Don Valley into record 12th final
Four-times winners Don Valley made a successful start to their SL17 Pairs Championship campaign, entering the semi finals after a first round bye, Ian Johnson (12) and Liam Marlow (11) recovered from a sluggish opening to win the tie at Laceby by one. At the half way stage of the decider only division two sides Jericho and Liden of their six opponents were behind them in the standings, the second half proved to be more productive for the two riders who are current first and third in the top flight averages, the pair dropping just a point in their final three races, which included 5-1’s over Jericho and Newquay. Stepps (22) still could, and probably should have won the semi final, Wade Dunn (17)—on for a rare maximum in the competition—though beaten by Vyacheslav Kuznetsov in the last, the Russian leading Altrincham to a 4-2 that gave them a sniff of qualification to the final themselves, however they would miss out on the spot awarded to the highest scoring fourth placed side by a point, a 5-1 reversal to California—who finished third overall—three races earlier proving to be very costly to them. Dunmow were the side to deny Altrincham, they finished fourth in the semi final at Barking with a 19 point total, the top four sides—all from division one—dominating that meeting, with just four of the 21 race wins contributed by also-rans, St Peters, Exeter and Cradley Heath. Simon Driffield (13) and David Mulrain (11) topped the standings at the Cowbridge for Sankey (24), the Sharks finishing a point clear of holders Ramsgate, Sandwell took third despite earning a heat advantage in just one of their six races.
Altrinchamend the first month of SL17 unbeaten in league and cup, however draws in both their top flight fixtures has seen their lead at the head of the standings reduced to just points difference. Visiting side Sandwell recovered from a six point deficit to take a share of the spoils away from their clash at the Cheshire Arena, Rami Tjernstrom (13+1) winning three of the last five races in that, while the Panthers trip to Quantock also ended in disappointment for the leaders who’d again gone six up in the clash, they conceding a heat 14 5-1 and heat 15 4-2 to their Coleridge Way hosts. A better outcome for Garry Robinson’s side at Barking however, the Division One Cup clash going the way of the visitors 43-47, the Panthers in front by ten after just three races following 5-1’s from the reserves and then Andy Rose (8+2) and Gabor Stark (9+2), Rose would add another race victory to his account in a crucial heat 14 4-2, which all but assured their victory.
While Atrincham are on course for their first ever Division One Cup semi final, double-defending champions Ramsgate look good to make it three in the row from the same group, they opening their latest defence with a 44-46 win at Quantock, who they defeated over two legs in last years final. The Rams fought back from an eight point deficit to win the meeting, successive 5-1’s in heats 12 and 13 taking them in front for the first time, Simon Adzic (14)—winner of the first of those as a tactical substitute—completing the victory with further race successes in both heats 14 and 15. Ramsgate have now won ten of their last 11 meetings in the competition, five of those successes away from home.
Don Valley trailed for all but two heats at Dunmow but still managed to come away with both league points, Iain Johnson (13+1) and Liam Marlow (12+1) getting the better of home number one Martin Rasmussen (10) in the closing stages to deny the hosts, in Johnson’s case twice, he holding off the 42 year old to claim second behind Marlow in heat 13, Rasmussen looked to have got revenge in the decider when Johnson was forced to take evasive action to miss his rival on the first corner, however the Aussie gave chase and took the win with an inside pass two laps later. The victory sees Don Valley end the week second, Dunmow slip to the foot of the standings.
After winning the Division Three Cup last season, St Peters now have their sights on victory in the second tier version of the competition, they opening their campaign with a 43-47 group win at Liden, where a run of five heat wins—one apiece from Brendan Jeffrey (14) and Noel Smith (12+1) in back-to-back 5-1’s—turned a six point deficit into a four point lead. The minor places in the final two races sealed their win. In the second of the qualifying groups Cradley Heath defeated relegated side Exeter 44-46 on the road despite contributing just four of the 15 heat winners.
A draw at York was good enough to see leaders California end the week as the only unbeaten side in division three, elsewhere there were away wins for Stepps (2nd), Sittingbourne (3rd), Manor (4th) and Buxton (5th).