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Kent Kings v Thurrock Hammers preview
Kent Kings v Thurrock Hammers preview

It’s NORA Speedway action this Sunday at the Sittingbourne Speedway club in Iwade with the Kent Kings looking to build on their opening meeting success, when a record crowd at the Old Gun Site saw them beat local rivals Eastbourne Eagles. 

This time it’s another local ‘Derby’ with the group campaigning to being Speedway back into Essex bringing their Thurrock Hammers side to contest the Tunnel Trophy.

The traditional event pitching a side from south of the Dartford Tunnel in Kent against interlopers from the north side of the Thames dates all the way back to 1975 – then it was Crayford vs. Rye House; now it’s the modern day representatives of the Garden of England, the Kings taking on the Hammers.

Leading the way for the visitors is Essex-born and bred, Alfie Bowtell – track record holder at the Old Gun Site from his days as a Kent Royals rider two seasons back. 

Another connection in the Hammers’ sextet to the Kings is 15-year-old Jamie Etherington – finally in the senior ranks, the third-generation rider (his father Matt was a Hammer; his grandfather Barry, a Canterbury Crusader) was a regular junior riding demonstration laps in the Kings’ Central Park days.

And that is also where Sandwich-based James Laker began his career – the 22-year-old is the only change in the Kings’ line-up from their successful opener, coming in for Sam Ward who’s taking a break from the sport.

One of the stars of that opening meeting victory was Jack Kingston who scored 12 points and delivered the final heat coup de grace over the Sussex side.  Now on Sunday pitching himself against the first side he represented in the sport, the Essex based 28-year-old commented,

“It was a massive shock to me last month after my injury-wrecked season the year before, to come back so strongly, especially against some of the big names I beat.

“Last year I thought I’d got really comfortable with my ability on a bike and especially my gating, and to have it all end the way it did and then go into this meeting without any race experience was really daunting.”

“It was just one of those days where the track held up so well and we made all the right calls in the pits which helped me do what I needed to on track. I’m certainly looking forward as are all the lads to repeating it all this Sunday!”

For the hosts’ team boss Ben Clifton it’s about building on that memorable win over the Eagles.

“After picking apart a (on paper anyway) far stronger Eastbourne Eagles in our season opener last time out, and despite being led by track specialist Alfie Bowtell the Thurrock side hold no fears to the Kent lads.”

Assisting Thurrock supremo Mark Sexton (who has NDL rider Elliot Kelly and former GB Youth champion, Luke Harris providing heat leader support to skipper Bowtell) in a Joint Team Manager role will be an Arena Essex legend, former National League Riders Champion and England international, Andrew Silver.

Sexton promoting the meeting as part of the campaign in an interview on BBC Essex said: “The return of Speedway to Thurrock is vital. It was the borough’s most popular team spectator sport by a distance but its return is not just important to Hammers’ fans, but for the health of Speedway in the South East and, probably, nationally. 

“The role the NORA project is playing this season with the Kings at Iwade is a very important one and we are pleased that our profile is being kept in the Speedway public eye by this Tunnel Trophy match”

The action gets underway at Iwade on Sunday (19th. May) with the parade at 1.45pm and tapes up at 2pm.

Images courtesy of Niall Strudwick