The fifth Preston Park meet of the season was marred by a crash which sent young Charlie Heffernan to hospital with a broken collar-bone. The evening had nevertheless begun promisingly with 68 riders signing on, despite the dark skies and the real threat of rain. Two-thirds of the scheduled racing took place before the accident brought an abrupt halt to the meeting.
In the absence of league leader Felix English, busy preparing for next weekend’s national junior 10-mile TT championship with a new PB of 20.14, a points-fest was on offer for all his main rivals. Popular Rupert Rivett was the first to have a go in the 8-lap scratch opener, gaining just over 100 metres on the bunch in the first lap. Philip Burnett, Brock Duncumb-Rogers, Nick Smith, Tim Hill and Andy Parle were controlling the pace of the bunch, and when further injections of speed were made by Mark Burgess and Jack Oliver-Blaney, it was obvious that Rivett had shot his bolt. Danny Clark, Nick Jepson, Milo Burdeau, Sara Gent, Charlie Booth, Matthew Earnshaw and Anthony Rogers were spotted at or near the front of the pack at that point.
However, when things got serious at the bell, Stuart Bettis, Ashley Dennis and Earnshaw were well-placed at the front – though of course with 580 metres still to go. This was the time for the leading lights to react, and after a progressive acceleration on the final lap it was Lee Povey with a sprint-tastic burst who passed the finish in first place, followed by Duncumb-Rogers, Dennis, Ben Miller, Smith and Parle.
The handicap competition gave a chance for riders of all abilities to shine, but it was Chief Commissaire and handicapper Vern McClelland who deserved the plaudits, with most heats very closely contested. In the final, Sam Cheesman came out top, followed home by Steve Kane, Povey, Rogers, Gent and Duncumb-Rogers.
The B-cat points race took place in typical fashion, with rapid rises in pace every two laps when the vital points were up for grabs. Rogers, Jepson and young Jack Hoyle took the first three maximums, then we were treated to a fine attack by Kane, Burdeau and Booth, who succeeded in gaining a small gap before crossing the line for points in that order with two to go before being reeled in. At the finish, it was Earnshaw first over the line, but local schoolteacher Rogers had mastered the others to take top honours in style with his consistent placings, with Hoyle second, Earnshaw third, followed by Jepson, Kane and Burdeau.
As they lined up for the start, the A-cats didn’t know that this would, alas, be the final race of the night. From the outset, a blistering tempo was set, with Bettis, Oliver-Blaney, Charlie Heffernan and Smith taking the first points. After four laps, Bettis again stamped his authority on proceedings, taking the next maximum followed by Dennis, Duncumb-Rogers and Parle. At mid-race, Duncumb-Rogers launched an audacious and promising attack, succeeding in creating a clear advantage over his chasers, with Smith, Oliver-Blaney and Parle also bagging points with four laps left. Unfortunately, on the next lap the infamous Dressing Room Corner claimed two victims, Stuart Bettis and Charlie Heffernan crashing heavily and nearby riders skilfully manoeuvring to avoid them. This signalled the end of the race and indeed of the meet. Stuart was soon on his feet, with minor cuts. Charlie, however, was taken to hospital where an X-ray revealed a collar-bone broken in two places.
Young Charlie stormed to glory at Preston Park in 2008, when he won the Senior B-league. One year later, he had moved up a category and succeeded in taking second overall in the A-league with some exceptional performances. The VC Jubilee rider is certainly one of the most promising youngsters to compete at Preston Park and we wish him a very speedy recovery.
With the racing cut short due to the senior crash, all youth age-groups were deprived of their weekly third race. In the circumstances, no special youth prize-winner was decided.
Under 16 / Under 14
Under 16 Michael Dixon timed his move to perfection to win the hotly-contested joint 4-lap scratch race. Next in line were Under 16 Amy Jacobs, Under 14 Matthew Hill, Under 16s Jack Priddle and Imogen Farlie and Under 14 Spencer Thomas. Matthew claimed victory in the Under 14 dash, where Jake Marley was runner-up and Gabriel Parle finished third. Michael scored his second triumph on the night in the equivalent Under 16 race, this time Imogen claiming second spot and Amy notching up third place.
In a very close finish, Amy Smith came first in the 2-lap scratch event, with Thomas Burnett and Ben O’Brien next over the line. Isaac Wright used his allowance to good effect to storm home first in the handicap, followed by Thomas with Lois Parle third.
Under 10 / Under 8
Under 8 league leader Rahul Fortescue-Talwar won the 1-lap scratch race in style, in front of Rory Burke and Oliver Brooker. Noah Ridgway-Brown took the parallel Under 10 event, followed by Bethany Lewis and Stan Abbott-Stacey. Noah also won the joint handicap race, Dominic Kazlauskas coming second and Bethany third.