Kent Kings 49-40 Eastbourne Eagles
Kent Kings 49-40 Eastbourne Eagles

There were smiles all around at Central Park after a superb night of Speedway racing on Tuesday saw the Kent TouchTec Kings get back to winning ways – defeating local rivals Eastbourne Eagles 49-40.

That this was a second leg cup tie with the Kings far behind after the first match at Arlington last month, effectively turned the business of the night for the beleaguered side into a mission to restore pride and most importantly build confidence for the challenges ahead. 

And that was unquestionably and emphatically achieved – that all the team scored at least six paid points was the most impressive stat, an all round team performance which really sets Chris Hunt’s charges up for the rest of the campaign.

And there were no bigger smiles among team mates, management and supporters than when Paul Hurry delivered the coup de gras, clinching victory on the night by a first race win of the season in heat 14. 

The Maidstone-based veteran has suffered from lack of matches and this has been hampering his return to full race fitness needed at this level of the shale sport, but those woes look behind him now after a fine evening’s work.  Indeed only two cruel pieces of bad luck kept Hurry’s final total down in single figures. 

In heat three Hurry was comfortably holding at bay no less a personage than former SGP rider Ed Kennett when suddenly he slowed, as indeed did the chasing Kennett.  When the two restarted it was the Eagles man who suddenly had the edge and a paid win for Hurry turned into a single point.  The explanation for this odd occurrence was revealed when both riders arrived back in the pits – they’d both been distracted by a red light which, considering the back marker Tom Brennan had fallen (though had remounted quickly), the pair assumed the race had been stopped.  The red light was in fact off a camera being used illegitimately by a spectator at the exit of the 4th. bend.

Hurry’s next misfortune came two races later with the Eagles’ Kyle Newman locking up in front of him and Kent’s European Grasstrack winner ploughed his opponent.  The decision to exclude Hurry seemed yet another example of the maxim that the only luck he’s having this term has been bad; but it all turned around for the 46 year old culminating in the euphoria of that match winning performance in the penultimate race.
Hurry commented at the end.

“There’s no question that it’s been a bit of a struggle this season, coming back to this level and with the season so far being a bit stop start I’ve not had the track time ideally I’d want.  But today showed that it’s starting to come together and I feel a lot better after following a fitness regime set by skipper Scott Nicholls and with a number of Grasstrack meetings coming up too (starting at Frittenden this Sunday) that’s going to get me the track time I needed”.

The match had started badly for the hosts, succumbing to a 5-1 by the visitors in a heat one which all but ended even the most optimistic views that an actual comeback on aggregate was feasible.  But no matter that, because wins by Ben Morley, Paul Starke and guest Kyle Howarth in successive races pushed the hosts into an early meeting lead.

Hurry’s unlucky exclusion was compounded by cruel luck in the rerun heat five with the sole remaining Kings’ man in the race, Paul Starke riding superbly and close to a third of a lap ahead approaching the one lap to go flag when his engine blew and left him needing to push home for a solitary point.  That calamity saw the Eagles back to parity but not for long at all – as Nicholls and man of the moment, Dan Gilkes (who’d already partnered Howarth to a 5-1) gave a brilliant example of team riding to keep Eagles’ skipper Lewis Kerr behind and Kent had a lead they were never to surrender.

Gilkes won again in heat eight (after Morley was unlucky not to be allowed back into the rerun after crashing out in a messy first bend); and then, though the next five heats saw an Eagles rider first to the chequered flag, not once did they manage to reduce the deficit (other than by one point after a truncated heat 10).  A perfect team performance by the TouchTec Kings to fill the crucial second and third places to ensure the lead was protected.

And among all of this were some solid gold nuggets of racing – the best yet seen at Central Park in this new Championship era. Heat 10 was shaping up to be a classic as Nicholls and a suddenly revitalised Kennett were going at each other hammer and tongs, passing and re-passing.  Unfortunately Gilkes at the back fell and couldn’t clear the track in time meaning the race was stopped and awarded – with Kennett just leading at that point.

The crowd had scant time to get their breath back when Eastbourne number one Richard Lawson and Howarth served up another doosie in the next race; and it carried on in heat 12 with Kennett overtaking Starke and then Gilkes to keep his side in it.  And heat 13 was the best yet.  Only three behind at this point, the Eagles were on a 5-1 and looking like they were going to regain the lead – but not so.   

Nicholls passed Kerr for on the second bend of lap two and then the incredibly determined Howarth also got past the Eagles’ skipper on the back straight of the final lap to share the heat, bring the house down and allow for Hurry’s big moment in heat 14.

At the end of a five day period which had seen him finish on a British Championship rostrum and play pivotal roles in two Kent wins, busy teenager Dan Gilkes spoke for all in the team,

“We really gelled well as a unit tonight.  Yes we’d have preferred if we could have got through on aggregate but our minimum objective was to win tonight and we’ve done that and now we need to build on what is a great all round team effort.”

And a final word about the young Mancunian Howarth, who came to the track as a first-time as a Guest and left as everyone’s favourite visitor – a brilliant display by the Leicester rider.

Kent TouchTec Kings                                                    49

Scott Nicholls                   1, 2′, 2, 2, 3                      = 10+1

Rider Replacement – Tom Bacon

Paul Starke                       3, 1, 2, 1′                          = 7+1

Paul Hurry                        0, 1, X, 1′, 3                     = 5+1

Kyle Howarth [G]             3, 3, 2, 1′, 2′                    = 11+2

Ben Morley                      3, 0, F/X, 1′, 1                            = 5+1

Dan Gilkes                        1, 2′, 3, 3, F/X, 2              = 11+1

Eastbourne Eagles                                                       40

Richard Lawson               2′, 3, 3, 3                           = 11+1

Kyle Newman                   3, 2′, 1′ (withdrew injured) =6+2

Edward Kennett               2, 1′, 3, 3                           = 9+1

Tom Brennan                   0, 2, X, 2, 1                      = 5

Lewis Kerr                         0, 1, 3, 0, 0                      = 4

Jason Edwards                  2, 0, 0, 0                           = 2

Drew Kemp                       0, 1, 2, 0, 0                      = 3

Heat details

1 Newman, Lawson, Nicholls, Hurry  57.4   [1-5]

2 Morley, Edwards, Gilkes, Kemp 59.5  [5-7]

3 Starke, Kennett, Hurry, Brennan 58.4  [9-9]

4 Howarth, Gilkes, Kemp, Kerr 57.6  [14-10]

5 (rerun) Lawson, Newman, Starke (pshd home), Hurry (excluded)  60.0 [15-15]

6 Gilkes, Nicholls, Kerr, Edwards 57.6  [20-16]

7 Howarth, Brennan, Kennett, Morley 57.8 [23-19]

8 (rerun) Gilkes, Kemp, Newman, Morley (fell exc.) 58.7 [26-22]

9 Kerr, Starke, Hurry, Edwards 57.5  [29-25]

10 (rerun; stopped awarded) Kennett, Nicholls, Gilkes (fell exc.) Brennan (exc.) no time [31-28]

11 Lawson, Howarth, Morley, Kemp 57.7 [34-31]

12 Kennett, Gilkes, Starke, Edwards 58.4  [37-34]

13 (rerun) Lawson, Nicholls, Howarth, Kerr 58.1 [40-37]

14 Hurry, Brennan, Morley, Kemp 59.1  [44-39]

15 Nicholls, Howarth, Brennan, Kerr 58.5  [49-40]  (aggregate score: 81-98)