Ipswich Witches and former Mildenhall Fen Tigers star Drew Kemp eyes perfect 18th birthday present at FIM European Under-19 Championships
Former Mildenhall Fen Tigers star Drew Kemp is confident he can celebrate the perfect late birthday present by being crowned this year’s FIM European Under-19 champion, writes Graham Clark.
The Ipswich-based rider, who turned 18 on Tuesday, will bid to reach the final of the competition in Zarnovica on Sunday for the second year in succession, having finished sixth in the decider at the Slovakian track 12 months ago.
Before Kemp can begin to dream of lifting the coveted title he must make it through the semi-final stage in Pardubice, Czech Republic tomorrow night having declined the opportunity to be one of the seeded riders given an automatic slot in the final.
“Last year I got a 15-point maximum in my semi-final then I just messed up my first race in the final but I think I put too much pressure on myself and I crumbled a little bit and had I not done I think I could have been on the podium,” said Mildenhall’s youth product.
“A lot of people say you learn from your mistakes rather than when you do well and I know what I did wrong last year so hopefully I can put that right this year.
“I was asked to be a seeded rider but I turned it down as I really want that win on Sunday. I thought I had a better chance of doing that if I raced on Friday as I will be sharper for the final.
“I’m going there to win it and as long as I do my best it should be good enough.
“It would be a nice late birthday present if I could win it.”
Despite entering the event with no competitive meetings under his belt this year Kemp, who will be joined in the semi-finals by current Fen Tigers rider Jason Edwards, has been putting in hard work on and off the track to make sure he is fully prepared when taking to the tapes.
“To be honest I’ve been practicing most of the year. I’ve been to Scunthorpe, Somerset, Leicester, Iwade and King’s Lynn so I’ve been out on the bike quite a bit,” said Kemp.
“I’ve also been doing plenty of cycling and running and I even ran the equivalent of a half-marathon the other day.
“The most important thing is getting dialled back on the bike but I’m fit and ready to go. My fitness and equipment are better than last year.
“I’m feeling better than I’ve ever done before and hopefully that can show in my racing.”
Helping Kemp prepare for his European adventure has been three-times world champion Jason Crump, who he was set to feature alongside for the Ipswich Witches in this year’s Premiership before the season was cancelled last month due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I’ve had a session with Jason Crump at King’s Lynn and another with him at Redcar and not many people will be going there with his experience in the corner helping them,” said Kemp.
“Hopefully this will work in my favour and I hope to have taken plenty out of the time spent with him.
“It would be nice to return with the trophy to show him thanks for the all effort he has made with me.”
With no professional league action allowed this year, Kemp is set to have the deal he had agreed with the Ipswich Witches roll on into next season
* Current Fen Tigers rider Elliot Kelly, who agreed a deal to be an asset of Premiership outfit King’s Lynn Stars last week, scored five points in the opening round of the 500cc British Youth Championship at Scunthorpe on Sunday.