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  • Writer's pictureNikki Latham

10 Days Of Speedway Pleasure & Pain - Kent Royals Press & Practice

Firstly, let me apologise for splitting this into several stories, some will be the speedway news and some will show an element of what it's like to be a speedway fan, with hidden disabilities and finally some tips to make a weekend or a few days away when visiting the tracks, with accommodation suggestions.
This is part one of several blogs, but some may be of more interest to others, who don't have my love of speedway and a look into what it takes from me to go to these tracks. I will say that apart from my more personal blogs, this is the ones that will have the element of me, as well
Our first visit is to the home of the Kent Royals, now based at Sittingbourne Speedway in Iwade. For those who have followed the speedway on the station, you will remember that we have broadcast from this location a few times in the past with the Weymouth Wildcats and is also the location of the only other press and practice I have been able to make as previous ones were rained off and was unable to attend the rescheduled dates.
I have taken loads of pictures and videos, which do need editing properly, but they will need the time which during the crazy 10 days of speedway, there has been no time to complete so today we have a selection of photos to give you a flavour of the Press & Practice. These videos and additional photos will be covered on our special speedway page, which will launch after my trip to Plymouth.

Kent Royals Captain Si Kellow - Kent Royals owner.

Kent Royals have risen like the phoenix from the flames of the Kent Kings, who sadly lost their home at Central Park, yet another track that I was unable to attend. I made the trip over just before Christmas up to Sittingbourne, for their end of season party, but the atmosphere was tinged with a little sadness, that it was the end of an era for Kent speedway. But was convinced that with Si Kellow at the helm, they wouldn't struggle to get back on their feet in their new location and name. They did lose some of their stars as the move meant a drop down in league status, but the team seems to have risen to the challenge of keeping speedway in Kent.
As with most speedway tracks, they are not on a main bus or train route, so it is a taxi ride out to the track, I used Let's Go Green Cabs, the company that is a supporter of Kent Royals. It cost me around £10 each way, depending on where in Sittingbourne, you are going from and too. I haven't had the greatest of experiences with taxi's going out here, but this company with its speedway connections, took me straight there and picked me up promptly too when I called.
As I walked from the drop-off point, I could feel my adrenaline building up, it's not the easiest road to walk down, single file cars all the way and I loved the fact that people were calling out to me as they passed asking how I was, etc. I felt that I was with friends and that my trip before Christmas had been worthwhile to meet some of the fans. You can hear the noise as you walk down the road, which if you are a little unsteady on your feet, sturdy footwear and a stick is essential kit.
I can't remember the last time I came to Iwade, but it must be a good 2 years ago, with the pandemic, and was pleased to see things hadn't changed dramatically. The facilities are basic, but you can grab a tea/coffee and a burger, which wasn't available in my previous visits, but if you like a beer, it's a bring your own. When you come into the track area itself the pits are to the left, very open and exposed, but some additional fencing has restricted the easy access to them. I am sure of meeting days, this will be a lot more restricted, but I was able to wander in and out freely. The main stand is a standing one, and lots of standing room, if you need a seat, you would be advised to bring one with you.
The riders were ready to get out there and ride. The crowd were a little subdued I thought, oh boy, but when those engines started, there is no way to describe that feeling to someone who is a fan as well as reporter. The smell that I have missed all this time, filled the pits and my lungs. My GP had prescribed speedway, after I explained how it made me feel, I can feel the pain and fatigue lift, as the excitement of seeing those speedway bikes move around the track. I wish I could bottle that smell and feeling.
The main team, Kent Royals, went out on track, with some introductions, and did 3 or 4 laps of the track, it certainly good to see them blow away the cobwebs, Iwade is one of those tracks that the shale is well protected from the crowd. But I thought the track looked good, but I am no expert, in the sunshine, it was watered and was a pleasure to watch the machines go around. Chris Watts, who we have sponsored for several seasons now, was at home at the track, having raced here with the Crayford team, regularly. Sporting the new logo, which was the first rider to have this on their kit, now on the knee and joining the National League team.

James Jessop Chris Watts James Laker

It was then time of the newly named, Sittingbourne Crusaders, the MSDL team, a level at which I am comfortable with, former Wildcats JJ (James Jessop) and James Laker part of the team, joined by two others and Jamie as manager, who we added to our sponsorship this season. They forgot to announce their name at the track, but was announced on social media after, that they were joining Birmingham and Wolverhampton for the MSDL this season. A disappointment that more teams weren't involved, as that league thrived when the nomadic teams were racing, and many of the faces, which have moved up from this league with their spots in National and above leagues.
It was great to hear that Laker had been named as Captain of the Crusaders, and he looked incredible on track, someone will definitely be snapping him up for guest spaces and deserves that step up to National League, and you may think I am biased as a sponsor, just go and see for yourself. JJ sadly crashed on his first lap on the track, but was soon back on his bike, I think possibly a day to forget for him, but still bounced around with the enthusiasm we always see from JJ, and I definitely shrunk as both lads have grown since I last saw them. More track time is great for this duo in the Kent camp, and will be able to shine once back competing in the MSDL league.

Pictures all credited to Nikki Latham/Chesil Radio

I did feel a little bit like a fish out of water, as it had been awhile since I have been trackside. I certainly missed seeing the action. The riders had been there since 10.30am, the public from 12 noon and the speedway bikes were on track from 1.30pm and they were all ready to get out there, queuing up to get out on the track, and show the crowd what they can do out there. The crowd started to move away about 3pm. I took the opportunity to make it down the lane to taxi pick up point to be dropped at The Paper Mill micro pub in Sittingbourne for a cheese toasty and a well-deserved pint.
I would like to thank Si Kellow, Kent Royals and Sittingbourne Crusaders for making me feel most welcome, and we will catch up with the team at their first meeting of their season at Plymouth, early next week. I can't wait!
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