Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris wasted no time in endearing himself into the hearts that he broke last October, as he produced a superb all-round performance to help the Rebels to a 14-point victory from their first meeting of the 2019 campaign.
It was Harris’ inside move to pass Jason Doyle at Poole in the play-off semi-finals last season that denied Somerset a shot at the Premiership title, but just six months later the canny Cornishman demonstrated the full repertoire of his talent, producing top drawer team riding and from the back charges that warmed the first night crowd after they had witnessed an enforced delay to proceedings when a member of the public required medical attention that prohibited racing from commencing until after 8pm.
Harris superbly shepherded Henry Atkins home in heat 4 to aid the former club mascot to his debut race win at SGB Championship level that enabled the Rebels to level proceedings after they went behind to successive heat advantages following a heat one victory.
Somewhat uncharacteristically for the three-time British champion, Harris made the gate in that fourth heat with his partner Atkins also swiftly away. The experienced Harris was happy to run the outside keeping a watchful eye on chasing former Rebel Kyle Newman whilst allowing the newly turned 18-year old Atkins to hug the inside.
Harris admitted “It is much easier to team ride when your partner has pace and when I looked over I saw Henry was right there so I was more than happy to let him do his thing on the inside whilst I concentrated on covering the outside and watching out for their man. It was good to play my part with the youngsters but credit to Henry he did a good job out there tonight.”
Another Rebel very hot on the pace was the returning Todd Kurtz who marked his first ride back in Somerset colour’s with a very quick 56.25 seconds winning ride in the opener. With a paid win and a second place added to his card it looked like being a fruitful night for the Aussie until a shed front chain caused damage to his engine casing and a hefty repair bill when in a scoring position in heat 10.
Once level, through that Atkins/Harris heat four maximum, the Rebels never looked back, producing 10 race winners from the remaining 11 heats, with the skipper showing his true talent when slower out the traps in heats 13 and 15. The first occasion he was only able to pick off Newman, unable to catch Ulrich Ostergaard as Schlein led, but then in the final race of the night he blasted through from last to second, passing Morris and Ostergaard to seal the 52-38 Rebels victory, a result that delighted team manager Garry May.
“I saw plenty of effort from all the boys tonight and there were a number of good signs and hopefully the crowd enjoyed the meeting as much as I did. Valentin showed some great potential, Henry had a great debut. Nico was solid and Todd would have scored more had it not been for that expensive retirement. Rory and Bomber were superb as expected and although Anders failed to score tonight I saw plenty of effort from him and it was probably down to nerves that he failed to score.”
The Rebels journey to Eastbourne on Saturday night before facing Birmingham in the Midlands next Wednesday.
SOMERSET – 52: R.Schlein 13 (1,3,3,3,3), C.Harris 11+2 (2′,3,3,1,2′), N.Covatti 9 (2,1,3,3), T.Kurtz 7+1 (3,2′,2,R), H.Atkins 6+1 (1,3,1′,1), V.Grobauer 6 (0,3,0,3), A.Rowe 0 (0,0,0,0),
BIRMINGHAM – 38: A.Morris 10+1 (3,1′,2,2,2,0), U.Ostergaard 8+1 (2,2,1′,2,1), M.Paco Castagna 6 (3,0,3,0), Z.Wajtknecht 6+1 (1,2,1′,2), J.Shanes 4+3 (2′,0,1′,1′), K.Newman 4 (1,1,2,0), T.Thomsen 0 (0,0,0)