Picture courtesy of Steve Dixon
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By Derek Barclay
It was a hugely entertaining meeting on Monday (13th May) evening, featuring some of the best racing ever seen at Central Park and offered up a vision of a very exciting campaign to come, as the Kent TouchTec Kings, led ably by an awesome showing by teen superstar Drew Kemp, delivered an emphatic victory over National Trophy [NT] rivals, Plymouth Gladiators.
The new nickname of the Devon side was supremely appropriate on this evening, as this truly was like a gladiatorial battle of old - and though the hosts' winning margin may have been in the end 18 points, Plymouth riders certainly played a full part in an exceptional Speedway meeting.
Kemp is certainly delivering on the reputation he brought with him to Kent, with this full house of 15 points surely destined to be only the first of many maximums to come as the new young master of Central Park tore through the opposition to clock up five race wins. The highlight was a sensational heat 13 when his opposite number, Ben Wilson (who'd had a slow start to the meeting for sure) set out determined to lower the colours of the unbeaten teen star. For three and three-quarters laps Plymouth's former GB U21 champion led Kemp who was snapping continually at his metaphorical heels - until in a daring manoeuvre on the final bend, Kemp saw a gap which to the untrained eye seemed barely there, went through it and snatched victory on the line. As the likeable youngster told his assembled admirers in the post-match press conference, "I knew where he [Wilson] was riding and where there would be space - but I must admit I did flinch as I went for it!"
Kemp completed his full house two heats later, again passing Wilson with former Kent Kings' favourite Nathan Stoneman salvaging something from a difficult night for the returning Welshman by overtaking Jordan Jenkins in another thriller of a race. Both Stoneman and Wilson had moments of frustration which curtailed their ultimate contributions. Wilson clearly felt aggrieved at how he was so emphatically left behind by Kemp and Kent skipper Rob Ledwith at the tapes in the opening heat, choosing to cruise around at the back and suffering the highly unusual censure of a disqualification for being lapped. Stoneman's hopes of a double figures score were dashed by two exclusions of his own - in that heat 13 first staging the former GB Youth champion who's been breathing Welsh Dragon-style fire since his move to Devon, had been a faller.
Previously, in Heat 9 he'd been adjudged at fault when Rowe and teammate Richard Andrews were first bend victims. Ironically both heats were classics when rerun - we've heard about Heat 13, but Heat 9 beat even that for thrills and was one of the best races anyone could remember in the six and a bit seasons so far. Little surprise that Andrews was the chief protagonist, because he has established a well-deserved reputation over a number of years now as one of the pluckiest and most exciting visiting riders to the circuit in Sittingbourne.
Becoming the first ‘tactical substitute'; of the modern era (the controversial rule having been restored this year), the Gladiators;' skipper Andrews went at it hammer and tongs with Anders Rowe for four thrilling laps before making a massive last bend swoop to steal victory on the line; the sporting crowd rising to acknowledge the splendid effort of the opposition rider.
It was to be Rowe's only reverse by a rival rider and the resurgent Jenkins also scored well with a paid 12 return. Further down the score card, Jacob Clouting, who was making a return to the Invicta race jacket after not far off a year, may only have scored one point but his efforts were acknowledged throughout by the fans who were delighted when he pipped Sheldon Davies in the rookie reserves' very own thriller in heat 14.
Nathan Ablitt recorded a second 13 points score in two days, with an impressive four race wins in that tally - and was unlucky it wasn't more as in his third ride he was controversially excluded after a coming together with Stoneman. Skipper Ledwith singled out the 15-year-old whilst praising all his young charges: "We've laid down a marker for the rest of this league and these kids are on fire, Nathan [Ablitt] was sensational and I have to hang onto his tail - he's a real superstar in the making".
Talking of stars, they'll be in town next week for sure -as a Wimbledon Dons select side, providing the opposition in the annual John Cearns Cup battle, include National League heat leaders Danyon Hume and Tom Perry, former Kings' favourite Luke Clifton and will be captained by the single biggest draw of all, Kent's ‘Captain Marvel' of the past three campaigns, Luke Bowen - returning after serious injury and sure to be raring to prove his has plenty still in the tank! The match against Wimbledon is on Monday 20th May, 6:30pm start time.
Kent TouchTec Kings 56
Drew Kemp 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 15 [M]
Rider Replacement - Alex Spooner
Anders Rowe 3, 3, 2, 2* 10+1
Jordan Jenkins 1, 2*, 2*, 1*, 3, 0 9+3
Rob Ledwith 2*, 1, 2, 2, 1 8+1
Jacob Clouting 0, 0, 0, 1 1
Nathan Ablitt 3, 3, FX, 3, 1, 3 13
Plymouth Gladiators 34
Ben Wilson XL, 0, 3, 2, 2 7
Adam Extance 1, 1, 1, 1 4
Scott Campos 0, 1, 0, 1 2
Richard Andrews 2, 3, 3, 2, 2 12
Nathan Stoneman 2, 2, FX, FX, 1* 5+1
Adam Sheppard 2, 1*, 0 3+1
1*, 0, 0, 0 1+1
1 Kemp, Ledwith, Extance, Wilson (exc. lapped) 58.1 [5-1]
2 Ablitt, Sheppard, Davies, Clouting 61.1 [8-4]
3 Rowe, Andrews, Jenkins, Campos 57.9 [12-6]
4 Ablitt, Stoneman, Ledwith, Davies 59.2 [16-8]
5 Rowe, Jenkins, Extance, Wilson 58.2 [21-9]
6 (rerun) Kemp, Stoneman, Sheppard, Ablitt (fell, exc.) 57.7 [24-12]
7 Andrews, Ledwith, Campos, Clouting 57.9 [26-16]
8 (rerun) Ablitt, Jenkins, Extance, Davies 58.9 [31-17]
9 (rerun) Andrews, Rowe, Jenkins, Stoneman (Fell, Excluded) 3-3; 34-20; 59.4
10 Kemp, Andrews, Ablitt, Campos 57.1 [38-22]
11 Wilson, Ledwith, Extance, Clouting 59.7 [40-26]
12 Ablitt, Rowe, Campos, Sheppard 59.4 [45-27]
13 (rerun twice) Kemp, Wilson, Ledwith, Stoneman (Fell, Excluded) 59.5 [49-29]
14 (rerun) Jenkins, Andrews, Clouting, Davies 59.6 [53-31]
15 Kemp, Wilson, Stoneman, Jenkins 58.8 [56-34]