There was drama at the opening speedway fixture of the season for Highbridge-based Somerset Rebels on Friday evening (March 18th) when the meeting was abandoned following an accident.
Whilst contesting the lead on the fourth turn of Heat 8 against the Elite League side Swindon Robins, Rebels newcomer Jake Allen suffered an ugly, horrible looking fall, when his bike picked up grip, straightened and then dug in, hammering Allen into the handle bars, and pitching him over the top.
He was quickly attended by the medical staff, and was treated on track for a considerable time, before being transferred to the medical room in the ambulance, where again he was treated and assessed, before eventual transported to Weston-super-Mare Hospital by the track ambulance, complaining of severe back pain.
The waiting crowd, who were kept informed of events, showed fantastic patience and understanding during the long delay, and the eventual abandonment, which occurred as a result of the accident, and the absence of the track ambulance.
The final decision was announced by an emotional Debbie Hancock, after consulting with both team Managers, team Captains, and meeting Referee Christina Turnbull.
There was some good news later in the evening, when Debbie Hancock on her way to the hospital to check on the condition of Jake Allen, received word from the man himself via his Twitter feed that he had “been cleared of spinal injuries just swelling and pain. Thanks everyone for their messages. Hopefully be good soon.”
Fortunately, it appears that he suffered no major damage, and that once sufficiently rested up should be back in action.
A spokesman for the Rebels told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The Somerset Speedway management and everyone connected with the team would like to thank all those who attended, for their patience and understanding during the time after Jake’s crash, and the subsequent abandonment.”
In the match itself, Allen had made an encouraging start, taking third in Heat 1, after Jason Doyle and Justin Sedgmen had bolted from the gates to lead all the way, with Allen chasing from a distance, after being hampered early by his race partner Peter Kildemand.
With the visitors taking an opening maximum advantage, the Rebels hit back immediately, with a ‘Full House’ of their own from the other two ‘new boys’, Zach Wajtknecht and Bradley Wilson-Dean. Bristol based 18 years-old Wajtknecht, already a three time World Champion at 125cc and 250cc on the grass and longtrack, blasted into the early lead, with New Zealander Wilson-Dean close up. Former Rebel, Stefan Nielsen harried the pair from the off, but he had no answer to their clever team riding, as they ran out the laps to level the scores.
You could never accuse Charles Wright of being the best starter in the world, but Heat 3 saw him rocket off the start to lead up, only to see his Somerset & Swindon team mate, Josh Grajczonek, this time in Swindon colours, carve underneath him as the hit the turn. Despite a spirited chase by the Stockport born rider, Grajczonek showed him a clean pair of heels, as he sped away down the back straight. Paul Starke held a slow starting Steve Worrall to the flag, as the Rebels shared the heat points to maintain parity in the match.
Worrall made amends in the very next heat, as he took the replacement ride for the absent Nick Morris. Worrall and partner, Stefan Nielsen rocketed from the tapes to lead up. Rohan Tungate was soon on hand, setting about Nielsen as he went. For his part Nielsen was not giving up second place easily, and the pair went hammer and tongs at each other, passing and re-passing a few times as the battled for second spot. As the final turn approached it was Tungate who prevailed, but with Worrall away and gone, Swindon took a two point advantage on the score sheet.
Charles Wright has clearly been practicing his gating, as he flew off the line again in Heat 5, leading up none other than Jason Doyle. Despite his rocket start, Wright had to give best to Doyle down the back straight, as the Norwich based man showed the type of speed that had carried him to fifth place in last season’s Grand Prix series. Once at the head of affairs he pulled a comfortable gap over Wright, who then had to fight off the attentions of Justin Sedgmen before posting second spot, and holding the Robins to a just a 2-point heat advantage.
Peter Kildemand found his gating gloves in Heat 6, with his quick getaway allowing him to move Josh Grajczonek wide. Jake Allen was quick to exploit the hole the Dane had created, as he immediately cut back from the outside gate to sweep under Grajczonek in the turn. As the Rebels pair led down the back straight, Grajczonek suddenly slowed, baulking his partner Darryl Ritchings in the process, before retiring on the fourth turn with the home riders streaking away to level the match.
What was first thought to be a mechanical problem for Grajczonek, turned out to be a rogue red light from somewhere in the crowd, causing him to slow, thinking that Ritchings had fallen, only to have the Swindon reserve almost run into him from behind. With modern cameras and smart phones, red lights are a perennial problem in Speedway, and the public need to heed the warnings about their use, before a rider is badly injured as a result.
Heat 7 proved to be the final completed heat, with Swindon taking a narrow advantage as they posted a 4-2 heat score. Grajczonek made quick amends for his previous heat exit, with a quick start that saw him contest the early stages with Rohan Tungate. Tungate couldn’t quite get the better of his fellow Australian, as Grajczonek got the upper hand heading out onto Lap 2, and put ground between himself and the New South Wales born rider. At the back there was a battle raging, as Bradley Wilson-Dean pressured Steve Worrall for third place. Wilson-Dean probed for openings over the final two laps, and switched lines several times to get a run on Worrall. As they approached the final turn, he came with a strong charge to the line, but Worrall just had enough in hand to fend him off.
Jake Allen made a fantastic start from the outside gate in Heat 8, cutting across to the inside to block out Justin Sedgmen. The Robins man fought back down the home straight, and as the pair entered the final turn, Allen was flying round the wide line contesting the lead, when disaster struck, and Allen took a fall.
It was an unfortunate end to a promising start, by both Allen and the Rebels in general. The old guard showed that they have lost none of their verve around the Oaktree Arena circuit, whilst Rohan Tungate, and the three new entries to Premier League racing showed enough that the 2016 ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels will once again be a force to be reckoned with around their home shale, and elsewhere too.
Pictured: Top – The riders head into the first bend in heat 4; Centre – Somerset’s Peter Kildemand [R] & Jake Allen [B] in action in heat 1 against the Swindon duo of Jason Doyle [W] & Justin Sedgmen [Y&B]; Above – The Somerset reserve duo of Zach Wajtknecht [L] & Bradley Wilson-Dean [R] on their way to a 5-1 in heat 2 (photos Colin Burnett)