Jubilee Edition - ENHANCED
Dockers enjoy perfect start
West Hamhave enjoyed their best ever opening month to a season with the Dockers winning every one of their first four league meetings. A trip to Kent saw the Londoners build on their opening week double, Steve Hebdenís side taking the points 39-51 at the Iron Ring, a circuit they have now achieved five straight wins on. This was their biggest victory yet at the venue and one confirmed with three races to spare when Brian Bell (11+2) and reserve Thomas Bragg (6+1) claimed what was the visitors fourth straight 4-2 in heat 12, Bell had partnered Anthony Kelly (7+1) to one of the others just two races earlier, while the same partnership picked up a 5-1 for the dominant Dockers in heat three. Kent riders won the final trio of races, but still they couldnít prevent a double digit loss to the early season pacesetters. Success too in the Pairs for West Ham, although not for Bell who was overlooked this time by Hebden, the Dockers promoter selecting Vayk Kari (13) and Anthony Norwood (12) for the second round of this years competition having favoured Bell in the first. The Americanís replacement, Kari, won all the first three of West Hamís races in this weeks qualifier, the Dockers pairing picking up a 5-1 and two 4-2ís in the process to lead their home tie by a point from Peak Dean at the halfway stage. A second 5-1 sealed their place in the final in heat 15, with Kari again the heat winner as they took maximum points against Nottingham. The meeting victory though wasnít confirmed until heat 20, when Peak Dean failed to get the 5-1 they needed to snatch top spot on the podium.
Thereís no doubting that West Hamís Pairs meeting was the weaker of the two semi-finals with just one top flight sideóthe hostsóinvolved. Qualifying through in third were rookies Wordsley, while Bolsoverís 19 point haul was enough to take them through as the highest scoring fourth placed side over the two ties. In contrast Bilston hosted six top flight pairings plus Putney in the second of the semi-finals, Brightonís Hobart Buus (16) and Ruda Pala (7) doing well to win that considering their opponents, they making it two wins out of two in SL33 competition when picking up two points in the final race of the night against Warrington. That heat a dead-rubber as far as qualification was concered, with Dover (21) and Swanage (20) having confirmed themselves a top three finish and a place in the final two races earlier.
A fantastic opening day win at Dover may have said more about their opponents than Stoke it seems. The Wildfire quickly burning themselves out after that early success, losing back-to-back league fixtures this week and their Division One Cup opener at Milton Keynes, 45-44. A last heat 5-1 reversal cost them the group points at the Magic, disappointing but not as much as their earlier 42-48 home loss to Reading, a meeting they trailed in from heat two onwards. Reserve Jake Hale (8) won the 4-2 that took them in front, and it was the 23 year olds third place finish in heat 14 which would second their victory, another 4-2 for the Whitenights, this time won by Eero Huhtala. Hale was more villain then hero in Readingís home meeting with Brighton however, he failing to score as the hosts went down to a six point loss, second string Edward Brooks (10) amongst the heat winners for the visitors in the Sharks success which moves them up to second in the table. Elsewhere Cameron Richards (15) completed his second maximum of the season with a last heat win in a 4-2 which earned Swanage a draw at Dover, having led by eight at one stage, the Swans had fallen behind in the meeting for the first time in heat 14.
Readingís Craig Chapman became the oldest winner of a World Championship meeting in 20 years after scoring a maximum to with his British semi-final in Bolsover. The 40 year old qualifies for his 13th British Final and will go into it seeking a record breaking fourth title. Fellow SL32 GP rider Craig Parrish (12) finished second, however the third of last years home nation GP riders Mark Smith (8) fell at the first hurdle, the world number 14 finishing ninth in the second of the semi-finals at Kent. Bolsover and Scotlandís Alexander Holden (12) won that meeting ahead of James Myers and Peter Coulson.
Putney maintained their 100% start to division two with a 44-46 victory at Wirral. The Spitfires led the meeting from Scott Shannonís (11) opening heat win to the finish, they taking both league points despite only picking up six more wins, two of which were claimed by reserve James Wilson (10). Cradley lead the way in division three after also making it four wins out of four, their away success a more convincing 40-50 one at Calne, where Jindra Kubes (12) finished the night unbeaten, taking four of the Comets ten heat wins.