Having had a long winter without track action to enjoy, Kent SLYDE Kings fans will find this Easter that Speedway meetings at Central Park are rather like London buses. Waiting ages for one, then two come along at once!
For the action continues apace with a meeting on Easter Monday, 17th. April 3pm start time – with Kent taking on one of the two new teams competing in this year’s Travel Plus National League [TPNL], the Lakeside Hammers.
The Hammers are based at the Arena Essex Raceway in Thurrock, just the other side of the Dartford Crossing; and so it’s appropriate that the two-legged challenge which completes the Kent SLYDE Kings’ ‘warm-up’ for the new campaign is the for the Tunnel Trophy – a competition which dates back to 1975 and is traditionally staged between a side from Kent and a club north of the Thames.
The Lakeside Hammers certainly have some familiar faces in their line-up.
Two former captains of the Kent Kings will be spearheading the Easter Monday visitors from Essex. Skippering the side based in his home county is the Southend-based Ben Morley – still record points scorer for the Central Park=based club where he enjoyed three successful years from 2013 to ’15. Morley signed off his Kent career in sensational style in 2015 – winning both the National Pairs and the National League Riders Championship titles and has many friends at Central Park.
Likewise Kent’s original skipper from 2013 and a King until the close of last season, David Mason who is also a former League Riders Champion in this division and a record points scoter as well – in ‘Magic’ Mason’s case, that’s record points scorer in the entire history of the third tier.
So plenty of Central Park experience at the top end of the visitors’ septet on Easter Monday.
Morley & Mason have very impressive back-up in the heat leader berths too – courtesy of one of the most highly-rated young oval-racing motorcyclists in Europe, Zach Wajtknecht. A member of the all-conquering Birmingham Brummies title winning squads in both of the last two campaigns, the three-times World Junior Longtrack champion from Bristol has moved onto Lakeside (his parent club) now that they’ve moved in the TPNL.
Nick Laurence has in total ridden in over 50 third tier matches but that’s been in a period dating back to 2006, so one can see that nailing down a regular team berth has been a issue for the rider from Sussex – his last official appearance was indeed on a one off occasion for Kent the season before last.
This year starting out in the reserve berth for Lakeside the 26 year old from Eastbourne will hope he can finally make a team place his own. Exactly who will be partnering Laurence is yet to be determined. The Lakeside management intend to hold trials at the Arena Essex Raceway on Thursday 12th. April (the day before their opening meeting) to see who’s best to step in to the side.
Casting his expert eye on that will be Team Manager, Kelvin Tatum. Well-known to all Speedway fans these days for his TV work (with BT Sport this coming season), Tatum is a racing legend with four Commonwealth titles, a third place in a World Final and having been a member of the last Team GB victory in the World Cup on his Speedway CV and an even more impressive three world championship titles at the ‘sister’-sport of Longtrack.
And Tatum’s final two picks in the Hammers’ side are Alfie Bowtell and George Hunter. Bowtell has impressed when visiting Central Park before – as a first timer with Rye House two years ago and last year with Mildenhall plus qualifying from the Kent-staged semi-final of the GB U21 championship semi-final. Hunter started out the same year as Bowtell and with the same clubs but has yet to make a significant impression.
There’s no question that with local pride and bragging rights at stake both teams will be aiming to see light at the end of the Tunnel.
The first leg is at Kent’s Central Park on Easter Monday (17th. April) – which has an earlier afternoon start time of 3pm (gates at 1pm). The second leg is back through the aforementioned tunnel at Lakeside Speedway, Arena Essex Raceway on Friday 21st. April – 8pm start time.