Diamond Edition - ENHANCED
Holders title dreams in tatters
Away day specialists Weymouth enter the final third of the season seven points clear at the head of division one, with the surprise SL27 pacesetters adding to the evidence that they would be deserved championship winners this week, they defeating current champions Beverley in their own back yard for a second time this year! The visitors to Figham Road were never headed in the top of the table clash, not that it was one-sided, Beverley favourites to claim the points after levelling the scores for the second time in the meeting with a heat 12 4-2. Count the Hitmen out at your peril though, the home fans were stunned into silence in heat 13, the race normally a profitably one for Henrik Kojefors (9) and Joshua Sky (8), but not on this occasion, Linus Muscic (14) and Tord Finstad (9+1)—who averages below eight—coming up with a timely maximum, deflating not only the majority of those of the terraces, but those on the Beverley side of the pits. Their confidence was shot, and the Hitmen back up riders Edward Norton (7) and Pietro Lopetuso (5+4) pounced, another 5-1 in heat 14, suddenly Weymouth had got their seventh away league win of the season with a race to spare! A record on the road that would be the envy of any team in the league’s history, at the South Coast Arena though it’s another story, a huge leap towards the title was followed by a step backwards as York came to town and took both league points. And just six heat wins were enough to do so, with strong all round performances from second string Cerek Zawadszki (6+1) and reserve Herish Wallerstedt (8+3) helping the Vipers claim a 44-46 success, Muscic’s 11th maximum of the league campaign counting for nothing. While the loss isn’t catastrophic for Trevor Walker’s side given their advantage at the top of the table, it must be a concern that their home record—just seven wins from 12—is one that would normally see them in the relegation zone. For York the win rejuvenates their own title bid, they now one of a pack of four teams that lie seven points off the Hitmen’s pace.
A first defeat in the competition this season for Stepps, however Matt Bernard’s side—who sit in the division two relegation zone—comfortably claimed their second top flight scalp in the KO Cup this season, 5-1’s in heats nine and 11 of the return leg of their third round tie at St Ives helping them progress to the semi finals with four races to spare. SL18 winners Stafford await Stepps in the last four, the Angels travelled to second division leaders Warley for the return leg of their tie this week holding just a six point lead, however six became 14 by the end of heat four, giving the visitors a more comfortable ride into the semi finals than expected. Still it went to the wire, Markus Innanen (14) eventually seeing his side over the line with his fourth win of the meeting in the last. Timperley meanwhile dominated the closing stages of their tie with Coventry to win the only all top flight clash of the round by eight, the Pelicans—who trailed by ten after the opening leg—picking up three 5-1’s and a 4-2 in the closing four races of their home meeting, with two of the maximums gained by Colin Richardson (12+1) and Vladimir Helbich (12+1). Timperley’s last four opponents will be Bognor, with a fifth straight win in the competition—a 44-46 success at St Barts—taking the last eight debutants through to the last four for the first time by ten on aggregate.
Warley’s on loan Aussie John Bingley (12) may have been upstaged by Vladilen Bunin at his club this season, however the now Warriors ‘second string’ is into the GP series for the ninth time in 11 years and has done it in style, the three times World Champion runner-up winning the Overseas title for the first time in his career in the final at Timperley this week. The other automatic GP places went to Brits’ John Hawke (11) and Richard Coward (11), the two back in the series after finishing second and tenth last year. Colin Richardson (3) missed out on qualification despite home track advantage, however there was Timperley success in the Continental Final at Pila, where Vladimir Helbich (14) topped the standings to qualify for the GP’s for the second time in three years. York duo Tomasz Skrzypek (13) and Andrzej Baluszynski (10)—the Polish Champions of the last two seasons—took the other two qualification spots.
Second division leaders Warley dropped their first home point of their league campaign with the visit of Heatherdale, the Heathens climbing out of the bottom three as a result. In division three Belham Road got back to winning ways after a first league defeat in eight last week with a 43-47 victory at Redhill, where a last heat second saw Martin Hlinka (13+1) equal his best score of the campaign. Elsewhere East Kent won a topsy-turvy meeting at Tavistock 43-47 after their riders won four of the final five races, the Zulus third away win of the campaign sees them end the week just points difference off the promotion places.