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  • Writer's pictureRob Dyer

Result: US Style Handicap Challenge

Tonight's meeting was brought to a premature end following a shuddering last race crash involving Kiwi racer George Congreve (pictured)ght’s speedway meeting at the Smallbrook Stadium was brought to a premature end following a shuddering last race crash involving Kiwi racer George Congreve (pictured).

The Handicap meeting (carrying generous cash sponsorship by Mark Cooper IFA @Truly Independent) had produced some spectacular racing through the qualifying races and semi-finals, but the Grand Final was halted when Congreve misjudged his path around bends 1 and 2 and hit the safety barrier at high speed. The six-rider race was shaping up to be another classic however with Congreve prone on the circuit the race had to halted with the medical moving quickly to attend to him.

It soon became evident that the popular visitor would need extended treatment for suspected damage to legs and ribs and with the County Ambulance and Doctor also called to the track, the meeting had to be abandoned with the final result unable to be declared. An unsatisfactory end to the racing aspect of the night, however in the greater scheme of things there has been excellent news overnight as, after a full hospital examination, George has suffered no breaks or major injuries – some inevitable soreness in several places - and with rest over the next days will be fine. He was able to return to his mainland base on the early morning ferry crossing.

The other riders in the final were Connor Coles, Rhys Naylor, Henry Atkins, Chris Watts and Alex Spooner and were clearly saddened by the loss of their friend and rival and after some sensible and sporting discussion agreed that the prize pot would be shared six ways with a suggestion emerging later that some of the finalists were planning to pass their prize on to Congreve to offset hefty repair costs to his bike and Kevlar suit.

Until that last race incident, the main talking point came after the second semi-final when, within sight of the chequered flag, Coles suffered a mechanical breakdown and went from first to last in seconds. At that moment it appeared that one of the pre-match favourites chances had evaporated, but he was handed a lifeline by fellow racer Kelsey Dugard, himself a qualifier for the final, who offered Coles his final place in a wholly magnificent sporting gesture. Coles gladly accepted and looked to be well place in the ill-fated final until the stoppage.

Speaking on Friday morning, Wightlink Warriors co-owner Barry Bishop said, “What great news we have had overnight. The hospital has given George the ‘all clear’ to return home and he’s now back on the mainland. We were having such a great night until the last race and incidents like that leave me with an awful feeling. We all wish George a speedy recovery, he has been a breath of fresh air with his all-action style and engaging personality. I must also pay tribute to all the medical teams who attended to George and provided showed total professionalism in dealing with a traumatic situation.

The way the meeting concluded was unfortunate and providing information to our patrons to close the meeting off neatly was challenging due to the medical situation. Please accept my apologies for the less than perfect ending to the meeting. I also want to thank the other finalists for their help and understanding at the end of the night. Without being able to declare a result, their help in determining how to allocate the sponsors’ awards was sensibly resolved.”

In the development challenge event, the Wightlink Warlocks beat the Wightlink Wizards by 20 points to 16 with Morgan Williams unbeaten for the Warlocks.

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