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  • Writer's pictureAndy Hague

Morley takes US Handicap crown on night of thrills at Smallbrook

Ben Morley once again showed his liking for the open spaces of the 385 metres Smallbrook Speedway circuit as he took top spot in the 'Mark Cooper @ Truly Independent' US Style Handicap meeting.

But on a night of exciting handicap racing (a format unique to the Isle of Wight - with 'C' grade competitors on the start line, 'B' grades off 15m and 'A' grade a huge 30m back) - it was most certainly not all one way.


In a meeting designed to encourage overtaking by deliberately handicapping the higher graded riders, it was fantastic entertainment for the IOW fans: with no less than 30 passes on track.


It started in dramatic fashion from heat one: the former Warriors heat leader, Morley is attuned to this type of racing and timed an audacious move from bends two to three, when he went from 4th to 1st swooping under his three fellow racers in a breathtaking manoeuvre.

However, lady luck was not on Morley’s side, as a startled Jamie Sealey came down directly in front of Morgan Williams, who put all his years of training at 'My First Skid' to lay the bike down safely - much to the relief of Sealey. 

The rerun turned out to be equally as thrilling but it was Belle Vue Colts' Freddy Hodder who got the better of Morley this time to take the win.  Morley and Hodder looked hungry and so it proved, as both progressed during the meeting to reach the 'A' final.


 18-year-old Hodder, off a 15m handicap  showed brilliant form throughout the evening, dropping only one point (14 points) to Morley in the qualification heats and showing why he justified a recent Team GB spot and surely a bright start of the future.


Already a fixture in the GB team set up, Leicester Lions favorite Joe Thompson (a late addition to the field) may have taken a while to get used to the format - but after two third places produced a hat trick of straight wins to power to the 'A' final with 11 points and 2nd gate pick.  Joe looked great once he had got used to the bigger track again and this result will only add to his ever-improving season.


The ever-consistent Morley did what Ben always does and produced it when it was needed all night, with some thrilling passes around the outside on his favourite bends three and four.  The twice National League Riders' Champion secured third pick on 11 points in the ''A final.


Danno Verge continued his return to the sport with a spirited effort on six points to take his place in the title-deciding 'A' Final also.  Danno showed signs of his form returning, which was a delight to see and bodes well for the future for him.


Jamie Sealey and Morgan Williams both had good nights and will have learnt much from the evening, having had the opportunity to lead from the front.  New Warriors team member Williams particularly impressed with his electric starts and if he keeps going has every chance to progress in the sport.  Meanwhile, long-time fans favourite Sealey once again was in the thick of it and the ever smiling rider from Newbury was a very welcome returnee to Smallbrook.


So to the finals.  The 'B' race saw rookies Harley Freeman and Bill Haynes promoted from the support class to take on Williams & Sealey.  Williams with his now famous starts flew out of the gate for an early lead but Sealey does have experience and took his time, but slowly lap by lap reeled in Morgan before passing him to take the win with Williams 2nd, Freeman 3rd and Haynes at the back.


The 'A' final was much anticipated.  Track conditions had changed from grippy and wet to dry and slicker but that did not impact on the action. With no handicap in the Grand Final, all four riders went to the line to start.

Joe Thompson, Freddy Hodder and  Ben Morley flew from the gate; but it was Morley off gate four that used all his Smallbrook knowledge to power around the other three on the outside of bends one and two.  But it wasn’t over.  Young guns Hodder & Thompson were hungry for that victory. Hodder was continually buzzing around Morley with Thompson right in the middle of the things too - it was truly cut and thrust for all four laps but without a position change.

One of those races you hold your breath with expectation expecting the move or mistake, but it wasn’t to be and Ben took the chequered flag, with Hodder 2nd, Thompson 3rd and Verge 4th It was the most exciting of climaxes, delighting meeting sponsor Mark Cooper who congratulated all six riders who had put on a fantastic show all night:  a fine way to finish the meeting.



'Mark Cooper @ Truly Independent' US Style Handicap@ Qualifying scores:  Freddy Hodder 14, Joe Thompson 11, Ben Morley 11, Danno Verge 6, Morgan Williams 4, Jamie Sealy 2.

Grand Final: Morley, Hodder, Thompson, Verge


Development Challenge

Harley Freeman 8, Jamie Evans 5, Bill Haynes 4, Hayden Watt (unfortunately crashed in first heat and withdrew) 0

Image courtesy of Sportography.


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