Mildenhall Fen Tigers 43-47 Kent Iwade Garage Royals
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 43-47 Kent Iwade Garage Royals

Kent Iwade Garage Royals maintained their unbeaten record in the 2021 National League in a sizzling encounter in the sunshine up in the Suffolk Fens on Sunday with a 47 points to 43 victory over Mildenhall Fen Tigers. 

If ever the traditional headline for days such as these, “Cor! What a scorcher!” can be applied to a Speedway match then this was the occasion with both teams serving up excellent entertainment for a good sized crowd.

As has happened a number of times between these two sides, the match went right down to the wire with a last heat decider after the visitors had twice built up what looked like they could be decisive leads, only to see the plucky Fen Tigers claw their way back into contention.

The opening salvoes certainly went the way of the Kent Iwade Garage Royals looking to record a second successive win on the road; and by the completion of five heats they led by an impressive ten points.  There’s no doubt that falls by their opposing riders in four of those heats in the opening third of the match had assisted matters – but with the returning former Fen Tiger Ryan Kinsley leading from the front with two commanding wins and Jake Mulford continuing where he’d left off after his last sensational points tally in the win at Belle Vue earlier this month, all was looking on course for the Royals.

Also looking imperious was Dan Gilkes who was destined to win all four of his programmed rides taking his unbeaten run in the NL this year to 14 races before heat 15.

There had been perhaps the first green shoots of recovery for Malcom Vasey’s Fen Tigers in heat four ,with Sam Bebee passing Mulford for a surprise win and halting the Kent teen’s own sizzling run of successive heat wins.  But then the comeback by the hosts was well and truly delivered by two 5-1s and a 4-2 in a four race burst from heats six through to nine and suddenly from a position for the Royals of ten points to the good it was parity.

The interval after heat 10 came at an opportune time for the Royals with Mulford having had last places in two successive races and clearly struggling with the shoulder he damaged in a heavy crash in the GB U21s at Redcar on Friday.

Refreshed after the break, the Royals came again.  Kinsley was a race winner once more in heat 11 but the plaudits in this one must go to Jacob Clouting who overhauled Sam Hagon to grab an oh so vital third place and the Royals were again in the ascendency.

Heat 12 was to prove, in the end, the decisive moment.  Gilkes & Mulford were paired up and a brilliant 5-1 by the terrific teens meant that Kent led by six points with just three heats remaining.

There was just that nagging doubt that misfortune could yet intervene to halt the Royals’ progress and there’s never a more apt setting for misfortune than a heat 13.

It all started so well with Kinsley and Alex Spooner storming from the tapes to put themselves into a 5-1 position going into the third and fourth bends.  Then extraordinarily, the red lights came on to stop the race with an unsatisfactory start called. 

Few if any in the crowd could recall seeing a race stopped for an alleged starting offence so far into the first lap action.  But whatever, it was for the riders to go again.  The second attempt saw a bona fide starting offence this time, with Bebee touching the tapes with his helmet as they rose and he was out. 

Third time of asking and while waiting at the tapes for the replacement Fen Tiger Hagon to arrive, the Kent captain Kinsley discovered a problem with his steel shoe on his boot coming loose and his maximum hopes were dashed by an exclusion for delaying the start, the two minutes being up. 

It seemed odd that no censure was applied to Hagon who wasn’t himself at the tapes at this point – but it was the busy Mulford needing to come in for his skipper and suddenly a race that could have all but clinched the match for the Royals had become one they needed to hold on in.  And Mulford & the plucky Spooner did just that, taking a 3-3 which kept Kent on the brink of victory.

But nothing goes smoothly in these trips to West Row it always seems and a 5-1 by Luke Ruddick and Hagon over a now tiring again Mulford after Josh Warren had crashed out in the penultimate race meant it was a last heat decider with the Royals looking to protect a two point lead.

The Fen Tigers management called on their main man, former Kent Kings’ man Jordan Jenkins and (after his fine showing in a couple of races) their youngster Sam Bebee; while it was a simple selection for Royals’ team boss John Sampford to pick the unbeaten pairing of Gilkes and Kinsley (Ryan unbeaten on track, just let down once by his footwear). 

The tension was palpable as the tapes rose – Kent’s NL side have been in this position before at Mildenhall of not being behind in a match until the completion of the final heat.  But this time any concerns were dissipated by Bebee falling on lap one and though the race was rather surprisingly allowed to continue despite the Mildenhall man barely clearing the track in time, it meant that a Royals victory was secured and the only disappointment was that though Kinsley won for his de facto if not actual ‘maximum’,  Gilkes’ long unbeaten run was ended by his former team mate Jenkins.

Next up for the Kent Iwade Garage Royals in the NL is a visit next Saturday to local rivals Eastbourne Seagulls.

Mildenhall Fen Tigers                                            43

Connor Coles [G]             X, 2′, 1′, 3                       = 6+2

Jordan Jenkins                 2, 3, 3, 2, 2                     = 12

Elliot Kelly                      F, 1, 1, 1                           = 3

Luke Ruddick                   2, FX, 3, 3                       = 8

Sam Bebee                      3, 2, 2, XT, F                   = 7

Sam Hagon                       2, 1′, 2′, 0, 0, 2′              = 7+3

Luke Muff                       F, 0, 0                               = 0

Kent Iwade Garage Royals                                47

Ryan Kinsley                   3, 3, 3, M, 3                     = 12

Jacob Clouting               1, 2′, 1, 1                          = 5+1

Dan Gilkes                        3, 3, 3, 3, 1                     = 13

Tim Colley                      1, FX, 0                             = 1

Alex Spooner                   1′, 1, 2, 1′                       = 5+2

Josh Warren                  1, 0, FX                             = 1

Jake Mulford                 3, 2, 0, 0, 2′, 2, 1             = 10+1

Heat details:

1 (stpd, awarded) Kinsley, Jenkins, Clouting, Coles (exc)  no time [2-4]

2 Mulford, Hagon, Warren, Muff (fell)  51.9  [4-8]

3 Gilkes, Ruddick, Colley, Kelly (fell)  52.1  [6-12]

4 Bebee, Mulford, Spooner, Muff 53.8  [9-15]

5 (stpd, awarded) Kinsley, Clouting, Kelly, Ruddick (fell exc.)  no time [10-20]

6  Jenkins, Coles, Spooner, Warren  53.1  [15-21]

7 (rerun) Gilkes, Bebee, Hagon, Colley (fell exc.)  51.0  [18-24]

8 Jenkins, Hagon, Clouting, Mulford  52.6 [23-25] 52.6

9 Ruddick, Spooner, Kelly, Mulford  53.5  [27-27]

10 Gilkes, Jenkins, Coles, Colley  52.9  [30-30]

11 Kinsley, Bebee, Clouting, Hagon  55.1 [32-34]

12 Gilkes, Mulford, Kelly, Muff  53.2  [33-39]

13 (rerun twice) Coles, Mulford, Spooner, Hagon  54.0  [36-42]

14 (rerun) Ruddick, Hagon, Mulford, Warren (fell exc.)  53.8 [41-43]

15 Kinsley, Jenkins, Gilkes, Bebee (fell)  53.6 [43-47]