Champions downed by Spitfires
Notorious for their relatively poor second halves to league campaigns, Totton’s stats suffered another blow, with a home defeat marking the start of the Tigers ‘B’ set of fixtures in SL8. Heath replace Totton at the head of the end of week division one standings following their 43-46 victory at the Testwood, it’s the first time ever the Tim Foster club has led the table, with the Tigers slipping down to third. For the fourth time this season John Shuttler’s side failed to pick up maximum points at home, the latest setback to their title defence coming despite three retirements over the course of the meeting for visiting riders. The first came in heat two as Danny Cox pulled out from the lead of the second lap with engine problems, that handed extra points to both home reserves. For Adrian Dennis it would be his only one of the meeting, fellow home returnee Gareth Walker faired even worse, not troubling the scorers once in his three outings to the track. The pair were back in the side following the latest change in averages, and the switch certain cost the Tigers, heat advantages going the way of Heath every time Walker appeared, including a 5-1 in heat eight when visiting back-up riders Andrew Wentworth (6) and Cox picked up the maximum points all too easily. Heath were nine up at that point and although Cameron Adam’s (12+3) appearance as a substitute in heat ten helped bring about a Tigers 5-1, Heath always had the edge, strength in depth plus the excellence of the unbeaten Olcay Fuglerbeg (15) seeing them through, the Dane coming close to breaking the track record with a stunning points clinching victory over Miksa Mathe (11) and Adams in the last.
Totton’s defeat has seen division one concertina up, the top five now separated by just four points. Amongst the close chasers are SL6 champions Long Eaton, victors at Stourbridge this week. The Rifles had their second away win of the campaign wrapped up by heat 14, million pound man Adam Lucas (13) taking his new side over the line with victory over home number one Steven Lepley, whose second place finish in the race provided him with his only points of the meeting! Lucas meanwhile added two more in the last to top score for the first time for the Rifles, the teenager certainly taking the two division ‘step up’ in his stride. The defeat for Stourbridge leaves them eight points adrift at the bottom and 14 from safety, Houston’s win at Caversham having also boosted the latter gap this week. The Colts second away 44-46 victory in four was returned courtesy of a final heat second from Ludoslaw Jaworski (13), the reliable Pole splitting Duncan Jordan (14) and Radim Rabas (11) in the decider as the home side searched for a 5-1 that would have tied the scores. Elsewhere Bradford missed out on victory at Hallamshire as Julian Harrison (13) and Miroslav Kucera (10+1) pulled off a last heat 5-1 against the previously unbeaten Sarkis Evanoff (13), an intelligent first bend from Kucera denying the Speedsters top man a run at the lead, maximum race points theirs from that stage on, the league spoils shared.
Harringay held on to a top two spot in their first round Division Two Cup group despite a 52-38 defeat at section winners Alfreton, the Hoods through to face Group A winners Epping on points difference, a defeat by three point points would have seen Brookwood progress at their expense. Cranford meanwhile sealed their spot in the last four with a 53-37 win over Herne Bay, who had needed a draw in the final qualifier to finish above the Yellowjackets in the group. Cranford went on to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to six with a later division two win at Somerset, 44-46, Kenneth Flaa (13+1) back in the number three race jacket after a stint at five and back to form, he unbeaten until running a final race third behind team mate Deryugine Mikhail (12), the minor places securing his side their first away league win of the season and a spot in the promotion places, for now at least.
Three heat advantages in the first five set Rowley Regis on their way to a 40-50 victory at Mansfield in their final Division Three Cup first round meeting, Thomas Ridgway’s rookies going through to the semi finals of the competition as runners-up in the group to Milton Keynes following the success. Finchampstead will take on the Rockets in the last four, the Flyers completing a 100% winning record at the group stage with a 41-49 victory at Buttermere, Ernsford Grange take second in Group B, after Leyton fell short of gaining a second bonus point in their home win over Wavendon. Great in the cup for the Flyers, not so in the league, Finchampstead on a losing run of five in division three, a 39-51 home defeat to Wavendon the latest in that sequence.
World Number 16 Nicholas Cole (12) remains on course for another shock GP series appearance, the seven point Stirling man winning his second round qualifier at Bradford this week after a race-off win over Radim Rabas (12). Fellow SL7 GP riders Waclaw Pawlak (10) and Miksa Mathe (8) also moved on to the final qualifying stage after top eight finishes at Bodhall, Mathe—the only rider to have competed in all 35 Grand Prix rounds to date—only going through following a second place finish in the final scheduled heat of the meeting. Cole’s victory is his first in a WSO event since he won the WU21 title back in SL4, at 24 he’s the second youngest rider left in this years World Championship behind Sedgley teenager, Klement Flora (8). Long Eaton’s Ondrej Valis (12) won the second of this weeks qualifiers in Lublin, the world number three claiming his third career WSO event victory with a race-off success over Tomasz Symanski.