'Cases' Somerset Rebels Select ride to victory over Plymouth Gladiators
PUBLISHED: 11:37 15 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:37 15 June 2019
Having been without for three weeks, the Oaktree Arena saw the action return on Wednesday evening, with the first leg of the South Western Challenge, as the 'Cases' Somerset Rebels Select side took on the National League's and local rivals, the Plymouth Gladiators, writes Dave Thompson.
The second leg is due to take place on Friday June 28, at The Gladiators home patch, The Coliseum.
The Rebels took the opportunity to try out a couple of riders new to the UK, with Italian Nicolas Vicentin, recommended by the Rebels own Nico Covatti, and Australian U21 team member Zach Cook, joining the team for the evening. Three regular members of the Rebels Championship side, Todd Kurtz, Anders Rowe and Henry Atkins, took the remaining places, along with Cradley's Luke Harris and young Devon based, and former Plymouth rider, Saul Bully. Interestingly both Vicentin and Cook had some top class help in the pits, with Nico Covatti and Jack Holder swinging the respective spanners on the night. Vicentin rode Covatti equipment, and Cook benefitted from a Holder engine as he waited for his own to arrive in the UK. The cancellation of the evening's Birmingham v Leicester meeting allowed the Gladiators to field a full side, with the exception of Scott Campos, whose place was taken by Ben Barker.
With the meeting going ahead, despite some bad weather around the rest of the country, but threatened by some later rain, the decision was made to get started earlier than normal, and the first heat field arrived on track at around 7:20pm. Chris Durno then kept the meeting going along at a good pace and it was finished well before any of the forecast rain reached the arena. From the Somerset perspective, the meeting couldn't have got underway in a better fashion, as the two trialists featured heavily in the opening heats, with the Rebels posting an early maximum advantage.
Todd Kurtz disputed the early running of Heat 1, with Adam Extance and Ben Barker for company. Whilst Nicolas Vicentin was last away, it wasn't long before he was making some rapid progress. With Kurtz having taken up the running at the turn, Vicentin came charging down the back straight, only to see his progress almost halted as he caught a big lift. Undeterred, he soon had the bike running again, to such effect that he swept by Barker inside the third turn. He then chased down Extance and repeated the move a lap later, with Barker following him through. Once he had dropped in behind Kurtz, Vicentin saw out a 'Full House' to the flag.
Zach Cook took no prisoners in Heat 2, as he bolted out of the gate, disputing the lead with Jamie Bursill until sweeping wide around the Gladiators man on the second turn, which then saw him pull out a very decent lead to take the most comfortable of victories. Adam Sheppard beat off the early challenge of Saul Bully, to go on to take third place and a share of the points for the visitors.
Ben Wilson led around the opening turns of the next heat, having disputed the run to the bend with Anders Rowe. Rowe moved out wide, before charging by Wilson down the back straight, completing the move as they entered the third curve. Luke Harris, who was last out of the gate, took a lap to get on terms with Gladiators skipper Richard Andrews but once there he pressed on to account for the Tiverton born rider. A determined Andrews was all over Harris, trying every line to find a way back to third, but Harris held him off to the line, giving the Rebels a heat advantage in the process.
The visiting duo of Nathan Stoneman and Adam Sheppard trapped out on a 5-1 in Heat 4, with Stoneman leading into the turn. Henry Atkins, returning to the fray following his dislocated shoulder in the Rebels last meeting, against Eastbourne on 22nd May, was slowly away but soon on the chase after Sheppard. It took the ring rusty rider a couple of laps to reel him in, but as they headed out onto the third circuit he pounced, catching him as he headed over the line, before shooting by into the opening bend of the penultimate lap. With Stoneman in the wind, Atkins had to settle for second place as the Gladiators closed the gap by two points.
Heat 5 was shared, as Ben Barker took the spoils, with a lightning gate. The remaining three contestants, Anders Rowe, Adam Sheppard and Saul Bully, hit the turn three abreast. Rowe was first of the trio to show as they exited the bend, with Bully coming hard off the second turn to fly by Sheppard down the back straight. Rowe gave chase, but it was a forlorn task as Barker was long gone and the further he went the bigger the gap he pulled out.
Heat 6 saw the Rebels maximum men, Todd Kurtz and Nicolas Vicentin hit the track for the second time and they repeated the dose again. This time it was Nathan Stoneman and Jamie Bursill who were on the receiving end. Kurtz flew from the gate to lead up from Stoneman and Vicentin, with the Italian on the outer. As they reached the second turn, Vicentin cleverly cut back inside, before powering under Stoneman and into second place down the back straight and into the third turn. That was the moved that sealed the deal for the Rebels pairing; as they went on to complete a second and relatively untroubled maximum advantage.
The Gladiators hit back immediately, as they took a 4-2 advantage to cut the home side's lead in the following heat. Ben Wilson was quickly into his stride, with Henry Atkins, again not making the quickest jump away from the gate, dropping in behind him before the turn. Meanwhile, Richard Andrews got the better of Zach Cook, who was also slow into his stride. Andrews did his best to hand third place to Cook, as he locked up on the final turn of the lap, unfortunately, the 19-year-old Australian wasn't close enough to take advantage as Andrews quickly recovered. At the front Atkins set about Wilson, chasing him down and buzzing all around his back wheel for the whole race. Try as he might, he couldn't find a line to make the lead and Wilson held him off to the flag.
Nicolas Vicentin confirmed his earlier promise with a, virtually, all the way win, despite having to overcome a huge lift off the start line in Heat 8. He soon had the bike down and running, hitting the front well before the turn. Once at the front it was all over as far as first place was concerned. Saul Bully gave the Rebels hope of another maximum advantage, as he bolted from the line to take second place from Adam Extance. However, that hope faded as Extance exerted his superiority, sweeping into second place off the third bend of the opening lap. Bully couldn't get back on terms but rode to a good third place to give the Rebels a heat advantage, increasing the Rebels lead to 8-points, 28-20.
The Gladiators were quick to take the tactical option in Heat 9, sending out Ben Barker in place of Jamie Bursill. The move was only partially successful, as Barker was defeated by a fabulous ride from Anders Rowe. The race started well for the Gladiators as Nathan Stoneman and Ben Barker raced to the turn holding a 5-1 advantage, as Rowe missed the gate and was last away. As they hit the second bend, Rowe cut back from his wide line to power underneath everyone off the turn. Barker wasn't done though, and charged back at Rowe, racing side-by-side with the Somerset youngster, until he made a slight error, which re-opened the door for Rowe, who was quick to grab the advantage as the pair headed for the line to start the second lap. Barker fought hard to try to get back to the head of affairs, but Rowe rode a superb race to parry every move the Cornishman made. Stoneman held third place to the finish to give the Gladiators a share of the points.
Nicolas Vicentin repeated his Heat 8 lightning start in the next heat, leading the field before the first bend. Ben Wilson and Todd Kurtz battled it out for the second spot, with Wilson just edging to the fore. As Vicentin powered away, grabbing a comfortable lead, Kurtz set about Wilson, throwing in a sustained challenge out wide, from the third turn to the second bend on the next lap. He stormed down the back straight, flying past Wilson in the process, before settling in behind Vicentin. The pair looked like they would go on to score their third maximum advantage of the night when disaster struck for Vicentin. As they headed into the third turn of the last lap but one, the Italian appeared to enter the turn too quickly and found himself off line and on a line that was routing him straight into the air fence. Realising that he wasn't going to recover his intended track, and with the fence fast approaching, he quickly laid the bike down, although not quick enough to prevent a trip under the air fence. Despite the crash, he was quickly back on his feet, and having been extricated from under the fence, walked back to the pits, none the worse for his experience. The race was subsequently awarded, with the points shared and Todd Kurtz declared as the winner.
Henry Atkins found himself in the wars again in Heat 11, when he spun a complete 360 whilst contesting a tight second turn. Whilst it was tight, Atkins was the sole author of his predicament and found himself on the end of an exclusion for his troubles. Having just returned from the effects of a fall on the same turn, some three weeks ago, it was the last thing he needed, but thankfully he suffered no ill effects and was able to see the rest of the meeting out. In the restart, it was Ben Barker who just got the better of an early battle with Zach Cook. Cook came back at Barker on the run to the third turn, but couldn't find a way to the front. He kept up the pressure for a couple of laps until his vastly more experienced rival opened up a gap that he was to hold to the flag, as the Gladiators took two points off the Rebels lead.
A shared heat followed as Ben Wilson got the better of a close battle with Anders Rowe to the turn. Unfortunately for the visitors, the boot was on the other foot for the minor places, as Saul Bully came from behind Jamie Bursill through the opening turns to grab third place. Meanwhile, at the front, Rowe was all over the back of Wilson, pressing hard all the way. He got a chance at a shot at the lead, as he threw down his challenge on the back straight of the final lap, only to get chopped off as they headed for the third turn. With that, his chance was gone, and despite his closeness, Wilson held him to the flag.
Two more points came off the home side's lead in Heat 13, where Todd Kurtz dropped his only point to an opponent all night. Ben Barker made the early running, with Nathan Stoneman and Todd Kurtz in a tight battle close behind. Stoneman took the advantage and put the visitors on a potential maximum heat win, with a wideout run down the back straight. However, Kurtz wasn't having any of it, as he cut under Stoneman around the final turns of the lap, but couldn't make the move stick, until switching out wide and steaming down the back straight of Lap 3, to steal back the second spot. Henry Atkins was closing on Stoneman, when he got very wide on the second turn of the final lap, losing his shape and subsequently slowing down the back straight, before completing the race.
Heat 14 saw the Rebels nullify that heat advantage with one of their own, and in the process seal the match as they reached 45-points. It was another great ride from Zach Cook that gave the Rebels the win. After contesting the early stages with Richard Andrews, he took up the running on the inside of the opening turns, before going on to win comfortably. In the meantime, Luke Harris had closed on Andrews, throwing in a challenge down the back straight, a move he repeated a lap later, again without success. Despite that, he kept plugging away and took an easy third place to contribute to the match winning heat.
In a break from the normal procedures for the nominated heat, Garry May, with the agreement of the Plymouth Management and the Referee, gave his two trialists the opportunity to experience their first Heat 15 ride in the UK. In addition to Cook and Vicentin, the Gladiators sent out Ben Barker and Nathan Stoneman to contest the heat. Barker was first to show, with the Rebels duo packing the places. Nathan Stoneman put in a good run off the second turn, to account for Vicentin as they travelled the back straight. A lap later he had closed on Cook and repeated the move to put the Gladiators on a maximum advantage. Cook wasn't ready to give up the fight, as he kept the pressure on Stoneman. By the opening turns of the next lap, he threw down a challenge to the Gladiators Number 5, but to no avail, as he was held off, and the visitors finished the meeting on a high note, bringing the final score to 46-44 in the Rebels favour.
The fans that came to watch this match up, were treated to an enjoyable and interesting meeting, and the general consensus of opinion after the meeting was that it was something they would like to see more of, with many comments on social media expressing that sentiment, and praising the club management team for putting on the meeting.
The standard of racing was good, with race winning times not too far off those in the Championship, with many on a par with some seen in official league matches. As far as performances go, Ben Barker (15pts) and Ben Wilson (10pts) topped the chart for the Gladiators, with Nathan Stoneman supporting with a creditable 8+2. Todd Kurtz (11pts) and Anders Rowe (10pts) were the Rebels top two, but two others provided some great entertainment and excellent scoring. Both trialists were in the points on their first league style competitive meeting in the UK. Nicolas Vicentin, whose only other UK appearance, came in a World Team Cup qualifier at Kings Lynn five years ago, ended the night with a paid 9-point haul (7+2). His final score included two paid wins and a win, and would have included another win, had he not come to grief in his final ride. Zach Cook, who only stepped foot in the country on Tuesday, ended his night with 9-points, including two wins and two other scoring rides from a total of five outings. Both riders also saw action in their very first nominated heat. Also, every one of the 14 riders taking part scored points on the evening.
Garry May expressed his satisfaction with the proceedings, and had praise for the two debutants, saying "Nicolas was as exciting as Nico had told me he was. He quickly adapted to the Oaktree and looked good, just as young Zach (Cook) did. When you think he only touched down in the UK from Australia on Tuesday Zach really settled into the racing groove fast and picking up two wins on the night was a boost for him. It's certainly worth keeping a watchful eye on both of these young men."
The next action at the Oaktree Arena will be on Wednesday evening (June 19), when the Rebels take on the current Championship table toppers, the Leicester Lions.
Somerset Rebels - 46
1. Todd Kurtz - 3, 3, 3, 2 = 11
2. Nicolas Vicentin - 2*, 2*, 3, FX, 0 = 7+2
3. Anders Rowe - 3, 2, 3, 2 = 10
4. Luke Harris - 1, 1*, 0, 1 = 3+1
5. Henry Atkins - 2, 2, X, 0 = 4
6. Zach Cook - 3, 0, 2, 3, 1 = 9
7. Saul Bulley - 0, 0, 1, 1* = 2+1
Plymouth Gladiators - 44
1. Ben Barker - 1, 3, 2, 3, 3, 3 = 15
2. Adam Extance - 0, 0, 2, 1 = 3
3. Ben Wilson - 2, 3, 2, 3 = 10
4. Richard Andrews - 0, 1, 1*, 2 = 4+1
5. Nathan Stoneman - 3, 1, 1*, 1, 2* = 8+2
6. Jamie Bursill - 2, 0, 0 = 2
7. Adam Sheppard - 1*, 1, 0, 0 = 2+1
SCB Referee: Chris Durno
Heat 01: Kurtz, Vicentin, Barker, Extance. (5-1) (5-1) 57.94
Heat 02: Cook, Bursill, Sheppard, Bulley. (3-3) (8-4) 59.38
Heat 03: Rowe, Wilson, Harris, Andrews. (4-2) (12-6) 58.00
Heat 04: Stoneman, Atkins, Sheppard, Bulley. (2-4) (14-10) 58.81
Heat 05: Barker, Rowe, Harris, Extance. (3-3) (17-13) 57.22
Heat 06: Kurtz, Vicentin, Stoneman, Bursill. (5-1) (22-14) 58.50
Heat 07: Wilson, Atkins, Andrews, Cook. (2-4) (24-18) 59.06
Heat 08: Vicentin, Extance, Bulley, Sheppard. (4-2) (28-20) 58.56
Heat 09: Rowe, Barker, Stoneman, Harris. (3-3) (31-23) 58.07
Heat 10: Kurtz, Wilson, Andrews, Vicentin (Fell, Excluded). (3-3) (34-26) AWARDED
Heat 11: (Re-run) Barker, Cook, Extance, Atkins (Excluded). (2-4) (36-30) 58.19
Heat 12: Wilson, Rowe, Bulley, Bursill. (3-3) (39-33) 59.00
Heat 13: Barker, Kurtz, Stoneman, Atkins. (2-4) (41-37) 57.62
Heat 14: Cook, Andrews, Harris, Sheppard. (4-2) (45-39) 59.03
Heat 15: Barker, Stoneman, Cook, Vicentin. (1-5) (46-44) 58.41