Rifles open with quick-fire double
Perennial underrated Long Eaton look once again primed to proved their doubters wrong, the Rifles—who have finished a combined 27 places better than predicted over the previous seven seasons—opening SL9 with back to back league wins. Martin Smith’s team—which is essentially made up of four heat leaders and three reserves following the pre-season departures of Zajzon Janik and Robert Hubbard—following up a 49-41 home win over Epping with a two point victory at Bradford’s Bodhall stadium, completed by nine heat wins from their top four and two huge slices of luck. Adam Lucas (13) and Ondrej Valis (12+2) picked up a 5-1 in a re-run of heat 13, ordered when home heat leader Magnar Maciejewski (6) fell after clipping the latter’s back wheel exiting turn two, the SL1 and 2 world champion was also in the home fans bad books two races later, this time he didn’t even get off the line, audible groans were heard from the majority of the 3000 plus crowd as he was forced to push his bike onto the centre green. The Pole—now 38—had to witness Lucas and Valis complete Long Eaton’s win with the minor places, the only consolation for the Speedsters was that Sarkis Evanoff (14) was able to prevent Valis claiming what would have been a deserved maximum. Long Eaton have now lost just one of their last six competitive meetings at the Yorkshire venue, winning four of them, tougher tests await the Rifles down the line, but with a lead quartet which also includes Jiri Sebranek (9+1) and Federico Sorrentino (8+1) they’ll have riders at their disposal that are capable of winning virtually every race the team contests.
Long Eaton miss out on top spot in the standings at the end of the first week on points difference to holders and SL9 favourites, Totton, as for the fourth year in a row the Tigers won their opening two league fixtures of the campaign. John Shuttler’s side were in record breaking territory when they followed up a 22 point home win over Bradford with a 38-52 success at Caversham, the win over the Swans their biggest on the road in the top flight ever and equalling their best in all competitions on their travels. Miksa Mathe scored maximums in both meetings, the latter completed with second place finishes behind Cameron Adams (14) in both heats 13 and 15, third heat leader Simon Snow (10) also finished the night at Kings Meadow in double figures after picking up three wins. It wasn’t all about their top three though, Gareth Walker scored 8+1 at reserve on a track he spent a year on loan at in SL7, after disappointing somewhat for Totton following a £150,000 move there at the start of SL8, the SL6 BU18 Champion has returned for the start of the new season with some a new hair cut, new machinery and a renewed determination to make his mark in the sport.
All in all a bad start to SL9 for Caversham, as prior to what was a club record home loss inflicted by Totton, they went out of the Pairs at Alfreton by a point to the hosts, who joined third division sides Stoke (24) and Ferndown as qualifiers from the meeting. Newly promoted Brookwood also went out from the same tie, while Bradford became the third top flight casualty at Leyton, a meeting won by Long Eaton (25) thanks largely to an Adam Lucas 18 point maximum. The top three there was again completed by the host side, with last years podium finishes Houston going through to the semi finals in second spot. Belfast (25) will be the favourites though to wrestle Heath’s crown from them after their Nyek Timko (13)/Ludoslaw Jaworski (12) partnership finished their tie at Cranford with four straight 5-1’s, the Sinks impressive to say the least in topping the standings by three points from the Yellowjackets, Harringay, finished a further three back in third. Hallamshire (23) finished joint top with Epping in their home meeting, Sedgley took third, albeit some five points off the pace.
A draw at Herne Bay was enough to see Houston—racing outside of the top flight for the first time in their history—top the first published division two table, Russell Watts (16+1) and Zeko Pinter (15+2) scored three 5-1’s for the visitors as they fought back from an eight point deficit to claim a point from the meeting. In division three a 43-47 win at Stepps helped newcomers Buxton top the standings, £10,000 deadline day signing Luis Crownover racing to two wins at reserve for the Bees in scoring paid ten, his successes included a win in a vital heat 14 5-1 alongside Kaj Sorensen. Stepps bounced back from the loss to win at Stoke by the same score, with the Angels benefiting from a late 5-1 scored by second string Andreas Sundquist (7+1) and reserve Glen Reid (8+2), Stoke themselves had won on the road, beating Leyton 44-46 thanks to a last heat win for Tomaj Peto (13).