaction to such adversity by the young Kings' quintet out on track was utterly extraordinary though,
"Our young skipper Jack Thomas came up to me just before the parade to declare,
'Don't worry, Len", he said, "We can still do this'. And, my word, didn't they "do" it! This has to go down as one of the best performances by any team in the league, putting me on to a super "high" and very proud to be with the Kent Kings".
Scorers & Heat result details:
S Boxall N N N N 0
T Hampshire 1 2' 3 3 3 12+1
A Rowe 3 2 2' 3 2 12+1
Rider Replacement - N. Stoneman
J Thomas 3 2 3 2 2 3 15
J Couzins 2' 0 1' 1' 4+3
A Spooner 3 1 1' 2' 1 8+2
Team Manager: Chris Hunt
E Perks 3 3 3 3 2 14
Rider Replacement – Ryan Terry-Daley
J Edwards 2' 0 1 2 2 7+1
R Andrews 1 3 X 1' 3 8+1
H Atkins 2 2 1 1 1' 7+1
J Laker 0 0
A Sheppard 1 F 0 1' 1 0 0 3+1
Team Manager: Matt Bates
Referee: Paul Carrington
1 Perks, Edwards. Hampshire 57.4 (1-5)
2 (rerun) Spooner, Couzins, Sheppard, Laker 60.6 (6-6)
3 Rowe, Hampshire, Andrews, Edwards 59.9 (11-7)
4 Thomas, Atkins, Spooner, Sheppard (fell) 58.9 (15-9)
5 Perks, Rowe, Spooner, Sheppard 58.3 (18-12)
6 Hampshire, Atkins, Sheppard 59.3 (21-15)
7 Andrews, Thomas, Edwards, Couzins 60.5 (23-19)
8 Hampshire, Spooner, Sheppard (awarded), Andrews (fell exc.) 59.8 (28-20)
9 Thomas, Rowe, Atkins (fell, pshd home) 59.4 (33-21)
10 Hampshire, Edwards, Andrews 59.9 (36-24)
11 Perks, Thomas, Couzins, Sheppard 58.4 (39-27)
12 Rowe, Edwards, Spooner 60.8 (43-29)
13 Perks, Thomas, Atkins 58.7 (45-33)
14 Andrews, Rowe, Couzins, Sheppard 60.5 (48-36)
15 Thomas, Perks, Atkins, Hampshire 59.8 (51-39)
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Central Park Stadium