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  • Writer's pictureAndy Hague

Wightlink Warriors open 2024 season with emphatic win

Isle of Wight’s Wightlink Warriors opened their 2024 NORA Speedway season last night (Thursday 27th. June) with a dominant display over the Cradley ARH Heathens in the first leg of the Vince Mapley Memorial Trophy at Smallbrook Stadium winning 53 – 37.

With some new faces in the 2024 team, it was a refreshingly solid performance from the Wightlink Warriors with every rider registering on the scoreboard and some outstanding performances.  The Warriors were unfortunately forced into some last minute changes when homegrown talent Chad Wirtzfeld reported he was still feeling the effects of a Grasstrack racing crash on the continent last weekend and hot prospect Jacob Clouting was sadly unwell.  However, the Warriors wasted no time in bringing in Aussie Dayle Wood for Wirtzfeld and fans favourite Ben Morley for Clouting.


The Warriors opened with a perfect start gaining a quick win 5-1 with Captain Arran Butcher and 15 year old Sonny Springer giving the fans an insight into what was to come - the hot prospect Springer in his debut meeting for the club going on to score a paid 15 point maximum – one of the best debuts any fan will have witnessed throughout the club’s history.


Springer was backed up ably by the skipper Butcher (9+1), 'guest' Morley (14) and flamboyant Aussie, Wood (9+2).  German short track specialist Henning Loof is dialing in on the big tracks with 6 and local boy Morgan Williams finding his feet in the higher league on 2.


One highlight on a night of excellent racing was in Heat 11 with the teen Springer showing maturity far beyond his youthful years when he came out of bend two last but showed immense patience and track craft to reel in and overtake the other riders lap by lap to win to huge cheers from the crowd making him for sure a soon-to-be fans' favorite.


It truly wasn’t all one way traffic though, with the ARH Heathens providing some great action determinedly lead by Tom Spencer who not only topped scored (11) for the West Midlanders but provided the race of the night when he came from a 15m handicap to win the race in some style. 

Spencer was backed up by Luke Harris (7 points), Aussie Matt Marson (6) and former Warrior, happily back on track after a brief retirement, Danno Verge (6).   Youngster James Laker enjoyed one of his best racing visits to Smallbrook with 5 and Josh Couzens enjoyed his night with 2.


Warriors Team Manager Steve Piper said

“I’m delighted to open the season with such a strong performance and I would like to thank both Dayle and Ben for standing in at such late notice.  I was really happy to see all our riders on the score sheet and with a little more time I am sure we will have a very competitive team capable of winning.

"We saw some great racing tonight on a well prepared track despite the soaring temperatures and I would like to thank the track team and all the volunteers for their incredible work."

Visiting team boss Andy Hawthorne commented, " We have some work to do in the second leg of the Vince Mapley Memorial Trophy for sure but the Heathens have done it in the past and it is all still to play for."

That second leg comes in late August but next up at Smallbrook is the always hugely popular US-style Handicap Racing event.  This is very appropriately on July 4th. - Independence Day racing for the nation's leading independent Speedway club!



Wightlink Warriors 53

1.      Arran Butcher 9+1

2.      Sonny Springer 13 + 2 [paid maximum]

3.      Dayle Wood 9+2

4.      Henning Loof 6

5.      Ben Morley 14

6.      Morgan Williams 2

Cradley ARH Heathens 37

1.      Matt Marson 6 + 1

2.      James Laker 5 + 1

3.      Luke Harris 7 + 1

4.      Danno Verge 6 + 1

5.      Tom Spencer 11

6.      Josh Couzens 2 + 1


NORA92 crowns 2023 British J.A.P Champ at Smallbrook Stadium.


Basked in sunshine, Nora92 crowned its last British Speedway Champion of 2023 last night at Smallbrook Stadium on the Isle of Wight when Keith Cornell blasted to three wins out of three to take the first ever J.A.P British title when it was rerun in 2024 after a rain off last year.

On paper with three wins it might look like it was plain sailing for Kent based racer but nothing could be further from the truth. This was a battle for glory from heat one and it produced some first class close quarter action where nothing was given away. The very experienced Dean Felton, back on the shale again in 2024 produced some great swooping passes around bends three and four of Smallbrook’s 385m track to take second and former Wimbledon Don Graham Knowler, who was in the thick of it in each of his races, took third.


Event Coordinator Dave Johnson commented,  “I’m absolutely thrilled for Keith, Dean and Graham who rose to the top in a very competitive inaugural British J.A.P Championship.  The riders have all told me what a great place Smallbrook is to host such events and how much they enjoyed the meeting. I would like to thank everyone riders, our hosts, our sponsors and the fans for making this an incredible event.”


The 2023 British J.A.P. Champion, “Cheeky Chappy” Keith Cornell said, “I’m absolutely buzzing to win this championship and I would like to thank Chris Mackett for the use of the rocket machine he loaned me for the meeting and to everyone who took part. It’s been a great evening for me and for those of us who love to race these beautiful, old, brilliant bikes.”



Keith Cornell 9, Dean Felton 7, Graham Knowler 6, Martin Stacey 5, Andy Hickman 3, Alec Gouch 3, Dave Harvey 3, Rob Snow 0.


Image courtesy of Sportography.


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