Crown Edition - ENHANCED
Stars champions again
Wimbledonhave won the League Championship for a record fifth time after ending the campaign with a five meeting unbeaten run, a stunning 30 point last day home victory over Sunderland taking them three points clear of rivals Southampton in the final standings. Remarkably the Saints end the SL23 division one campaign with three more meeting victories than the champions, however Mark Elliott’s side benefited not only from their record 18 bonus points from 18, but from the number of draws earned on their travels, with their sixth of the year returned in the penultimate round of league racing at Eastbourne. Reserve Olga Burdin (9+2) picked up two crucial heat wins in that as the usual dominant Roman Saenko (11+1) and Ari Vento (9) struggled for points against a determined home heat leader trio, who were fighting hard to retain their club’s top flight status. The Saenko/Vento combination though would ensure two of the three league points would be going back to south London in the end, they happy to settle for the minor places in the last heat decider—set up by Burdin’s heat 14 victory over Aaron McKay—behind Eddie Myhill (14), the pair getting the better of Akos Fekete (11) for the first time on the night. Two points in the bag left them needing just one at home against Sunderland, oozing confidence they showed no mercy to their fellow Stars—who needed something from the meeting themselves to avoid relegation—Saenko (14+1) and Vento (14+1) this time both picking up maximums, Wimbledon dominant to the end and deserved champions with it.
There was no fourth league and cup double though for Wimbledon, Southampton taking the KO Cup honours with a 49-41 second leg win over the Stars, a four point aggregate final victory secured for the Saints with a last heat Goran Seslar (12)/Sergey Guerk (11+1) 5-1 over Roman Saenko (10) and Ari Vento (10+1). Revenge on many levels for the club, and for the two riders in particular, who’d been beaten by the Saenko/Vento partnership 1-5 two races earlier. ‘Here we go again’ must have been the thoughts of the home fans at the time, however their side dug deep, with Radek Latal (11) winning a 4-2 in heat 14 before their main men recovered to complete the task in the last. The win is Southampton’s first in the competition and gives John Shuttler’s side their fourth trophy in as many seasons.
World Championship commitments meant Sergey Guerk (10) had no time to celebrate the KO Cup success, the GP series leader straight on a flight to Krakow along with Wimbledon’s Ari Vento (12). It was a disappointing start for both to the Polish GP, with Guerk sliding off his machine coming out of the second bend of heat three, while Vento had finished last in the opening in race won by Purton’s outgoing world champion, Magomed Saitov (12). Vento went on to win four out of four to top the standings alongside Saitov on the night, setting up a repeat contest between the two for the GP win, however the Finn did not make it five out of five, Saitov getting the better gate in the meeting decider and then chopping down on his rival at the first turn to set up victory. Southampton’s Guerk meanwhile had recovered from his early set back to win two of his four other heats and finish second in the other two, results good enough to maintain his advantage at the top of the standings and see him take his first ever World title by two points from Robert Vyskoc (10).
Home track advantage helped Wimbledon’s Jari Annala (15) win the WU21 title, the 19 year old Finn adding to his maximum at the semi final stage with another in this weeks final, as pre-meeting favourite Trevor Putnam (7) suffered nothing but bad luck. The two met in heat three of the contest, and as Annala began his journey towards a clean sweep of race wins, Putnam suffered a broken chain, his chances of bettering his runners-up place of last season all but over after two laps of racing. Putnam scored just a point in heat five on an under-powered second bike, and while the Scot recovered to win his next two, a fall in heat 18 left him in the bottom half of the standings. Preston’s 17 year old James Power (13) and Carl Rogers (12) of Doncaster ensured it wasn’t all bad news for the Brits, they finishing clear of the pack in second and third respectively.
Luke Elliott’s Tooting ended a winless run of four in the league with back-to-back victories, and with them came the Division Two title and the prospect of top flight racing for the first time in 12 years. The Dons secured the silverware with a 43-47 win at Furzton, who finish bottom of the standings and will race at the third tier level for the first time since SL7! Previous leaders Hailsham had to settle for the runners-up spot after a final day defeat at Wolverton, but that won’t worry Bill Jones, who has led his side to division one for the first time. Grangemouth, relegated last year, took the third promotion spot, the top three will replace Timperley, Sunderland and Purton who drop out of the top flight. Despite their final day win Wolverton could only finished eighth and are relegated back to division three after one season, Stepps go down in ninth.
Stone Cross crushed Harringay’s hopes of promotion from division three with a 42-48 victory at the Racers, which secured themselves second spot in the division and left their hosts down in fourth. Earlier Harringay had won at Preston by two to set up the final day ‘six-pointer’. Coleshill go up in third behind the Crusaders, they securing their spot in division two with their penultimate round home 46-44 win over champions, Bullbridge.