Stoke 32 Isle of Wight 27 (Match abandoned after 10 races – result stands)
The Isle of Wight ‘Wightlink’ Warriors speedway team returned south from their National League fixture at Stoke on Saturday night with a valuable league point despite the challenging conditions presented by the Loomer Road track – thirteen falls in ten completed races and three riders withdrawn through injury and illness in the first seven races clearly tells its own story.
Heat one was an indication of things to come as first Potters Paul Burnett fell on bend four, lap one. The race was stopped, Burnett disqualified and then withdrawn with an ankle injury. In the three rider restart, Stoke number one Max Clegg touched the tapes and was given a fifteen metre starting handicap. Third time of asking Warriors number one Ben Morley was leading when he too failed to negotiate bend four, falling and being disqualified. Fourth restart, a match race with Verge at the tapes and Clegg on his handicap, Clegg fought his way to the front before Verge fell on the last corner and bravely pushed home for two points. The Warrior was clearly struggling and he too was withdrawn suffering from dizziness.
As the meeting continued the number of falls climbed and Scott Campos was the next casualty as he too fell foul of a treacherous fourth bend. The paramedic ruled Campos unfit to continue as a result of a blow to the back, much to the Warriors disappointment as he wanted to carry on. Despite the problems, Warriors were still on the coat tails of the home side thanks in no small measure to new recruit Alfie Bowtell whose electric starts had earned him three convincing wins.
Matters came to a head in heat eleven as three riders fell simultaneously on the first turn and the referee undertook a track inspection. As the Stoke promotion felt unable to rectify the track issues, the referee had little option but to abandon the match with the score at the end of heat ten counting as the final result as permitted by the regulations.
Given the regularity of falls to both sets of riders, it does prompt the question as to why the referee didn’t feel the need for an earlier inspection.
After the meeting home captain Tony Atkin told the official Stoke website “This all started because of a couple of showers in the afternoon after the track had been watered and unfortunately the staff couldn’t get the track packed in enough”.
Warrior’s co-promoter speaking on Sunday morning said, “Gosh, I don’t know where to start really. It was disappointing, but the right decision. There had been too many rider incidents and a lot of holes were appearing in the track especially on bends 1 and 4. The base was pretty much visible from heat 1. With the track as it was there was little racing with riders free-wheeling into the bends, very little passing and riders from both teams having reservations about the track.
I know that Stoke, like many clubs, have struggled with shale and making it bind – it’s a problem we too have endured and we relay the track each week and tyre pack it before each meeting, however we are where we are and I genuinely believe that the ‘Wightlink’ Warriors would have got at least a draw and probably a win out of the meeting despite losing two team members. Alfie and Ben are amazing out of the gate and that would have been vital for us when the track was difficult.
I would like to thank our travelling fans and the Stoke fans for being so supportive of the riders and the decision of the referee to call proceedings to a halt. He would have had many things to take into consideration so it wasn’t an easy call but the track was not in a fit condition to race.
Finally to our team which included talented Dale Lamb, thank you for putting on the best show you could in challenging circumstances where proper racing proved difficult”.
The abandonment means that the Warriors have picked up their first away point since October 2016 and supporters will be relieved to know that Scott Campos is reporting himself as OK. Danno Verge is home but will need to arrange medical checks this week and is likely to be out of the saddle for 10 days.
Potters: Max Clegg 8, Paul Burnett 0, Tony Atkin 7, Adam Extance 4+3, Rob Shuttleworth 5, Joe Alcock 4, Josh Embleton 4+2.
Warriors: Ben Morley 3, Danno Verge 2, Scott Campos 1, Chris Widman 3+ 1, Alfie Bowtell 9, Dale Lamb 3+1, Shaun Tedham 6.