KSN are proud to support:

Kent Royals ready for new season
Kent Royals ready for new season

The days are growing longer, flowers are bursting into life, and it hasn’t stopped raining for a fortnight… The sure signs that the new Speedway season is upon us.

For the Kent Royals it’s a second season at The Old Gun Site in Iwade, but after a full winter of preparations this time around it’s one for great optimism albeit for now without a main title sponsor.

Promoter Si Kellow said: “due to my heart op last year, it wasn’t really feasible to keep Iwade Garage on when the lease came up for renewal. Hence, we aren’t the Iwade Garage Kent Royals.”

The winter has seen four new arrivals at The Old Gun Site, with three riders joining the side in the shape of Nathan Ablitt, Rhys Naylor and Tom Woolley and a new team manager with last season’s Sittingbourne MSDL team manager Jamie Willis stepping up to the Kent Royals.

On the step up the 30-year-old from Sandwich said, “The National League is more results based, but there will still be the focus on developing the riders.”

But the former football coach has also stated that he will be taking a more professional approach, and looking at little improvements from last year, some of which will be of the aesthetical nature.

The preparations for the season started towards the back end of the 2022 season with Naylor and Woolley, taking part in the Kent pairs meeting with a view to see how they took to the track and gelled amongst the team with promoter Kellow admitting: “Jamie had a spreadsheet going from September with his thoughts and proposals, and with everything going on in my life lately it’s been great to let Jamie do the leg work and come back to me with updates.”

This was followed by the Iwade track hosting their familiar practice sessions throughout the winter in which Rhys Naylor turned up to every single one to get to grips with his new home circuit and returnee Joe Alcock getting back up to speed after his injury lay off from last season.

The aims for the 2023 season were unanimous between promoter and team manager in that they wanted to go better than in 2022 and that first wrong to be righted comes early doors in the Knock Out Cup, with the Royals this time hoping to overturn Mildenhall in the Semi Final stage in which both clubs were drawn straight into.

Manager Willis stating that the first aim of the season was to reach the Knock Out Cup Final, with promoter Kellow adding: “we’d like to progress further in the KOC and hopefully bring some silverware to The Old Gun Site.”

Last season, The Royals finished sixth in the NDL table just three points off 4th place which was the last qualifying spot for the end of season places.

However, in 2023 the rules have changed slightly, with now just the top two going through to a Play Off Final, which Manager Jamie Willis admitted did disappoint him, and a return to the old traditional format of 2 points for a win and an aggregate bonus point available in a return fixture between sides.

Willis commented: “bonus point adds another dynamic to the meetings, and means I’ll have to look further down the line when switching riders and I’ll be telling the riders to race for every point.”

The addition of the bonus point means the class of 23 will need to address last year’s trend of narrow home wins and some heavy away defeats as if this season’s scoring system had been in play Kent would only have taken two of the available seven bonus points.

Reflecting on last season’s Play Off attempt Si Kellow rued the number of injuries and clashes with Championship fixtures but is hopeful for a shot at this season’s title, stating: “My heart says we have a fair chance of being there, but there are five and a half months of competition to get through before we can count our chickens.”

The Kent Royals are ready to tackle the best of the NDL once again starting this coming Sunday with a league visit to West Row to take on last season’s runners up Mildenhall in what has become Kent’s local derby, but as we get use to our clocks moving forward one hour, we’re ticking ever closer to the start of the 2023 season.