USA take spoils in Transatlantic fours
USA take spoils in Transatlantic fours
An eventful night of racing at Central Park on Monday evening saw the transatlantic visitors from the USA World Cup squad take the spoils – but there was plenty for the home fans to cheer with outstanding performances in particular from Kings’ favourites Ben Hopwood and Jack Thomas.

The four talented Californian racers go on from here to compete at the top international team level in next weekend’s World Cup competition, so this was perhaps the highest standard of opposition Kent have faced since the sport opened at Central Park four years ago.

That the quartet (even without injured number one Luke Bowen) ran the Americans very close in the first half of the meeting, leading after five heats and just two behind at the halfway mark. was testament to another plucky showing by Chris Hunt’s charges.

For Thomas in particular it was a night when he really came of age, showing that even international riders good enough to represent one of the traditional powers of the sport, hold literally no fears for the swashbuckling teenager.  The Americans had started proceedings with two emphatic race wins from Gino Manzares and the especially impressive looking Luke Becker;  but Thomas stemmed the Californian tide, surfing around the safety fence to storm to an amazingly assured win over Dillon Ruml which brought the partisan crowd to its feet.

Better still was to follow in heat four with Hopwood out muscling Broc Nicol who fell at the death – thus allowing the hosts to take a two-point lead after the first set of rides.

The four team tournament already was shaping up very much as a two way battle – with the number ones for the other Kent side, the Kestrels and a rather dispirited looking Lakeside Hammers quartet, Nathan Stoneman & Ben Morley respectively having started without being able to inspire their lesser charges by making any significant impression on the Americans: Stoneman falling twice in an untidy eventually awarded heat two and Morley outstripped completely by Thomas in his beating of Ruml.

Things got even worse for the former Kent skipper Morley in heat five – smashing through the safety fence;  Anders Rowe’s handy two points behind Manzares thus retaining the Kings’ early leading position.  Sadly, although Thomas continued in winning ways over Nicol in his second ride brilliantly passing his normal team mate Stoneman and then the American in a long to be remembered first lap, pointless showings from the Kings’ riders in three of the other four races in his crucial middle spell saw the solid Americans blast to an eight points lead with six heats to go.

Time for the comeback to get underway – Thomas gained his biggest scalp of all ending the unbeaten run of the Dream Team’s number one Manzares; and not to be outdone, Hopwood repeated the trick ending Becker’s attempt to serve up a maximum – in a breathtaking race which ended with the American almost bouncing over the super strong Hopwood as he desperately sought to get past him on the run in to the chequured flag.

The progress towards reigning in the Californians was arrested though in the next two heats with Ruml and Nicol sealing victory for the transatlantic tourists. The attention now was all on the pursuit by Thomas of a full maximum of his own.

Facing him was Becker and at the first time of asking in heat 15, the super confident ‘Jack the Lad’ produced a stunning move to go around Becker and Lakeside’s Alfie Bowtell and storm well clear, Sadly though there was a messy coming together between Bowtell and the Kestrels’ rather below-par ‘guest’ Tom Brennan with both riders down and the race had to be stopped.  Sod’s Law demands in the circumstances of leading easily in a race to get a maximum which is then stopped, that the rerun will work out entirely differently – and so it frustratingly proved again to be the case.

Thomas missed the gate and all efforts to get past Bowtell took the energies away from ant realistic hope of overhauling Becker.

Next up for the Kings when Stoneman and Bradley Andrews will be reunited with their team mates plus a ‘Guest’ to be confirmed, is the away leg of their First Round Knock-out cup tie at Eastbourne on Saturday (1/7); and at home next Monday (3/7 – 6.30pm start time) it’s back to the bread and butter business of the Travel Plus National League playing hosts to the Isle of Wight Warriors.

Kent SLYDE Kings                                                      26
Ben Hopwood             3          2          3          1            9
Jack Thomas              3          3          3          1          10
George Hunter            2          X          0          0            2
Anders Rowe              2          2          0          1            5
USA Dream Team                                                      40
Gino Manzares           3          3          2          2          10
Luke Becker               3          3          2          3          11
Broc Nicol                   F          2          3          3            8
Dillon Ruml                 2          3          3          3          11

Lakeside Hammers                                                    15
Ben Morley                 1          X          2          3          6
Alfie Bowtell                X          1          2          2          5
Jamie Couzins            1          1          0          0          2
Connor Locke             0          0          0          2          2
Kent Code Kestrels                                                     14
Nathan Stoneman       X          0          1          NS       1
Tom Brennan              1          1          1          X          3
Bradley Andrews        0          2          1          2          5
William O’Keefe          2          1          1          1          5
1. Manzares, Rowe, Brennan, Locke  57.1  [0-3-2-1]
2. (re-run) (awarded) Becker, Hunter, Couzins, Stoneman (f.exc), no time [4-6-1-1]
3. Thomas, Ruml, Morley, Andrews (f.rem), 58.9 [7-8-2-1]
4. (re-run) Hopwood, O’Keefe, Nicol (f), Bowtell (f.exc) 59.9  [10-8-2-3]
5. (re-run) Becker, Rowe, O’Keefe, Morley (f.exc), 59.3  [12-11-2-4]
6. (re-run three times) Manzares, Andrews, Bowtell, Hunter (f.exc), 60.3  [12-14-3-6]
7. Thomas, Nicol, Couzins, Stoneman (f.rem), 60.5  [15-16-4-6]
8. Ruml, Hopwood, Brennan, Locke, 59.4  [17-19-4-7]
9. Ruml, Morley, Stoneman, Rowe, 60.6 [17-22-6-8]
10. Nicol, Bowtell, Brennan, Hunter, 60.8  [17-25-8-9]
11. Thomas, Manzares, O’Keefe, Couzins, 60.4  [20-27-8-10]
12. Hopwood, Becker, Andrews, Locke, 60.3  [23-29-8-11]
13. Ruml, Locke, O’Keefe, Hunter, 60.4  [23-32-10-12]
14. Nicol, Andrews, Rowe, Couzins, 62.1  [24-35-10-14]
15. (re-run) Becker, Bowtell, Thomas, Brennan (f.exc), 59.2  [25-38-12-14]
16. Morley, Manzares, Hopwood, Stoneman (NS)  61.4  [26-40-15-14]