Saturday, June 15, 2024
CheetahsOxford Speedway

FULL REPORT: Cheetahs off to a flyer in league campaign

THREE races completely transformed the fortunes of Monarch Oxford Cheetahs, as they fought to a 53-36 home victory over Redcar Bears in their opening league match in the Cab Direct Championship at Oxford Stadium last night (Wednesday).

It looked like a far from easy night for Cheetahs, as Bears 16-14 moved ahead after five races, despite an opening 5-1 for Sam Masters and Cameron Heeps in Heat 1.

But three successive maximums for Cheetahs followed. Firstly, Heeps and Masters raced either side of early leader Michael Palm Toft in Heat 6 to collect the second of three 5-1s races that the Oxford opening pairing collected on the night.

Luke Killeen and Scott Nicholls took a 5-1 from Heat 7, with skipper Nicholls settling behind his young team-mate, after Dan Thompson had crashed out chasing the Oxford duo in the first attempt to hold the race.

Heat 8 was an outstanding race. Redcar’s Jonas Knudsen led, under pressure from both Oxford riders. Ashton Boughen passed the Dane on the third lap, while Heeps’ persistence finally paid off with a late dash around the outside coming off the final bend that had the fans on their feet.

With those three successive 5-1s, the scoreline moved to 29-19 and Cheetahs were completely in charge.

Redcar skipper Charles Wright was placed into Heat 9 as a tactical substitute, but 16-year-old Boughen won his second successive race with a superb ride, after rounding Palm Toft on the second lap.

Masters produced a wonderful team ride in Heat 10, to collect another 5-1 with Heeps and Cheetahs were almost out of sight at 37-23.

Victory was secured with Kileen’s second heat victory in an eventful Heat 12 – the first race after the interval – which saw Heeps miss out on a paid maximum, when he hit a wet patch while leading the first attempt to stage the race and crashed. While Heeps was unlucky in that race, the Australian can reflect back with pride on perhaps his most impressive night in three years as a Cheetah.

Masters only missed out to Wright in Heat 15, but had been involved in some sublime team riding in his opening four outings, each of which had resulted in a 5-1. He scored 12+2, while another four Cheetahs were also paid for double figures, including teenage reserve pairing Killen (10) and Boughen (8+2), who both collected two race wins apiece.

In the meantime, Oxfordshire-born Jason Garrad made his debut for Cheetahs in Heat 3. Named as No 8, Garrad took the first of the rider replacement outings for the injured Henry Atkins but trailed home in fourth.

Luke Killeen said: “I’m definitely happy with how it went today. It’s the first time I’ve scored double figures at this level without the help of the bonus points, while it was also the first time I’ve won more than one race on the same night and the first time I’ve won a race outside of the reserves race in Heat 2. It’s all moving in the right direction.

“I’m starting to get better out of the gate and I’ve got more faith in myself on the bike and learning how to read the track in front of me.

“It was a really good team performance from all of us and it was nice to start our league fixtures with a performance like that. We kept on fighting the whole night, because not only did we want to win, but we also wanted a decent lead for when he head to their place to secure the bonus point.

“I will enjoy coming back here on Sunday afternoon with the Oxford Chargers. We’ve got a good set of boys and we’ll looking to keep up our 100% National League record with a win over Middlesbrough. It’s an enjoyable afternoon of racing and I hope the fans come along and have a good time watching us.”

The draw for the Cab Direct Knockout Cup semi-finals was also made during the evening, and Cheetahs will face Bears in the first semi-final, while the other semi-final will pit Poole against either Berwick or Scunthorpe.

Oxford Monarch Cheetahs 53: Sam Masters 12+2, Cameron Heeps 10+2, Henry Atkins R/R, Jordan Jenkins 5+1, Scott Nicholls 8+2, Ashton Boughen 8+2, Luke Killeen 10, Jason Garrad (No 8) 0.

Redcar Bears 36: Charles Wright 11+1, Jonas Knudsen 2+1, Connor Bailey 2, Dan Thompson 8, Michael Palm Toft 6, Jake Mulford 5, Ben Trigger 2+1.

PHOTO: Ashton Boughen poised to round Michael Palm Toft in Heat 9 (pic: Steve Edmunds)