Crown Edition - ENHANCED
THAT’S AWAY TO DO IT
Saints draw at Rugby
For the third year in a row Southampton top the league standings after the first two meetings, the Saints unbeaten once again in the opening rounds, albeit only after a last gasp draw at Rugby. Sergey Guerk (15) has topped the league averages in three of the last five seasons and of course won the World Championship for the first time in SL23. SL24 promises to be another bumper season for the Russian, he scored a maximum in the Saints draw at Rugby—completed with a win in a draw clinching 4-2 with Goran Seslar (9)—and another in his side’s later 51-39 victory over Tooting. Question marks remain over the rest of the Southampton team however, new third heat leader Lee Andersen (8)—a £1/4million purchase from Rochdale—failed to win a race in either of Southampton’s two league meetings, he on the wrong end of three of the six heat advantages conceded by the visitors at Rugby, his partnership with Darryl Skingsley (1+1) an obvious weak link in the side. Home reserve Jon Wilson (10+1) beat both riders on the night and was a bright spark in a troubled meeting for the Royals, who trailed for all but one heat of the clash. They end the week joint bottom of the division one standings alongside newly promoted Hailsham, whose first home meeting of SL24 also ended all square. Eastbourne were the first ever top flight visitors to Brooklyn Park, and it was they who made most of the running in the meeting, ten race wins going their way, including two from 22 year old reserve Daniel May, who impressed with a paid nine total from his four rides.
As in their return to league racing in SL23, Stone Cross have won their first two meetings of the campaign, promotion followed last year, Stuart Smith will be hoping it’s the same outcome in SL24, which would defy many pundit’s predictions. Six down after two heats it wasn’t looking for the Crusaders at Coleshill (43-47)—whose debut third division campaign also ended in a top three finish—however it’s these situations that Smith has put together the highest averaged top three in the division for, the experienced trio of Marcin Zadylak (16+1), Yusup Knyazev (13+1) and Zoran Pekala (12+1) all coming in for tactical substitute rides and all returning to the pits unbeaten in them. 5-1’s to the visitors the outcome as changes were made to the line-ups of heat five and eight, those results brought Stone Cross to within two of their hosts, however they would not take the lead until the very final race, Knyazev and Zadylak joining forces for a third time which brought about the meeting clinching 5-1. Stone Cross went on to defeat Lakeside at home 52-38, a result which sees them end the week level on points and points difference at the top of the standings with Timperley, who were 44-46 winners at Sunderland. The Titans bid for an immediate top flight return had begun with a comfortable 16 point home success over Cradley, and it was pretty easy going for Garry Robinson’s side at the Stars early on, they providing five of the first seven heat winners in taking an eight point lead. Tactical substitute wins for both Marko Aaltonen (13+1) and Mattia Panzetti (11+1) in 5-1’s meant it was still all to play for going into the last however, the same two riders though finished behind Asko Fekete (14) in the decider, his three points enough to earn Timperley a deserved 44-46 win.
Lyme Bay made a winning start to their Division One Cup campaign, with a last heat 5-1 from Gyorgy Eros (13) and Thomas Klemmensen (12+1) taking them to a 42-48 first round success at Tooting. Southampton—finalists in three of the last four seasons—are next up for them in a tough looking group, which also includes Wimbledon, the side that eliminated the Buccaneers from the semi finals last season.
Loughborough’s start to the new season couldn’t have gone much better, having beaten Stepps 43-47 on the road on the opening day of the campaign—second strings Andy Daniel (10+1) and Stephen Jennison (9+1) racing to five heat wins between them at the Serpents—Barons heat leaders Klaus Bonof (13) and Christian Gunesch (13) went on to dominate their home first round Pairs tie, the Germans combining for four 5-1’s to win the meeting by five from top flight duo, Eastbourne and Auckland.
There was more to come from the lower divisions in the Pairs, with the other three first round meetings all won by second tier sides! Jaroslav Valachovic scored 15 as Sawley (23) took the victory at Birkenhead by a point from both Lyme Bay and the hosts, top flight Grangmough finished some seven points adrift and exit the competition at this stage. As do Hailsham and Halesowen, who missed the cut off in the meetings at Preston and Sunderland (24), won by Cricklade (24) and the hosts respectively.