Sunday September 28, 2014
Mildenhall captain Daniel Halsey produced the best display of his career to shock the rest of the field and win the National League Riders’ Championship in the most dramatic fashion in the 2014 season finale at Rye House.

The 26 year old, who actually started his career at the Hertfordshire circuit as a Raider back in 2005, reeled off four straight victories following an early defeat by Ben Morley to lift the crown with 14 points - a point clear of pre-meeting favourite Steve Worrall - but that simple statistic tells little of the story of the flow and emotion of his success.

The key turning point in Halsey’s favour came when he headed home Joe Jacobs, the previously unbeaten Worrall and Dan Greenwood in a pitched battle of the early front-runners in Heat 9. Another success, this time over the pacey veteran Jon Armstrong in Heat 14, left him needing one more victory in his final outing in Heat 20 to clinch the title – but even that did not come without its moments of drama.

First to take centre stage in the decider was Worrall’s Cradley team mate Paul Starke, who went down unassisted on the first bend to earn himself a disqualification and build the tension another notch for the re-run.

Take-2 didn’t disappoint either, with race leader Halsey hounded relentlessly by the third Heathen in the field, Max Clegg, until the 17 year old Yorkshireman went for a gap that simply didn’t exist on the third and fourth bends. The Fen Tiger held his nerve – and line – with Clegg left on the brink of an exclusion for crossing the inner white line and also out of contention after effectively being clamped down.

It was a controversial end to a fantastic afternoon’s display from Halsey but one certainly not reflected in his tone when the celebrations started afterwards. “Today has been a long time coming. I’ve been one of the favourites for this event a couple of times in the past, but today I was far from it, so I was able to come here with no pressure.

“The track suited me a little bit, especially as it slickened off, and I strung together some really good starts.

“I wasn’t happy when the red light came on in the first staging of my last one, but when I came back into the pits my team told me to put my head down and not think about anything but getting focussed for the re-run, which I won in a real tussle.

“I want to thank all the Mildenhall supporters who were here this afternoon. They make this sport worth doing, and they made a difference today.”

Hot pre-meeting favourite Worrall, meanwhile, was left to rue that pivotal Heat 9 encounter that saw his title hopes divert south. The Merseysider left himself with too much too do after being left at the back of the field on the first turn, and although able to work his way past Dan Greenwood, was not quite able to catch Joe Jacobs, let alone Halsey.

Rye House asset and Kent King Ben Morley took third spot in a dramatic run-off with Jacobs, coming from the back with a third lap surge and then claiming an unopposed victory when his rival fell in the same spot a lap later.

1997 event winner Jon Armstrong was the pick of the rest with his fifth placed finish, but there was little joy for the other previous titlist on show, as Benji Compton visibly struggled prior to his withdrawal due to a migraine attack.

Dan Greenwood – a late call-up for knee ligament victim Oliver Greenwood – enjoyed the bookend of wins in his first and last outings, with an 8 point total.

Points scorers (all from 5 rides unless stated):

Daniel Halsey 14, Steve Worrall 13, Ben Morley 12 (after run-off), Joe Jacobs 12, Jon Armstrong 9, Dan Greenwood 8, James Cockle 7, Marc Owen 7, James Sarjeant 6, Luke Chessell 6, Max Clegg 6, Paul Starke 6, Ben Hopwood 5, Danno Verge (reserve) 3, Tom Woolley 3, Aaron Mogridge 2, Benji Compton 0 (3 rides)

Finally, the NLRC organisers would like to once again publicly thank the sponsors who made this meeting possible. In addition to main sponsors Paradise Wildlife Park, the prize money for the top three finishers was kindly sponsored by the Rye House Go-Kart Circuit, the trophies and medallions by the BSPA, the programme by Willow Print, insurance by the Doodson Group, special awards by King Silencers and track materials by Rye House Speedway.

The race sponsors were Crawford Engineering, Hagon Shocks, the Speedway Star, Chalfont Coaches (Southall), Jaybea Designs, A10 Timber, Dave Jessup Racing and Champion Products. Our thanks to all.

National League Riders Championship, Rye House

Picture: IAN BUSH