Kent Kings set for Eastbourne test
Kent Kings set for Eastbourne test

Kent’s National Trophy [NT] campaign continues on Saturday at Eastbourne Speedway with a third Southern Group away match of the season – with the visitors needing to get off the mark to bolster hopes of qualification for the Final.

Having suffered a narrow defeat at Plymouth (who are the visitors for the ‘return’ fixture on Monday) and a more resounding reverse up at Mildenhall last weekend Chris Hunt’s team take the short trip to the Arlington Raceway in need of repeating their historic away win (49-40) at the local enemy’s home of last September.

Double figures returns by Kent’s top two Luke Bowen and Jack Thomas were instrumental in that league win last season and the travelling Kings’ fans will be looking for repeat performances in this grudge encounter. There’s a change at reserve forced upon the SLYDE Kings by the injury sustained by Jacob Clouting – the 19-year-old is recuperating having suffered three broken bones in his foot.

Old rivalries renewed but unfamiliar colours on the opposition race jackets, with the new Eastbourne sponsors Forman IT having their company’s green and black replacing the long time yellow and blue livery. But beyond that change, the Eagles’ squad this term has a remarkably stable look about it – with no fewer than six riders who at one point or another were in their team in 2017, when the Sussex seasiders took their third successive National League Knock-out Cup title.

At number one and captaining their septet is a face extremely familiar to Kent fans and the first of three Eagles who hail in fact from the Garden of England: Mark Baseby. From Sevenoaks, Mark is older brother of former Kings’ man Aaron Baseby and has was an Iwade-based Sittingbourne Crusaders favourite from all the way back in 2005.

Baseby’s heat leader partners are Georgie Wood and Tom Brennan. Wood is from Maidstone and turned from sister sport Grasstrack to carve out a Speedway racing career with the Eagles four seasons ago now. Brennan is actually beginning only his second full season at the senior level of the sport after a glittering youth career winning a title in every class – individually in the 125cc, 150cc and 250cc and the one and only staging of the Youth Pairs championship at 500cc standard.

The third Kent based rider in the Eagles’ squad is Orpington’s Charley Powell – a rider like his county compatriots Baseby & Wood, equally at home on the Grasstracks as on the shale. That versatility counts against his Speedway’s employers this weekend though, as the 25-year-old is away on the Continent competing in the Grasstrack European Championship semi-final and so the hosts will need to utilise the Rider replacement facility to cover for him.

A rider who finished last season in the Eagles side and appeared in the Play Offs for them (including making his Eagles’ bow against the SLYDE Kings in the semis) is Essex teenager Jason Edwards. A rider with considerable potential, the Eastbourne management hope the rider from Billericay will be a real ace in the pack for the forthcoming campaign. A lesser known quantity is their 2018 debutant Charlie Brooks – a rider who graduated Speedway-wise from the Iwade training track.

And making it six riders who were at one time or another Eagles from last term is Kelsey Dugard – back again with the club run by his family for decades and under the team managership currently of his brother Connor. Kelsey has had a somewhat chequered history with his home club having several times found himself replaced and last year that saw him end up ‘overseas’ with the Isle of Wight Warriors. Like Napoleon returning from Elba, the racing Dugard is back and hoping to be able to hold down a permanent slot this term.

The match is certainly a big challenge for the SLYDE Kings knowing that their local rivals have so far this term reasserted their ‘Fortress Arlington’ reputation (including hitting the 60 points mark against reigning champions Belle Vue Colts) – but roared on by a large travelling contingent of Kent fans this is sure to be a very competitive affair.

The action gets underway at Eastbourne Speedway at 7.30pm (gates opening at 6.00pm) – address is Arlington Stadium, Arlington Road West (just off the A22), Hailsham, Sussex, BN27 1RN

Picture supplied by Elizabeth Leslie.