Joy and pain for local riders at Mildenhall Speedway
- Credit: Derek Leader
On a day of thrills and spills at the GB U21 Championship semi-final at Mildenhall Speedway, sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery, there was celebration and extreme commiseration for the West Row faithful.
Home star Jason Edwards came out on top after a winning maximum, but the gloss was somewhat taken off that by events in heat two as young local prospect William Richardson suffered a serious leg injury.
The teenager from Edingthorpe had stepped into the field after the late withdrawal of Belle Vue rider Archie Freeman and was looking forward to what was his competitive debut.
And what a start Richardson made, leading his first outing going into bend two - when events behind him saw a coming together which led to the chasing Nathan Ablitt shunting into Richardson’s rear wheel, thus catapulting the hapless rider into the fence.
It was a freak accident, in that few would’ve expected a nasty leg break to result - but sadly that was William’s fate and all attention then was on getting the youngster into the hands of expert medical attention.
That was via the track paramedics and then the wait ensued for cover to take the teenager to hospital.
It was a long wait but eventually after Richardson was safely on his way, replacement medical and ambulance cover arrived, allowing the action to continue.
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Step forward another youngster who impressed last year in after meeting rides at West Row, 15-year-old Jody Scott, getting the unlikeliest of chances to mix it with the big boys on his completive debut also.
And Scott turned out to be writing the story of the meeting, as he went out in that long-delayed rerun of heat two and won the race – by a distance indeed.
He backed this up with a trio of second places in his last three rides to finish equal sixth and face a run-off for the remaining place in the British U21 Final.
Meanwhile, amongst all the drama on and off track, one cool head stood shoulders above his peers as Edwards cruised to five imperious race wins.
Former World Youth champion Kyle Bickley was dispatched in Edwards' second ride and once, in heat 14, former Fen Tigers’ teammate Henry Atkins got the view of Edwards’ rear wheel, it was something of a formality to wrap up the maximum and top step on the podium in his last ride.
There were contrasting fortunes for Edwards’ two league title-winning team-mates of last term.
Sam Hagon scored a solid 10 points including a vital race win in heat 17 to qualify for his first U21 Final but for Ablitt it was an afternoon to forget.
Shedding his chain on the way to the tapes for the second staging of the ill-fated heat two put him on the back foot immediately and failing to get the better of either of the McGurk siblings proved costly.
After a third place behind Bickley and Atkins in his last chance in heat 20 he became the biggest casualty of the cut-throat qualification process.
Ablitt's Belle Vue teammate Harry McGurk had a crash in his third ride and, come the end of the regulation heats, was tied on nine with debutant Scott.
The run-off was a step too far for young Scott after an heroic effort, rewarded by the reserve berth when the national championship is decided at Birmingham’s Perry Barr stadium in August.
Mildenhall co-owner Phil Kirk said: "I'd like to go on record thanking our supporters for their patience - there were certain issues that we will be resolving ahead of next Sunday's meeting withs Poultec Select.
"Also a big thank you to the riders, our track staff and the referee and GB Young Lions co-ordinator, Neil Vatcher who worked with us to ensure we could complete the meeting; it was a real team effort.
"We have been in touch with William's father and are saddened to hear William faces a lengthy break from the sport following the accident.
"It has taken the gloss off the day for us as William is a fine young man and already very popular around the club. We look forward to welcoming back to the club when his recovery allows.
"On a brighter note, Jason (Edwards) was immaculate and showed what fans can expect from this impressive rider this year. He fully deserved his victory and we wish him well in the final at Birmingham later in the season.
"One other bright spot was Jody Scott's performance in his first meeting at this level. He was so calm and controlled on the bike and is a such a stylish young rider who like William we enjoy having around the club."
The next Speedway action at West Row is on Easter Sunday (April 17, 3pm) when the 2022 Fen Tigers take to the track in team action for the first time against a Poultec Select of young GB talent.