Kent Kings set for home opener
Kent Kings set for home opener

The long wait is over and it’s into ‘Seventh Heaven’ for Speedway fans in the county, with the opening meeting today of season number seven of the Kent Kings.

Sponsored by TouchTec (the City of London-based printer/photocopier and logistics & office solutions management experts) the particular problem-solving on the table for Chris Hunt’s charges will be how to deal with one of their main challengers for National League [NL] glory in this 2019 season, the Belle Vue Colts in this special Easter Challenge.

NL champions the season before last, the Manchester-based Colts are the first team to get off the mark in this year’s campaign having blown away the Stoke Potters in the north-west ‘Derby’ clash on Good Friday – winning 63-27.

Leading the way for the Colts are a potent heat leader trio of Leon Flint (who was a maximum man versus the Potters), Danny Phillips (who has experience of riding at Central Park with his previous clubs Cradley, Stoke & Coventry) and their two-time Youth World Champion, skipper Kyle Bickley.

For the hosts, it’s a TouchTec Kings’ debut for the most highly-rated teenager in the sport, Drew Kemp and home debuts too for skipper Rob Ledwith and new signing from Mildenhall, Jordan Jenkins.

Unusually though it’s in the reserve berths where much of the attention to sure to be directed.  The visitors have two Central Park first-timers: Jordan Palin and Ben Rathbone. Palin has had an eye-catching start to his senior racing career – securing second place in the GB U21 semi-final at the Isle of Wight last Tuesday to become the first rider in the history of that national title competition to reach the Final before making his team competitive debut.  

That debut against Stoke was equally spectacular scoring paid 15 points. Meanwhile his reserve colleague Rathbone scored paid nine vs. Stoke for a highly satisfactory debut also.

In the ranks of the homesters there was a near identically impressive showing by their no. 6 & no. 7 in their opening match away at Plymouth also on Good Friday: Dan Gilkes top scoring with paid 14 and reigning GB Youth 250cc champion, Nathan Ablitt chalking up paid 11.  With such a pair of performances earlier this Easter weekend from the respective reserve duos, there’s probably never been a more anticipated heat two in the history of Speedway at Central Park.

For the TouchTec Kings today is a chance also to back up that heroic effort down in Devon (where circumstances ganged up against them to deny the side a winning start to the campaign) with a victory and bragging rights over the side they’ll face later in the season in the Knock-out Cup.

Co-promoter Len Silver commented in the cold light of day after Good Friday’s events,

“We were certainly at the wrong end of some decisions down in Plymouth – with no less than four occasions having our riders falling alongside opponents doing the same, only for the TouchTec King alone being adjudged to be at fault and disqualified. We also had a disastrous heat three in which both Jordan , then Dan exceeding the two minutes allowance, both with bike problems to ‘gift’ a 4-2 to the home team.”

“A heart bleeding debut for our new skipper, Rob, who fell twice simply trying too hard, then got knocked off in his third ride.  Bike problems for Jordan didn’t help either. If any ONE of those incidents had not occurred, we would have taken all three points at least.”

“As it was, the bravest of rides from Alex [Spooner], then Anders [Rowe] and Dan (who both passed home powerhouse, Ben Wilson, in heat 15) gave us a consolation point, which made me just a bit happier. At the end of the day it was a good performance that both myself and team boss Chris were happy with. With our full side at our disposal on Monday and all our bad luck surely left behind in Devon, we are looking to get to winning ways in the Easter Challenge”.

Belle Vue have one injury problem with Paul Bowen failing to recover in time from a shoulder operation and so Humberside-based teenager two-pointer Kean Dicken steps in to replace him in the Colts’ septet.

Teams [in alphabetical order – with averages]:

Kent TouchTec Kings

Nathan Ablitt 2.00; Dan Gilkes 2.00; Jordan Jenkins 7.04; Drew Kemp 9.15; Rob Ledwith (C) 3.50; Anders Rowe 7.26; Alex Spooner 4.50

Belle Vue Colts

Kyle Bickley (C) 8.39; Kean Dicken 2.00; Leon Flint 8.55; Danny Phillips 6.75; Jordan Palin 2.00; Ben Rathbone 2.00; Ben Woodhull 4.86

The gates open at 2.30pm at Central Park Stadium with tapes up after parade at 4.00pm