Guest stars in Vipers Euro success
Don Valleyhave at last completed the trophy jigsaw, 17 years since the club’s inauguration the Vipers have now won all six major competitions, some ten seasons after landing their fifth! The European Cup completes the set, but boy did they have to work for it, the visitors nerves on full display in the initial exchanges of the return leg of the final in Ramsgate, their eight point advantage they started the night with gone by heat four. Don Valley riders must have been thinking the worse, a 14 point loss at the venue in the past month fresh in their minds, and that was the club’s 14th successive league meeting without a win there. It was though a rider without that baggage that came to the fore, guest Wlod Szczepanski (15) beginning a run of five straight wins with victory in a heat six 5-1 alongside tactical substitute Iain Johnson (14+3), the second win of the night for Liam Marlow’s replacement came just two races later, his tactical substitute ride helping provide another heat advantage for the Vipers. Szczepanski and Johnson won two of the next three between them, but it was when they came together for a second time on the night that the decisive blow was landed, the holders seeing their grasp on the trophy slip away with a 5-1 reversal to the pair in heat 13, Bradley Law (10) hasn’t been on the wrong end of many of them at home in recent times. The impetus was now with Don Valley, and the silverware was in their hands a race later as Zarek Jablonski (6) and Jack Bruce (4+1) returned from their appearances in heat 14 with three points for the minor places. Don Valley could now celebrate.
With no facility for a guest in the 4TT, Don Valley’s chances of reaching the final of that competition for the first time in six years were severely dented heading into their second round tie, and they were all but over after the first two legs, in which the home sides Ramsgate (111) and St Peters dominated. The two finished a strong second at California in leg three as the Vipers finished last again, the tie would be decided at Don Valley, but the hosts would not be in contention. St Peters had done well until now, but they couldn’t stay with the Rams pace in the finale, the first 11 races of the decider providing the Scions with just six points! With 12 in the same period Ramsgate weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, but they’d done enough in the first three legs to reach the final once again, where they’ll be looking to win the trophy for the third successive season. Awaiting them will be fellow second round group winners, Sankey (105)—who finished third in the final in SL16—and Barking (117), the latter winning the last leg of their section at Newquay to overhaul Southampton (112) in the standings, the Scorpions weren’t to be denied qualification however, they going through to the last four as the highest scoring runners-up of the three groups.
Any doubt that this years league champions will come from one of the present top three was put to rest this week, Ramsgate (52 points), Don Valley (50) and Southampton (50)—who have won the title eight times between them in the last ten years—all picking up the maximum five points this week, the gap between third and Quantock in fourth now 19 points! Quantock suffered two 44-46 defeats in the latest rounds, including at home to Don Valley, their fourth defeat at Coleridge Way of the campaign inflicted by a heat 15 Iain Johnson (13+1)/Jamie Worthington (11+1) 5-1, the hosts had led the meeting for the previous 12 heats. It was also a last heat advantage which saw leaders Ramsgate secure their seventh away win of the campaign by the same score at Dunmow, Bradley Law (12) winning a decisive 4-2 in in heat 15 there. Southampton’s sixth away league success of SL17 was returned at Altrincham, 43-47.
Altrincham’s Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (14) won the opening round of the SL17 GP series in Malmo, the Russian world number six finishing a point clear of current World Champion Simon Driffield in the meeting, who missed the chance of forcing a race-off for the title when finishing second to fellow Brit’ Padi Basker (7) in heat 19. Kuznetsov—who won two of his five GP’s in his debut campaign last year—had completed his night with a victory over Simon Adzic (7) a race earlier. Martin Bank (11) finished third overall despite winning just one heat.
Cradley Heath returned to the top of the division two table with a 40-50 victory at Liden, they ending the week two points clear of Merseyside—who they host next—in the wide open promotion race, with the top seven teams separated by just seven points. Of the septet St Peters now look one of the most likely to go up, the Scions are currently unbeaten in ten and closed to within points difference of the top three thanks to a 40-50 victory at Gateshead.