Thurrock to provide tough test
Thurrock to provide tough test

As the new month opens and the 2019 Kent Speedway season starts in earnest, thoughts turn very much to the May Day Holiday challenge awaiting the new-look TouchTec sponsored Kings – taking on Thurrock Hammers, who whom as a club Monday at Central Park (6/5) is itself a landmark occasion.

Thurrock Hammers’ Director Mark Sexton explains what’s happened since the former Lakeside club were forced to disband after the closure of the Arena Essex Raceway, home to Speedway in the Thurrock/Purfleet area isnce 1984.

“14th September 2018 was a very sad day indeed for the speedway fans of Essex (and beyond) as it was the date that 500cc  bikes made their final appearance, in front of a crowd of over 3,000 at the Arena Essex Raceway after 35 seasons of continuous action.

“Almost as soon as the Hammers 2018 season came to a disappointing end, finishing off home fixtures at Rye House Speedway, the campaign to return speedway to Thurrock began in earnest and the concept of a new club was mooted.  An on-line petition had already been launched to help raise awareness of the club’s plight and an initial target of 3,000 signatures was set. This figure was exceeded easily and the target is now 5,000. During the winter break, the Thurrock Hammers were formed by myself & two other long standing members of the Hammers’ back room staff with a simple aim – to return speedway to Thurrock.  The task of finding land and investment will, no doubt, be a significant challenge and could take some time – but the idea of establishing a nomadic side to keep the Hammers’ name alive in the short term was thought to be something that could be achieved more quickly.”

And the first of these fixtures certainly sees an impressive line up competing for the Tunnel Trophy.  

Kent co-promoter commented on the Thurrock side,

“Having  viewed the team proposed by the new Thurrock Hammers, it is obvious that there will be no easy races on Bank Holiday Monday.  They have picked their riders very cleverly with track specialists in their three heat leader berths in in 2018 NLRC winner Ben Morley, the runner up in that event Alfie Bowtell and former Kings’ favourite, Nathan Stoneman – all of them in terrific form at present.”

Silver sees the challenge as a perfect final limbering up before the League & Trophy matches get underway the following weekend,

“It’s certainly a very big test for the TouchTec Kings who will have Alex Spooner riding with a broken bone in his right ankle.  He suffered the pain of it in our opening meeting and did okay, so he is refusing to rest it and is carrying on. Jordan Jenkins has changed his engine and will be riding a Michael Lee- tuned Jawa, similar to the one being ridden by Alex.  Jordan has been a bit subdued so far this term and is suffering from mechanical “gremlins”. The faster engine tuned up by former World Champion Lee will, I hope, bring back his normal confidence”.

Losing a club as Hammers fans (expected to turn out in large numbers on Bank Holiday Monday) have suffered is something Speedway fans in the county of Kent have become all too familiar with over time as first Crayford, then Canterbury closed their doors to the shale sport back in the 1980s. The Tunnel Trophy (first commissioned back in the ’70s and ’80s as a challenge between Crayford & Rye House) has in its modern incarnation been a fixture that has been contested between the Kings & the Hammers.  However it’s arguable that there has never been a poignant occasion than this. There are echoes of a meeting that took place at Hammers’ Arena Essex Raceway in 1988, when a team of ex-Canterbury Crusaders riders were given the chance to race again a few months after the sad loss of their Speedway track in Kingsmead Stadium in the Cathedral City. On that night in Thurrock it was the home side who ran out victors 49 points to 46 with Folkestone-based Paul Whittaker top scoring for the Crusaders.

,Moving back on to more recent times and in Tunnel Trophy fixtures the Hammers are currently undefeated against Kent, winning 48-45 at Central Park in 2014; winning both legs in 2017 (46-43 at Central Park and 47-43 at The Raceway) for an aggregate scoreline of 93-86; and completing a hat-trick in last year’s end of season contest, 49-41 – a meeting that is notable for it being the first competitive appearance at Central Park of now Kent reserve Dan Gilkes, whose three victories in a paid 12 performance certainly turned the tide in favour of the Arena Essex team.

 

The final word goes back to Mark Sexton, who is looking forward to team managing the Hammers on Monday and for a bright future ahead,

“The campaign has only just begun but with the support of the Speedway fraternity, from both near and far, it is one that we hope and believe can have a successful outcome. You can follow the campaign, including the petition, on http://www.thurrockhammers.com and via Twitter @ThurrockHammers”

 

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