FULL SPEED AHEAD
Rushton stars as Vipers cruise into final
For the third time in their history Don Valley have gone eight meetings unbeaten in the KO Cup, their latest run taking them into the SL16 final. Matt Akers side matched their record tally with an impressive 40-50 semi final second leg success at Sankey, the competition best stands at nine meetings without defeat, Southampton achieved that mark over the SL13 and 14 campaigns, but failed to win the trophy in either. Don Valley will bid for number nine at home against fellow finalists Quantock, the Rangers securing their place in the silverware decider with a nine point aggregate ‘last-four’ win over Jericho, the top flight basement side in contention until Jon Jacobs (13+1) penultimate heat win over Ken Fisher (8) in this weeks second leg at the Rangers. Don Valley’s 18 point winning margin was flattered by visiting rider 5-1’s in heats 14 and 15 of this weeks return leg in Sankey, they dead rubbers following Ian Johnson’s (14) tie winning second place in heat 13. Earlier reserve Jason Rushton (8+3) led around team mate Adie Bentham for maximum points in heat two, that result taking the eight-times winners of the trophy into the lead on the night and their overall advantage into double figures, Ruston would return to the track on four other occasions, scoring points in each, including two in another 5-1. Rushton’s performance was in stark contrast to those of the home side’s back up riders, the Sharks second string and reserves combined scoring just six points, of those only Scott Russell beat an opposition rider on the night. It’s the first time Don Valley have reached the final in five years.
Out of the cup but Sankey’s unbeaten sequence in the league continued with another set of back-to-back wins, the Sharks extending their runs of meetings without defeat to seven with a 42-48 victory at Quantock. The improved form of the SL14 and 15 champions has come too late for a title challenge, but it has moved them from relegation battlers and into pole position to snatch the fourth and final European Cup berth available to British clubs in SL17. Sharks reserve Antony Marshall finished with season best figures of 7+1, as his club recorded their first win in SL16 over Quantock in six attempts.
Dunmow’s residence in the promotion places of division two was a brief one as their six meeting unbeaten run came to an end at leaders Glendale, 47-43, the Dragons defeat allowing Barking to leapfrog Andy Roughton’s side and take their place back into the top three, with the Clan themselves enjoying a six point win at Merseyside. Eight up after heat six the Marauders seemed to be heading to victory, but they were hit by a double tactical substitute in heat eight, 5-1 always the likely outcome when Sean Hilton (14+1) and Alexey Simakov (9+1) came in for extra rides against two of the homes side’s lesser riders, and so it proved to be. Barking also had the better of the closing stages, grounding out their third win at the venue from the last four by picking up three 4-2’s and a 5-1 to win with a race to spare. Barking are one of eight teams in with a chance of claiming promotion this season, their number also includes Cradley Heath, who at present lie in the relegation places! The Hammers points tally however—boosted with a 43-47 victory at Gateshead this week—stands at 35, just six off that of Swindon, who currently sit third.
Newquay may have maintained their unbeaten home league record in SL16—the only one intact in the division—however this weeks draw between themselves and Tottenham at the Parker Stadium ultimate cost them their position at the head of the standings. The Turnpikes had to wait until their later 61-29 win over Witham to return to the top of the third tier pile, however the importance of the two league points gained at the Knights was there for all to see as Andreas Bild and Leon Creer completed a heat 15 5-1 the clash, the celebrations from the riders like those of title winners. Over the top, but maybe well placed considering they’d just brought to an end a Newquay winning run that spanned seven meetings.
A maiden Grand Prix win for Christos Myatt (12) who headed an Exeter 1-2 in this weeks British round in Don Valley, the 28 year old becoming the fifth different home nation winner of the title after Simon Driffield (11) failed to grab the victory in heat 19 he required to take the meeting into an extra race. Driffield in fact ended up in a race-off for the minor podium places, which he lost to Martin Vessenberg, the lowest averaged rider in this years series finding some extra grip to make the pass on the Sankey man coming out of the final bend of lap two. Driffield then had to settle for third spot for the second GP running, however that’s good enough to see him climb to second in the World Championship standings, he two points adrift of Myatt, who takes the overall lead.