Kent Laurels – Preview
Kent Laurels – Preview

It’s individual glory up for grabs at Central Park Stadium on Monday 9th. October with the staging for the fifth time of the Kent Laurels. 
The annual Laurels championship moved to Kent having previously for decades been contested (up to the mid-noughties) at Wimbledon Stadium and the winner receives – as has been the case since the 1950s – the WJ Cearns Trophy.  William Cearns was a pioneering force in the creation of Speedway in the UK in the 1920s and built Wimbledon Stadium in that decade and of course it’s his grand-son Roger Cearns who runs Central Park Stadium – hence the annual championship which was first staged pre-war making it the oldest ‘open’ championship in the sport, now having established itself in its new home.
It’s the more recent history of the Kent Kings club though that will be at the fore on Monday with a gathering of the team’s esteemed skippers meeting head on for the first time.  Luke Bowen has of course been the SLYDE-sponsored Kings’ ‘Captain Marvel’ for the past two campaigns. On Monday Bowen will have to overcome the challenge of his two immediate predecessors in this role. 
2015 National League Riders Championship [NLRC] winner Ben Morley is back – the record points scorer for the Kings rides now for Lakeside Hammers but has ridden often this year at his former home track – covering hugely successfully when Bowen was out with a broken shoulder.  Simon Lambert’s return is the real headline though.  Having won the Kent Laurels three times in a row between 2013 and ’15 the hugely popular Lambert now of Peterborough Panthers missed out last year on defending his title due to injury and makes a welcome return aiming to preserve his 100% record in the famous competition.

All the current Kent SLYDE Kings squad (except for Ben Hopwood who continues his excellent season riding for Newcastle Diamonds home to Glasgow in the Championship Knock-out Cup) are in action – including Bradley Andrews, back for a first Central Park appearance since breaking his finger.  The 12-man field is bolstered by three riders who have been successful visitors this season to Central Park Stadium: Birmingham Brummies’ pairing Tom Bacon and Taylor Hampshire and Eastbourne’s Maidstone-based captain, Georgie Wood. 
Bacon has made terrific strides in his Speedway career since appearing in his first ever individual meeting at Central Park in 2015, the Futurama and has established himself as one of the most popular visiting riders to Kent. Fourth in last year’s Laurels and finishing in that same position in last month’s NLRC, Bacon will hope his sizzling form around one of his favourite circuits can take him to the title and the lucrative £300 cash prize. 
Hampshire has, meanwhile, suddenly emerged late season as a real prospect not least via some terrific showings at Central Park: a prolific paid 17 points for his Travel Plus National League [TPNL] side Birmingham followed by a maximum to take the junior side Reading Racers to the Southern Development League title.  Wood meanwhile turned in an excellent display as recently as last Monday riding for the Eagles in the first leg of the TPNL Play Off Semi-final: heading home Bowen which is a rare event for a visiting rider.

With Kent’s other former skipper and reigning Laurels’ champion Stevie Boxall sadly having to miss out due to a damaged knee suffered in a meeting at Eastbourne last weekend, his Plymouth Devils team mate Adam Roynon steps into the field.
The action gets underway at Central Park Stadium on Monday 9th. October at 6.30pm