Eastbourne Seagulls battled to a deserved draw at Kent Speedway on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon (May 31) in the National Development League.
The 45-45 result gives the Seagulls, powered by Save Thurrock Hammers Speedway, two league points.
The Seagulls, managed by Hammers Director Mark Sexton as a stand in for Will Pottinger, were never headed by the Kent Royals although they had no answer to the home team’s Dan Gilkes who cruised to a 15-point maximum.
Eastbourne made the best possible start when Connor King flew from the tapes to go on to win heat one with Jake Knight in second place, giving them a 5-1.
It took until heat ten for the Royals to get back on terms with the match eventually going to a last heat decider.
Heat 15 ended with a win for Gilkes but with Nathan Ablitt and Jake Knight filling the minor places, the result was a draw.
Eastbourne co-promoter Lee Kilby said: “It was a terrific result. “Everybody contributed, which was the most pleasing thing.
“When you walk away with a draw and everyone has scored points, that is a complete team effort.
“There was great team spirit in the pits. People were moving around, helping each other. There was good communication between races.
“The boys did really well.”
He said Jake Knight did what they expected and Nathan Ablitt was “setting his bar nice and high”.
“Connor [King] was the one today who stepped up with a paid ten return,” Kilby said.
He said the strategy was to try and avoid last places and that was to a large extent achieved.
“That was the key. They dug in.
“We said if you are in a heat with Ryan Kinsley and Dan Gilkes, and they trap and are gone, we said just sit in, be sensible, be happy with second and third and just consolidate.
“They did that brilliantly,” Kilby said.
Kent Royals: Ryan Kinsley 10 (5), Jacob Clouting 1 (4), Daniel Gilkes 15 (5), Jamie Couzins 0 (3), Rob Ledwith 4 (4), Josh Warren 1 (3), Jake Mulford 14 (6).
Eastbourne Seagulls: Jake Knight 10+2 (5), Connor King 7+3 (4), Chad Wirtzfeld 3+1 (4), Danno Verge 6+2 (4), Richard Andrews 5+1 (4), Nick Laurence 2+2 (3), Nathan Ablitt 12 (6).
Here’s how Kevin Ling saw the match unfold:
Heat 1: Wow what a start – a fantastic gate for Connor King – he was first into the first bend and led all the way – backed with every turn of the wheel by Jake Knight. Ryan Kinsley and Jacob Clouting somewhat adrift by the close. 1-5, time 60.8
Heat 2: Two races in one really but in truth Jake Mulford owned it. He led Nathan Ablittt by a quarter of a lap by the close – importantly though Nick Laurence held on the beat Josh Warren. 3-3, 4-8, fast time 58.4
Heat 3: Classy win for Dan Gilkes who contained the early threat of Danno Verge. Jamie Couzins held third and the 4-2 looked to be in the bag but Chad Wirtzfeld found a burst of speed cutting through on his inside of turn one of lap three to secure the share of the spoils. 3-3, 7-11, 58.9
Heat 4: Mulford claimed a second victory at the expense of Ablitt with Richard Andrews following in third. The Seagulls had a drop of the fortune not enjoyed by their avian counterparts on Saturday as Rob Ledwith motor failed him on the starting grid – he was lapped twice but inexplicably joined in on the final lap – still a 3-3 though,10-14, 59.0
Heat 5: Knight made the start but Gilkes cut through on his inside out of bend two to lead down the back straight and for the remainder of the course. King would get the better of Couzins, however, the 3-3 keeping the Seagulls 4-points to the good. 13-17, 59.2
Heat 6: Kinsley an all-the-way winner but Andrews, after a ragged start, made up ground and had him in his sights. Clouting led Laurence and a Royals’ 4-2 looked to be on the cards but the Kent rider suffered a fall on bend three of lap two but was thankfully straight up and cleared the track. 3-3, 16-20, 59.3
Heat 7: No mistake this time from Ledwith who made the start and led from gate to flag – Wirtzfeld and Verge tucked in nicely for the minor places to leave Warren trailing, 3-3, 19-23, 59.7
Heat 8: Clouting exceeded the two minutes’ time allowance. He was replaced by Warren who also failed to beat the two minutes. Three riders only. When the race eventually gets under way, Mulford makes it three wins out of three in his personal duel with Ablitt – not a moment to soon as he suffers a puncture that sees him pull up down the back straight heading back to the pits. King rides home unchallenged for a seventh succession 3-3 and Seagulls still hold the lead 22-26, 60.2
Heat 9: Gilkes and Mulford lead from the outset and look set to draw the Royals level but Andrews produces a brilliant captain’s ride to sweep past Mulford down the back straight of lap three. He couldn’t quite catch the impressive Gilkes but with Laurence at the back, the damage was limited to to a 4-2 in favour of the homesters, which in turn preserved the Seagulls lead, one that now stands at 28-26, 59.9
Heat 10: Wirtzfeld and Verge made the start and things were looking good but Kinsley swept around their outsides into the lead down back straight – then disaster strikes as Chad falls at the tail end of lap two, gifting Clouting the third point. Chad actually remounted and then fell again. 4-2. 30-30, 61.1
Heat 11: Knight leads Ledwith with King holding third . A 4-2 looks to be the order of things but Ledwith then suffers a fall himself to leave the Eagles to take maximum points at the expense of Warren. 1-5, 31-35, 59.4
Heat 12: Brilliant start from Ablitt to lead but Gilkes who showed all his class to take the lead on the outside heading into lap three – Nathan at least broke the hoodoo that Mulford held over him as he took second place without ever being troubled. 4-2. 35-37, 59.3
Heat 13: Kinsley makes the early running with Knight and Andrews tucking in behind – disaster strikes as Richard tumbles on 2nd bend, second lap to enable the Kent 4-2. All square 39-39, 60.3
Heat 14: Mulford returns to his winning ways with a fourth heading of Ablitt in five starts. Verge secured third place comfortably ahead of Couzins, the 3-3 sending the sides into a last heat decider. 42-42, 60.3
Heat 15: Fantastic race to finish the afternoon. Just as they had in heat 12, Ablitt diced with Gilkes and looked to have his measure. It was not to be though as the Kent man took the verdict for a deserved maximum – but, every cloud and all that because Nathan combined with Knight to fill the minor places in front of Kinsley for a 3-3 and a wholly deserved draw. 45-45, 60.8