“ABOVE AND BEYOND”
Jaguars land second successive title
According to their promoter Darren Evans, securing the second of back-to-back league titles is the most difficult of tasks to complete in British speedway. Leeds have done just that. An accomplishment that takes them up another notch in their already high standing in the sport, as a team and individually they’ve proved they are the very best. In Aaron Macaulay they have a World Champion who dominated this years GP series, a rider who had already led his side to victory in the Pairs and 4TT competitions. And now once again in the league, in which a 49-41 victory over Gorleston saw them take their points total to the season to 64, which confirmed their success over Eastbourne (60) and Wimbledon (58), the victory their 18th from 18 in their current top flight campaign at home and one which extends their unbeaten league run at the Hawthorne to two years. Having become only the second side after Eastbourne to gain over 1000 league points in the top flight with a draw at Iwade, they rounded off the successful season with that win in front of their home fans, secured—as so many have since Macaulay joined the club in SL25—with a last heat Macaulay (15)/Nathan Kay (14+1) 5-1. The two Brits would finish the meeting with their 12th and 9th maximums of the league campaign respectively, both riders also end the year with GSA’s in excess of ten points. Which is likely to mean that Evans will have to formulate a plan to make it three titles in a row without one of the two in his ranks come the start of SL28, that’s for the future, for now he and his side can celebrate a job well done.
Brickhill denied Leeds a clean sweep of domestic trophy wins in SL27 with victory over the Jaguars in this season’s KO Cup final. An aggregate success for the Tigers which was secured as early as heat 13 of this weeks return leg at the Hawthorne, where a 4-2 from Nate Stokes (11) and Luke Griffiths (9) saw them surpass the 38 point total scored by their opponents at Brickhill in the opening meeting. 5-1’s in the last two for the hosts helped Leeds drag their overall deficit back to six points, but too little to late to prevent Glenn Ford’s side clinching their second win in the competition, some 19 years after their first. Not so good in the league for the Tigers, who only avoided relegation due to the closure of Iwade, who finished a point above them in the standings. Brickhill were left in eighth following Stowmarket’s last day 39-51 win over Burnham, which saw them climb up to sixth, their highest position in six months. Eastbourne meanwhile won the battle to finish as runners-up to Leeds in the standings after taking the bonus point in their final day clash at Wimbledon, the decisive extra point secured when the visitors picked up the minor places in the last. Eastbourne, Wimbledon and KO Cup winners Brickhill will join Leeds as the British League representatives in the European Cup next season.
Rubert Zmolek (15) showed why Wimbledon boss Mark Labrum paid Burnham £700,000 at the start of the season for his services, with the Slovakian becoming only the fourth rider under the age of 19 to win the WU21 title. He did so by scoring a maximum in this weeks Huntingdon final, finishing three points clear of Derby and Scotland’s Neil Burns, plus a further point better off than defending champion Cerek Ostrowski (3rd), David Duckworth (4th) and Matthias Zimmerman (5th). The victory is Zmolek’s second of his WSO career, the 18 year old having dropped just a point to win his semi-final earlier in the season, last year he finished 16th of 16 in the final.
A tense battle for the last promotion place in division two was concluded in favour of Dudley, whose promoter Tim Foster had ruled out any chance of success prior to the final two rounds of racing. He tipped Derby to go up behind Huntingdon and Cradley, however the in-form Bucks fell short as their four meeting winning run came to an end with a 46-44 defeat to Linlithgow. Dudley began the week with a draw at Bradwell, where two vital league points were secured with a last heat Henri Myullyniemi (17)/Peter Carl (12+4) 5-1. They added three more points with a 52-38 home win over champions Huntingdon, to finish two clear of Cork in the standings.
An tight race to finish as runners-up to runaway champions Runcorn in division three was won by Brighton, with a penultimate week 44-46 victory at wooden spoon side Witham helping them finish on 51 points. They end the season just points difference ahead of both Claygate and Normanton, but with the Badgers closing at the end of SL27 it’s those two that will begin SL28 as second tier sides.
A draw or better in Lublin for England was required for them to regain their International League title from the Poles, a possibility that looked beyond the Lions when the hosts raced into a ten point lead by the end of heat nine. However four race wins in the next five helped them claw back to within four of Poland going into heat 15, where Aaron Macaulay (16+1) and Ronnell Hawtin (12+2)—winners of those four races—completed the comeback with a 5-1 over Magnar Dudek (11) and Jaroslaw Bulka (9+1). Managed by Derek Purvis, the Lions topped the final standings from Poland on points difference, Denmark and the Czech Republic were both relegated after defeats in their final meetings.
Already confirmed as Academy League Champions for the first time since SL12, Brickhill went on to hit the magic 100 point mark with a win double over Runcorn. The Tigers Jack Bird marked himself out as one to watch in SL28, the 21 year old averaging 11.36 in the competition.