First blood to Aces and Heathens in California Winter Team League!
British style team racing made a welcome return to California at Perris Raceway on 5th December, with last years top two teams, the Aces and Heathens (formerly Rebels) both winning their opening matches in the 3 round series.
The event had a Christmas theme, with both a speedway rider and sidecar team racing in Santa outfits, a Christmas tree lit by the starting gate, Christmas lights adorning many of the pit spaces, the track staff in Santa hats and a toy drive that had over 100 donations that will see dozens of underprivileged kids happy on Christmas morning.
The event featured two team matches as well as races for Support, Youth, Pee Wee and Sidecar classes – 49 races in all. The team format had a slight format change – the first 14 heats successfully utilized the 2015 British Elite League format, which keeps the 7 riders on each team racing riders of similar ability. This was followed by 3 additional heats that used the World Cup race format of involving all four teams with one rider per team entered. This enabled the top scorers from all four teams to duke it out at the end of the night, with points scored from the extra three heats still counting towards the respective two matches.
Match one featured the champion Ventura Aces take on the Perris Eagles. The first 14 heats saw a close competition with there never being more than four points between the teams. Max Ruml led the Aces with five wins out of five from the heats. After a 4-2 each way in the opening two races, the Aces scored a 5-1 from Ruml and Tyson Talkington in heat 3. This was the only 5-1 of the match. 4-2 scores to the Eagles in heats 8 and 10 tied the scores at 30, with another 4-2 in heat 12 from Joey Donaldson and Ron Davis putting the Eagles two up. A crucial heat 14 win by Gage Geist of the Eagles meant that they were 43-41 ahead going into the 3 additional heats. The Eagles very much gave an all round performance, with Austin Novratil, Gage Geist and Tyler Warren all scoring 8 from their heats.
Match two was a close affair through the first five heats between the Victorville Vikings and Huntington Heathens. Kurtis Hamill of the Vikings won heat 1 by a mile, but Luke Becker of the Heathens dominated in similar fashion, recording a 12 points maximum from the heats. A Heathens 5-1 in heat 8 from Dalton Leedy and Mike Dalbey put them 7 up and into a lead that would never be caught. The Heathens had five heat winners and ten in total from the first 14 heats, putting them 47-37 ahead after 14 heats in a lead that could not be mathematically caught going into the final 3 additional heats.
The additional three heats proved the new format to be a winner. Each teams top scorer was automatically put into the last race. The other two heats were up for nomination by the team managers, the added twist being you could only have two of your top three ranked riders in these races, meaning a middle or lower order rider from each team had to be selected.
The first extra heat saw Rick Richards of the Aces pull off a stunning gate and win. Dryden Gayle of the Vikings kept Dalbey of the Heathens at bay for second. Though the Heathens had already beaten the Eagles, Richards win and an Eagles last place put the Aces suddenly one ahead of the Eagles.
The second heat saw another big Aces display, Tyson Talkington made a fabulous gate but was hunted down and eventually passed on the line by Dillon Ruml of the Vikings. Russell Green of the Heathens kept Geist at the back so suddenly the Aces were three up with one race to go, and seeing as their rider was the unbeaten Max Ruml, the writing was on the wall for the much improved Eagles.
The final race (also dubbed the Main Event) pitched the unbeaten Becker and Max Ruml together. It was Becker who made an incredible gate and the 16 year old's raw speed was stunning as he simply drove away from World Cup rider Ruml and the pack for a win and 15 point maximum. Ruml's second place secured an Aces win over the Eagles, whilst Viking Kurtis Hamill edged inside of Austin Novratil for third.
Becker was simply a class act all event but once more the young riders all delivered – heat wins on the night were recorded by Kurtis Hamill, PJ Byrne, Dillon Ruml, Dalton Leedy, Luke Becker, Max Ruml, Dryden Gayle and Gage Geist as the competition for 2016 World Cup team, reserve and squad positions heats up.
The other divisions did not disappoint. Tom Bryant won the Support Class main and a heat, with Steve Brown taking the other heat. 250Cc Junior Class saw Sebastian Palmese win all races, Sara Cords escaped unhurt after a nasty tumble whilst lying second in the Main. 150Cc Mini Division 1 saw Luke Whitcomb win his second Main event in a row and also a heat, Slater Lightcap taking the other heat. 150 Mini Division two victory once again went to Glenn Geist, who also took a heat. Rachel Schnakenberg took the other heat. Unfortunately rookie rider Czane Dunbar suffered a broken leg in an after race tumble as he was leaving the track.
Jose Navarrete held on to win the Pee Wee Main – heats went to Cole Ayers and Travis Horn. Joe Jones and Tom Summers, in the Christmas spirit dressed as Santa and his elf and with a Rudolph theme sidecar, won all three Sidecar events.
The event was held in tribute to Andy McCarter from Cradley Heath who passed away last week and was well loved by many in American Speedway. McCarter played an important role in the USA Dream Team, assisting with logistics and accommodating around a dozen riders at his home over the years. Half time featured an upbeat memorial service with an after the race toast occurring on the center of the track.
The next event at Perris and first in 2016 is on Saturday January 16th for the 'Winter Olympique'. The event uses a unique handicap format where a rider's starting position is determined by their last heat result. It is expected the USA World Cup rider Broc Nicol will use this event as his comeback race after sustaining a broken leg at Costa Mesa in August. Team Racing resumes on February 6th.
On behalf of all at Perris we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and wonderful 2016. Thanks to all who came out for a night to remember, and thanks to everyone who donated a toy or a prize for the raffle!
Team Race #1
HUNTINGTON HEATHENS 52
PERRIS EAGLES 43
LEAGUE TABLE AFTER ROUND 1 OF 3
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