Difficult Start For The Racers.
The first meeting at Reading’s new home the Abbey Stadium, Swindon proved to be an exciting prospect for fans and riders alike. The Swindon Robins raced earlier in the evening and beat the Ipswich Witches 51-39. After the Premiership meeting, the Racers took to the track for the first time this season against the Isle of Wight Wizards.
There were problems for the home team before a wheel was turned, with Jamie Bursill pulling out on Sunday evening after damaging his bikes in a National League challenge at Mildenhall. Adam Shepherd was drafted in to replace him after several unattached riders turned down the opportunity of some last minute action. Then captain Nick Laurence was refused permission to race due to his racing licence paperwork not being complete. This meant the other 3 riders would share his rides.
Heat number one looked a strong line-up for the Racers having Shepherd and Sam Norris at the tapes. The Isle of Wight kicked off their season with Jamie Sealey and Chris Watts as their first riders. But it was Norris who emerged first from the tapes quickly followed by Shepherd. The Racers duo lead for all 4 laps and started off their season with a 5-1 with Watts finishing in 3rd and 15 year old Norris carding his first competitive win.
In heat 2, Reading looked to continue their early found form whilst the Wizards looked for redemption. Shepherd and Rhys Laker were out for Reading and they would face Ben Ilsley and the visiting team's own 15 year old Chad Wirtzfeld. The youngster led from the start for the Wizards, however the Racers fought strong and managed to gain 2nd and 3rd to tie the heat 3-3 after Laker passed Ilsley on the first lap, to keep Reading ahead 8-4 on the night.
Ilsley and Wirtzfeld were out again in heat 3 for the Wizards as was Laker for Reading, joined by Norris. Wirtzfeld continued his quick gating and again led from the start, whilst Norris followed in 2nd. Coming in 3rd place was Ilsley who this time got the better of Laker. Reading’s lead was now narrowed to 10-8.
In heat 4 Shepherd and Laker were out for Reading whilst The Isle of Wight had Sealey and Watts racing for them. Unfortunately for Reading, Shepherd's engine blew up while he was leading, gifting a 5-1 to the Islanders.
Going into heat 5 the Racers were trailing by 13 points to 11. The Reading pair of Sam Norris and Rhys laker would have to race hard to retake the lead, but the Wizards duo of Watts and Wirtzfeld conjured up some more magic to win the race 4-2 and put them 4 points up on the night. This meant that Reading would have to win the final race by a 5-1 advantage to come away with a draw.
Sam Norris and Adam Shepherd - borrowing Nick Laurence's bike - were out for the last time for the Racers whilst Sealey and the unbeaten Wirtzfeld, who was brought in to replace Ilsley, raced for The Isle of Wight. This was a move disputed by the Reading management, though the referee insisted no rules were being broken. When the race got underway it wasn’t meant to be for the Racers as Wirtzfeld completed his maximum on the night with Sam Norris trailing closely behind in 2nd.
Whilst the Racers were unlucky to lose 20-16 on the night, it was great to see so many fans staying to watch the stars of the future display their talent on a Speedway bike. The Swindon track proved excellent for racing and it was brilliant to see the Winged Wheel race again this season.
Match report by Sports Media student Owen Saunders, who was Readings guest for the evening as he makes a documentary on Sam Norris (pictured) Photos from the match will follow.