Tuesday August 18, 2015
The last time the Ipswich Witches flew into the Oak Tree Arena, they flew back out again with two League Cup points in their pockets, after the 'Cases' Somerset Rebels snatched a draw in the very last heat.

After a poor run of form, which saw them suffer two defeats, in their last three home matches, the Rebels were out to right their woes of recent weeks, and get their ‘Play Off’ aspirations back on track.

With the season moving into its final stages and the play offs looming ever closer, Rebels team manager Garry May, had concerns that the team was losing momentum. As a result he had made a team change, bringing in former Plymouth rider Rasmus Jensen, and releasing Leigh Lanham. Jensen came straight into the team at Number 2, ensuring that the Rebels would be at full strength, whilst the visitors were without Nico Covatti, for whom they operated Rider Replacement.

The encounter got underway in a manner that seems to have become the norm of late, with the opening section of the match being a tightly fought out affair, with four of the first eight heats being shared, whilst the remaining four races gave small advantages to each team, to leave the points level at 24-24.

Heat 1 gave the watching fans their first sight of new signing Rasmus Jensen, but they would have to wait for a re-run before they witnessed him in full flow. The original start saw a tight first turn, with both Brady Kurtz and Danny King vying for superiority, as the elbow flew. Something had to give as Kurtz attempted to move King out, whilst for his part, King leaned hard on the Rebels man. King hit the dirt, and the race was stopped, with Graham Reeve putting all four back.

When the tapes rose on the restart, King made a good start, but had to pass Jensen, who had made a rocket departure on the inside. On the run to the turn King headed the field, with Kurtz having a difficult time to find room to manoeuvre. Kurtz was soon on the move, and by the third turn he had passed Cameron Heeps, and started to close down the front two, but by this time King was in an unassailable lead. From that point on the race played out to a share of the points.

The home side hit the front, taking a slight advantage in the second heat, as Paul Starke held off the early challenge of Ashley Morris to lead at the turn. Morris came back at Starke, with a good run around the outside of bend three to head the race. Meanwhile Ollie Greenwood was pushing Stefan Nielsen hard for third, and as they headed down the back straight for the second time the reigning British U19 Champion took his chance to run up the inside of his predecessor, and steal away the place. Just as he went through, Nielsen’s machine slowed, and he retired from the race. By this time Starke, who had never let Morris get away, stormed back around the wide line, and reclaimed the lead as they hit the home straight to start lap 3, and give the Rebels a 4-2 advantage.

Richie Worrall has had a torrid time on his home track of late, and was due a good return. In Heat 3 he made a rapid exit from the tapes, with Rohan Tungate by his side, and Gino Manzares not too far away, but as they headed down the back straight he couldn’t stop Tungate hitting the front, and Manzares was along side. Heading around the final turns of the lap, Worrall shook off the American with a great outside run, and claimed second place for himself. Meanwhile Charles Wright, who had come out of the opening turns in last place, was making up ground on Manzares. As they hit the final curves of Lap 3, he powered around the outside of the Californian to ensure the Rebels shared the points.

It was all change in Heat 4, with Tungate back out on track quickly as he took the replacement ride, and Paul Starke replacing Ollie Greenwood in a reserve switch. The Witches pair bolted from the gate, with Rohan Tungate heading the way as they led around the opening curve. Josh Grajczonek came off the second bend like a rocket, flying down the back straight, charging around the outside of Ashley Morris as they negotiated the third bend, and set about chasing down Tungate. Paul Starke had been slowly away, but was now making inroads into Morris’s third place, and on Lap 3 he caught him, putting down his own outside move to grab third place. By now Grajczonek’s chase looked to be paying dividends, but time was running out. As they headed into the closing stages of the race, Grajczonek hit the go button, and rapidly closed on Tungate, with the line approaching he edged closer and closer, but the flag came just too soon, as the Witches man held on by just inches.

The scores were level again after Heat 5, but not before the Rebels duo of Richie Worrall and Charles Wright had hit the front from the gate. Danny King joined the pair in the first turn, just showing ahead. Down the back straight Worrall just pushed in front, but there was nothing between all three and they headed into the third bend, almost three abreast. As Worrall edged in front, things were tight, and Wright appeared to get squeezed out. King pressured Worrall all the way, and for the next three laps Worrall seemed to have his number. As they ran down the straight at the close of the third lap, King seemed to find a huge amount of speed from absolutely nowhere, and as Worrall ran slightly wide into the opening curve of the final lap, he steamed through the inside line to hit the front. To make matters worse for the home duo, Wright had lost third place in a tough tussle with Cameron Heeps at the start of the penultimate lap.

Heat 6 took two attempts to start as Gino Manzares, in as the replacement, broke the tapes. Luckily for him, it was his helmet peak that did the damage, so he escaped exclusion. The re-run saw Brady Kurtz get the better of the fast starting Manzares, with a nice inside run underneath him in the first bend. Kurtz wasted no time in pulling well clear to win unchallenged in the fastest time of the night at 56.68sec. Rasmus Jensen pressed Manzares in his bid to give the Rebels a ‘full house’. For two laps they slugged it out, until Manzares finally got the upper hand to restrict the damage for the visitors.

Garry May switched his reserves in Heat 7, bringing in Ollie Greenwood. Josh Grajczonek jetted off the line to head up, with Rohan Tungate and Gino Manzares giving chase. Tungate blazed down the back straight, closing up Grajczonek and cutting back under him off the third bend, pulling out a winning lead in the process. Ollie Greenwood was now all over Manzares, moving inside and out to find a path into third. Greenwood was clearly faster than the Witches man, but his every move was blocked, as the Witches levelled the score again at 21-point apiece.

Rasmus Jensen looked to have recorded his first win as a full time Rebel, as he blasted from the gate to lead up from Paul Starke and Cameron Heeps, but Heeps had other ideas, and soon grabbed second from Starke off the second bend. Starke soon found himself at the rear, with Ashley Morris following Heeps through. Starke fought back, and chased Morris down, hitting third off the final turn of the lap. Meanwhile Heeps was closing down Jensen, and coming with a powerful run he cut inside the Holsted born man through the second turn of Lap 3, to hit the front, and again share the points.

It seemed that every time the home side eked out a slight advantage, the Witches immediately hit back to level the scores, until totally out of the blue, the Rebels smashed in two maximum advantages on the trot. The first came when Richie Worrall and Charles Wright careered off the start line to lead up the previously unbeaten Danny King, who was taking the replacement ride. The pair settled at the front, with King in hot pursuit, and proceeded to deliver four perfect laps of team riding to nullify King’s pressure. Their only moment of danger, in four superb laps, came on the final turn of the race, where King almost got upsides Wright, but the Stockpot racer had the better run out of the turn, holding on with a bit in hand.

That ‘Full House’ was quickly followed by a second, and as with the first the Rebels spoiled another Ipswich rider’s potential maximum, as they inflicted the first defeat of the night on Rohan Tungate. Brady Kurtz and Rasmus Jensen roared away from the start to head affairs before the turn. Despite lifting off the start, Kurtz quickly moved into a comfortable lead, which he increased with every turn of his wheels. Tungate was now all over Jensen, looking for any chink in the Danes armour, but he found none. Jensen rode a superb race to hold off the charging Tungate and put the Rebels 8-points in the clear.

Danny King took a massive jump at the tapes in Heat 11, and by the first turn he was several bike lengths clear, but Graham Reeve already had the red lights on to call it back. In the restart King again flew from the tapes, but this time to the satisfaction of the referee. He moved clear of Josh Grajczonek, who fought off the early attentions of Cameron Heeps before giving chase. However King was in the wind and Grajczonek had to settle for an easy second place, with Heeps in third. The resulting 2-4 to the Witches meant that any potential tactical ride had been averted, with the Rebels now leading by just 6-points.

The next heat saw the Rebels 8-point lead immediately restored, as the home side posted a 4-2 of their own. Gino Manzares got the better of an early tussle with Charles Wright, who was then demoted a further place by Stefan Nielsen, as they hit the back straight Wright tried the outside run, but couldn’t make it stick. He was in no mood to give up the race, and was all over the Witches pairing for the next three laps, until coming off the second turn of Lap 3, he carried a huge amount of speed onto the straight, heading for an almost non-existent gap that only he had seen. He squeezed through to a rising roar from the crowd, in what he later described as a ‘Do or Die’ move.

‘Do or Die’ or not, it was stunning pass that left everyone breathless, and foiled a seemingly certain 5-1 for Ipswich. Not only that, but Paul Starke pulled off a neat inside move on Manzares at the opening of the final lap, to give the Rebels a 4-2 win to restore to 8-point gap. Manzares pulled up before the end.

Heat 13 saw the Rebels add another 5-1 to their tally after Danny King fell in the first turn and was excluded. Brady Kurtz had made a rapid exit from the tapes, and King on his inside had tried to force his way through on a very tight line, in what one observer described as ‘Ambitious at best and reckless at worse’. Whatever your view, he caught some grip, either from the kerb, or the track, and his machine lifted high into the air, dumping him on the shale, before careering across the front of the field and slamming into the air fence, followed by King himself. King was down for a few minutes, before getting to his feet and walking, somewhat gingerly, to the pits. In the re-run, Kurtz and Josh Grajczonek quickly established a lead over Cameron Heeps, and pulled away to win unchallenged.

The Witches pulled back a couple of points in the next, as Rohan Tungate took the lead, after he had contested the early running with Richie Worrall. Paul Starke comfortably held off an early threat from Stefan Nielsen, only for his machine to slow dramatically at the end of the second lap, allowing Nielsen through. His machine suddenly sprang back into life, but by this time Nielsen was long gone. Starke had been suffering from similar problems all night, and later traced the problem to a small piece of plastic from a previously broken fuel cap, which had fallen into the tank, periodically blocking the fuel flow.

Now back to a ten point deficit, the Witches were within reach of salvaging a point, but they would need a maximum advantage to achieve it. When the tapes rose on the nominated heat, it was the visiting pair of Danny King and Rohan Tungate who hit the front, closely followed by Garry May’s nominations of Brady Kurtz and Josh Grajczonek.

As Tungate moved into the lead, Kurtz pulled alongside King, and the pair engaged in a mighty ‘Wheel-to-Wheel’ tussle over the next three laps, with only inches between them. Kurtz worked a small opening, getting up King’s inside as they closed out the penultimate lap, and by the back straight he had pulled out a gap, and was storming after Tungate. As they entered the final bends, Kurtz was carrying an enormous amount of speed into the turn, and just ran out of track; as he hit the air fence, taking a hard fall, to leave the Witches to go on to post the maximum they had been looking for. In the final analysis it was probably a fair result, as they had battled all night to give the Rebels a stern test, and provided some superb entertainment along the way.

Rohan Tungate has not always been at his best at the Oak Tree Arena, but in more recent times he seems to be overcoming any shortfall he had around the circuit, and on the night produced what is probably his best ever performance at the track, posting a 16-point tally. Danny King came next with 12+1, whilst Cameron Heeps was the best of the rest with 6pts.

Whilst the 'Cases' Somerset Rebels only provided six heat winners, their strength in depth performance, backed up by running only four last places saw them home by 48-42. Josh Grajczonek ran a skippers innings, top scoring with a 10pt haul. Brady Kurtz and Richie Worrall provided the backup, with 9+2 and 9pts respectively. Worrall’s performance was especially pleasing, when you consider his previous struggles at his home track. Rasmus Jensen had an encouraging debut, with some spirited battling, and a 7pt tally. Paul Starke would have had more than his 6+2, but for his fuel problems, and although Charles Wright posted a similar score, he took the ‘Rider of the Night’ award, presented by the Ashton family, who highlighted his Heat 12 ride as a deciding factor, after having five different riders on their shortlist. Ollie Greenwood may have only scored a single point, but he was on the pace all night and deserved more.

The 'Cases' Somerset Rebels now embark on their Scottish tour, with visits to Edinburgh, Berwick and Glasgow on the agenda at the weekend. Garry May will definitely be targeting some points from the tour, before they return to the Oak Tree Arena to take on the Peterborough on Friday 28th August.

Somerset – 48
1. Brady Kurtz 1*, 3, 3, 2*, F = 9+2
2. Rasmus Jensen 2, 1, 2, 2* = 7+1
3. Charles Wright 1*, 0, 2*, 3 = 6+2
4. Richie Worrall 2, 2, 3, 2 = 9
5. Josh Grajczonek 2, 2, 2, 3, 1 = 10
6. Paul Starke 3, 1*, 1*, 1, 0 = 6+2
7. Oliver Greenwood 1, 0, 0 = 1

Ipswich – 42
1. Danny King 3, 3, 1, 3, Flx, 2* = 12+1
2. Cameron Heeps 0, 1, 3, 1, 1 = 6
3. Gino Manzares 0, 2, 1, 0, R = 3
4. Rohan Tungate 3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 3 = 16
5. Rider Replacement
6. Stefan Nielsen R, 0, 0, 2, 1 = 3
7. Ashley Morris 2, 0, 0 = 2

SCB Referee: Graham Reeve

Heat Details
Heat 01: (Re-run) King, Jensen, Kurtz, Heeps (3-3) (3-3) 57.31
Heat 02: Starke, Morris, Greenwood, Nielsen (Ret) (4-2) (7-5) 58.07
Heat 03: Tungate, Worrall, Wright, Manzares (3-3) (10-8) 57.53
Heat 04: Tungate, Grajczonek, Starke, Morris (3-3) (13-11) 57.57
Heat 05: King, Worrall, Heeps, Wright (2-4) (15-15) 58.06
Heat 06: (Re-run) Kurtz, Manzares, Jensen, Nielsen (4-2) (19-17) 56.68
Heat 07: Tungate, Grajczonek, Manzares, Greenwood (2-4) (21-21) 57.43
Heat 08: Heeps, Jensen, Starke, Morris (3-3) (24-24) 58.80
Heat 09: Worrall, Wright, King, Nielsen (5-1) (29-25) 58.81
Heat 10: Kurtz, Jensen, Tungate, Manzares (5-1) (34-26) 57.94
Heat 11: (Re-run) King, Grajczonek, Heeps, Greenwood (2-4) (36-30) 58.13
Heat 12: Wright, Nielsen, Starke, Manzares (Ret) (4-2) (40-32) 59.37
Heat 13: (Re-run) Grajczonek, Kurtz, Heeps, King (Fell-exl) (5-1) (45-33) 58.75
Heat 14: Tungate, Worrall, Nielsen, Starke (2-4) (47-37) 59.42
Heat 15: Tungate, King, Grajczonek, Kurtz (Fell) (1-5) (48-42) 58.78

Share This:   Facebook Twitter