The Wightlink Warriors staged the first ever NORA 500cc Solo Speedway Championship last night and in the most dramatic meeting of 2021 at Smallbrook Stadium, Essex based racer Jason Edwards (pictured) was crowned Champion after a pulsating Grand Final saw race leader Connor Coles crash spectacularly on the very last bend of the event.
That was the second of two major incidents that had the crowd holding their breath. Earlier lady rider Ruth Holder-Smith, competing in one of the support races, suffered a crashing fall on the home straight with a 40 minute delay ensuing whilst the stricken rider received medical attention and comfort. Ruth was knocked unconscious and was taken to St. Mary’s hospital by County Ambulance having come round and complained of shoulder and pelvic pain.
When racing resumed in the main event the action was fast and furious with pre-meeting favourite Edward Kennett showing a clean pair of wheels to all the opposition as he completed his qualifying rides unbeaten. His former Eastbourne team mate Jason Edwards finished second in qualification with 10 points that included some stunning passing manoeuvres, whilst Coles secured a final place with two late wins after an early fall and the final line up was completed by Exeter based Henry Atkins continuing his successful comeback from major shoulder surgery.
With awards also being made to the C Final winner Elliot Kelly and B Final winner Ryan Terry-Daley, it was clear that every rider was giving of their very best and contributed hugely to a milestone meeting.
And so to the Grand Final and what a final it turned out to be. Kennett, a finalist in last week’s Island Masters had first pick of starting position and perhaps with last week in mind opted for the outside position. Edwards had second pick and opted for gate 3, Coles chose the inside and that left Atkins on gate 2. As the tapes flew up it appeared that Kennett’s bike ‘grounded’ allowing the other three a better run to the first turn and as the riders emerged from a tight start Coles had his nose in front of Edwards and Atkins. Kennett made short work of driving past Atkins and started the chase of the front two, however they too had good speed and with Coles riding the high line it looked odds-on he would take the crown but on the last two corners disaster struck as he got his entry to the corner wrong and speared across the track and hit the air fence in a very awkward looking fall. The other three riders did well to avoid the fallen rider and rather than rapturous cheers it was stunned silence that greeted the remaining finishers and of course the inaugural Champion Jason Edwards. It was a huge relief to all inside Smallbrook that Coles was able to get to his feet and walk back to the pits with sympathetic applause accompanying him. Take nothing away from Jason Edwards. In a fully committed showing of fast and stylish action, he was in the right place to take advantage of Coles misfortune and is a very worthy winner.
Speaking after the meeting, Wightlink Warriors co-owner Barry Bishop said, “What an incredible night. I want to thank all the riders in all the categories for giving us an amazing night of racing and entertaining our marvellous supporters and my thanks also to our sponsors especially Ashmore Surveyors Ltd.
That final was something else and I feel so sorry for Connor. He is such a genuine guy and to see his chance disappear in such spectacular fashion was heart breaking, but you got to say a massive well done to Jason. He was in the right place at the right time and his overall racing on the night was first class. Brilliant. I must also pay tribute to Eddie and Henry. Eddie was so close after missing out last week and Henry - and Connor as well - was a real star offering his bike for photos during our extended break.
Amongst all the joy we turn our thoughts to Ruth (Holder-Smith) who is currently at the hospital. Lady racers are a rare breed and to see her prone on the track was a sickening moment. Our amazing medical team and the County Ambulance crew were heroic as they comforted and assessed her and we sincerely hope to deliver a positive update on Friday”.
Edward Kennett 12, Jason Edwards 10, Connor Coles 8, Henry Atkins 8, Ryan Terry-Daley 8, Charley Powell 8, Connor King 6, Danno Verge 5, Elliot Kelly 3, Chris Widman 2, Chris Watts 2, Nick Laurence 0.
C Final: Kelly, Watts, Laurence.
B Final: Terry-Daley, Powell, King.
Grand Final: Edwards, Kennett, Atkins, Coles