MATCH REPORT: Midlands gather momentum in Sheffield

Round two of Cycle Speedway commissions’ new initiative, the Supertrax Battle of Britain series arrived at Cookson Park, Sheffield, and did not disappoint. With Sheffield’s vice chair Rob Mawhood commenting afterwards: “If this is what the Battle of Britain series delivers, then every club should want to be part of it.”

A week of rain had left the track in the best possible condition. The weather on the day was fine and dry, and a much larger than usual crowd for Sheffield matches then witnessed two matches full with the highest order of Cycle Speedway racing.

The first race in the senior match set the mode for the remaining 20 heats. Kris Ramsden sped from the tapes, only to be caught and passed by both Ricki Johnson and Scott Millward.

The Midlands riders, who have limited experience of the Cookson Bowl, adapted quickly to the ultra-fast track, in the end providing the race winner in 19 of the 20 heats, to win the match comfortably by 111-89.


Jake Read was the sole North & Scotland rider to take the chequered flag, winning heat 16 and denying Myke Grimes a max in the process who tucked in behind his team mate, Scott Millward. Ben Higham and Adam Watson were consistent in that they beat a Midlands rider every time they were on track. However, with no Damian Zareba and several other top Northern stars missing there was no punch for Mike Hack’s team.

The North & Scotland team also included three riders from the U18 match. This should not take anything away from the Midlands riders though. They were constantly quicker from the starts and out on the track. Paul Heard and Ricki Johnson made sublime outside passes on Kris Ramsden and Reece Pollitt respectively.

Both riders would finish unbeaten, with Paul Heard winning all six of his races. For any statistician out there we had an interesting fact. Four Midlands riders, Matt Smith, Lee Kemp, Mark Winwood and Jamie Ball either won or placed last in each race they competed.

The meeting also contained drama with a cash bonus on offer if the track record (held at 38.16 by Bobby McMillan) was in someone else’s hands come the end of the match. Myke Grimes (twice) and Paul Heard both posted sub 39 seconds in heats 2, 6 and 11. As we approached the nominated races, the cash looked to be staying in the Sheffield coffers.

Paul Heard raced to a 24 point maximum. Photo by Andy Whitehouse.

With the match points already in the bag, Paul Heard went all out in heat 19. The crowd got involved when it was obvious he was going to be very close, cheering him on over the last lap. It worked a treat as the stopwatch showed 38.00 when Paul crossed the finish line, and he punched the air in delight.

Unfortunately for Paul, Myke Grimes came out in heat 20 with the same conviction. It was Myke who had finished second when Bobby set the track record in 2015. Myke sped out from grid 2, and again it was obvious after two laps that the record was under threat. Myke crossed the finish line, and his winning time was 37.81. Therefore, the popular Coventry rider went home with the cash prize and a beaming smile.

Kris Ramsden 13+2, Ed Morton 6, Ben Higham 11+4, Adam Watson 17+1, Jake Read 15+2, Reece Pollitt 14+2, Niall Morton 6+1, Kyle Holland 7.

Scott Millward 11+1, Ricki Johnson 19+1, Matt Smith 11, Myke Grimes 20+3, Lee Kemp 8, Paul Heard 24, Mark Winwood 7, Jamie Ball 10.

The Under 18 match, which preceded, was ridden in a totally different contrast. Races were very cat and mouse and we had numerous re-runs.

The 14 heats taking over 80 minutes to complete. North and Scotland chose to take outside gates for heat 1, which in retrospect could have been a mistake. Niall Morton and Max Evans appeared to concentrate their efforts on Haydn Rowley, which allowed Cameron Gill to take an impressive and deserved win. Haydn split the home pair to give the Midlands a 6-4 lead.

From here, the North and Scotland were always chasing the match. The Midlands went six points up in heat three with their first 7-3 maximum, from Jake White and Brandon Whetton (would we have got the same result if the Midlands had been on outs rather than ins?).

Action from the elite junior class by Andy Whitehouse.

The first race after the interval took an age to complete, with at least four re-runs. The North & Scotland managing to reduce the deficit to 39-40 after Carl Parfitt was excluded, after hampering Ed Morton on the exit of turn 2 on the third lap. The re-run saw Ewan Hancox split the Max Evans/Ed Morton pairing to restrict the damage to a 6-3.

Heat 10 had another pivotal moment when reserve replacement Ollie Morris delivered a sucker punch to Ed Morton. The North Scotland pairing of Michael Preston and Ed Morton were sitting on a comfortable 7-3, which would have put the home team ahead for the first time in the match.

Ed though was concentrating so much on keeping Haydn Rowley high up the track that he left enough room for Ollie Morris to dive up the inside entering turn one on the last lap. Ed reacted at the last moment as Morris spilled and hit the deck. However Haydn had seen what was about to happen and dropped under both to get the second place that maintained the Midlands one point lead.

Ollie Morris comes down but allows Haydn Rowley to take advantage for the Midlands. Photo by Clive Wren.

This somehow inspired the Midlands team and they finished strongly with three 7-3 maximums in the final four races to run out victors by 76-63.

Carl Parfitt was unbeaten (but for that exclusion) and got solid support from Haydn Rowley, Brandon Whetton and Jake White. While reserve Ewan Hancox only lost once in his three rides.

Adam Watson was consistent for North & Scotland but though Max Evans, Louis Wright and Michael Preston each won a race they also placed last in a race. The North and Scotland’s two reserves, Kaysor Mohammadi and Lewis Foxley were both stepping up a class, and neither disappointed.

Both showed enough effort and promise for you to know that their day will come.

Niall Morton 8, Max Evans 7, Louis Wright 11, Adam Watson 11+2, Ed Morton 13, Michael Preston 8+1, Kaysor Mohammadi 4. Lewis Foxley 1.

Haydn Rowley 14, Cameron Gill 8, Carl Parfitt 15+1, Damian Pelaczyk 2, Jake White 10+2, Brandon Whetton 16+2, Ewan Hancox 10+1, Ollie Morris 1.

With both matches completed, the riders were asked to compete in a wheelie challenge, with a cash prize on offer in both the Under 18 and senior category.

The riders had to complete 25 metres (roughly the back straight) to make it through to the final. In the Under 18’s several favourites fell at the first hurdle. Ed Morton, Haydn Rowley, Cameron Gill and Lewis Foxley couldn’t quite make the qualifying distance. The Under 18 prize went to Stockport’s Michael Preston by just a few metres from Sheffield’s Sam Haines (who promptly went further when the competition was over). Kaysor Mohammadi (Bury) finished third.

Scott Millward, Myke Grimes and Kris Ramsden failed to make the qualifying distance, which was a surprise with Ramsden who had looked well in control on a few warm up attempts. Therefore, it was Lee Kemp and Ricki Johnson who made the final. Ricki went first and covered 40 metres. Lee went second but managed just 20 metres, leaving Ricki with the senior cash prize.

Once again the crowd got involved cheering and commiserating with their favourite, all expertly handled by announcer Chris Bingham.

Thanks to Sheffield for the report.