Wightlink Islanders were held to a 45-45 draw at Smallbrook last night in front a big crowd by the new leaders of the National league Mildenhall. Nick Simmons Islanders skipper was in scintillating form going through the card unbeaten to record a 5 ride maximum with solid back up from back to form Danny Warwick.
Simmons brought the crowd to their feet as early as heat 1 after team mate Gary Cottham made the gate initially, Jack Hargreaves passed both Islanders along the back straight only for Simmons to first pass his teammate and set after Hargreaves who he passed exiting the 4th turn 2nd lap.
Cameron Heeps made his light of his first heat storming away for the win with his teammate Aaron Baseby tucked in for 2nd spot to put the Fen Tigers 2 points up. Warwick and Rob Smith hit straight back with a 5-1 in a re-run heat 3 over Daniel Halsey with Joe Jacobs a faller on the 3rd turn. Heeps made the gate in heat 4 with Starke charging hard behind and Lewis Blackbird 3rd giving a heat advantage to the visitors to level the scores 12-12. Smith and Warwick combined for their second 5-1 heat advantage to ease out a 4 point lead.
Two 4-2 advantages followed for the Islanders, first heat 6 Simmons went under Cottham along the back straight while Baseby went round the outside at the same time. Heat 7 saw Paul Starke survive another horror crash which saw the visitors rider Daniel Halsey lock up on the 4th turn leaving Starke nowhere to go but straight into the Fen Tiger. Halsey was sent sprawling into the fence while his machine ended up a quarter of the way along the home straight. Starke flew through the air almost clearing the fence. After medical treatment both riders somehow walked back to the pits and continued riding for the rest of the meeting! The heat was awarded in Starke’s favour with Jacobs 2nd and Nick Laurence 3rd, the Islanders now 8 points up, 25-17.
Heeps led the charge for the Fen Tigers bouncing back with a 5-1 in heat 8, partnering Hargreaves with Cottham back in 3rd spot. Warwick was looking much more on the pace with a second convincing win over Blackbird and Baseby to share the points in heat 9. Following an unsatisfactory start Simmons took the outside line to lead from Jacobs while Cottham forced his way past Jacobs round turns 3 and 4 for an Islanders 5-1 to put the home side back to 8 points up, 34-26.
The Fen Tigers management brought in Heeps as a replacement in heat 11, he stormed around the outside and into the lead while Starke held off Hargreaves to split the visitors. Heeps had two rides on the bounce, again he stormed around the outside and into the lead with Warwick splitting the visitors, the Islanders advantage now halved to 4 points.
Heat 13 was called back after a first turn tumble for Starke, Hargreaves made the gate on the inside but Simmons cut back to put the challenge on, while Blackbird moved into 3rd past Starke. Simmons bode his time to cut back under Hargreaves exiting the 4th turn keeping the Islanders lead to 4 points 41-37. Heat 14 Heeps was out for his 6th ride of the night, he didn’t disappoint even after missing the gate he blasted around the outside into the lead while Baseby tucked in for 2nd spot to level the scores and force a last heat decider.
Hargreaves was a fast starter on the inside with Heeps in the middle of Warwick and Simmons into the 1st turn. Heeps fell and after a delay was taken off by ambulance to get his wrist checked out by the medical team. Blackbird replaced Heeps in the re-run which Simmons blasted into the lead past Hargreaves while Warwick was boxed in around the first turn by the Fen Tigers. Simmons completed his maximum to ensure a draw and a single league point while the visitors went back to Suffolk with 2 league points.
After being in the wars again Starke said, “Tonight wasn’t my night personally, the team did reasonable well but the bottom of the team is where we are struggling which has been a problem all year. It was a good test for us today before the KO Cup against Mildenhall shortly, we need to win by a lot in the fixture. They had Cameron Heeps tonight at reserve taking 6 rides, he’s going to number one and will only get 4 or maybe 5 rides which will keep it a bit closer.”
“Rob’s got broken ribs and is a bit sore at the moment, I had a nasty crash and am a bit sore, I think we did ok but just need to get the bottom end of the team going. We should of had a win tonight, and we just need to score a few more points, but with the bad luck we had it was a reasonably fair result,” concluded Starke.
Guest of honour Ivan Mauger had his autobiography on sale which he was signing and posing for photographs. After a lifetime in the sport he was asked what still motivated him to travel the world, “I like to travel, I’ve been travelling since I was 17 years old I won’t stop travelling. I enjoy seeing the young guys coming through the sport and run my training schools.”
The Fen Tigers star of the night was undoubtedly Cameron Heeps, Mauger added, “Cameron Heeps is a bit like Michael Lee when he was young and hopes he continues on and becomes a world champion.”
After being so consistent during his riding career in the days of one off world finals Mauger was asked how the grand prix series compared to the one off world finals, “I would of liked to ride in the grand prix series, you’ve only got to be consistent. For 10 or 12 years I was the most consistent rider in the world so I would of loved to ride in the series.”
Wightlink Islanders face the Sheffield/Scunthorpe combined team tomorrow (Thursday 18th August) at Owlerton Stadium, Sheffield, meanwhile the Under 16 British Championship also takes centre stage at Smallbrook tomorrow. Hunt added, “This is going to be the toughest away fixture of the year for us, we seem to be on a constant uphill struggle.”
The final outstanding National league fixture away at Buxton has now been confirmed for Sunday 18th September which is due to finish the Wightlink Islanders season off.
The club will be holding a Christmas Dinner in the Premier Lounge on Saturday 3rd December, there are limited tickets available priced at £25.00 per ticket which can be purchased from Ness behind the bar. Deposits or full payment secure tickets for the 5-course meal which starts at 7.00pm.