Pirates land title with meetings to spare
No shocks or late twists to the SL22 league story, Peterborough are the British Champions with two rounds of racing to spare. A fourth top flight victory of the season over Brickhill took the Pirates over the line, the league ever-presents claiming their second title, some 18 years after their first. Back in SL4 Graeme Hocking, Bill Perthen and Lee Blake all averaged ten, or close to it, as the Pirates stormed clear of Gorleston to claim the silverware, and with the trio all in their very early 20’s at the time no one would have believed it would have taken the club this long to repeat the feat. 17 GP seasons between them but another league title alluded them, 12 years later Pirates promoter David Hayden had jettisoned all three, Steve Johnson (10+1) arriving as the last of the trio left, Levan Rehviashvili (11) was at the time also starting out on his Pirates career. The pair picked up fours and KOC trophies in their early days with the club, but it wasn’t until Henri Myllyniemi (14+1) joined last season that they looked capable of going for the title once again. Third in SL21, and now the championship in SL22, the progression of Steve Wales (8+1) to what is in effect a spot as a fourth heat leader in the side making them as a group hard to beat home or away. As Brickhill found once again this week, a last heat 5-1 from Myllynimi and Johnson in the fixture earning the Pirates their seventh away league win of the campaign and putting the title win beyond doubt, Myllynimei and Wales having already picked up race maximums in heats five and 11 in the narrow—but comfortable—44-46 success.
With the aforementioned top four of Wales, Rekhviashvili, Johnson and Myllyniemi at their disposal, it was of no surprise that Peterborough went into their latest league meeting at Brickhill having already won the 4TT. 44 out of a possible 48 points earned them a commanding lead after the first leg—in which Wales scored a maximum 12—with their 23 point advantage maintained by the end of the second at Willenhall with a second place finish there. However a blip in the third at Stowmarket where they finished last of the four teams saw the hosts close the gap significantly, the Witches winning the leg with nine heat wins to the Pirates two, to go into the decider at Eastbourne just five points adrift. Wilmington Gardens though has been a happy hunting ground for the Pirates this season, and so it proved to be again, they adding to the league and cup wins there to one in the 4TT, Myllyniemi top scoring on the night with 11 of Peterborough’s 32, a haul good enough to earn them an 18 point aggregate victory—their fourth in the competition—over Stowmarket, bringing their two year reign as champions to an end.
Five of those riders in action in the fours final were back at Eastbourne the next day for the British GP, and that earlier run-out certainly seemed to benefit Grzegorz Kowalczyk (14) who looked at ease on the circuit in dropping just one point on his way to the title. His defeat came against Oleg Gabulov (7) in heat 14, the Russian unbeatable when in front, luckily for his rivals it’s normally him playing catch-up. Kowalczyk recovered from that loss to beat Aaron Macaulay in heat 19, the Stowmarket world number two finishing three points clear of the Brit and Kim Cedegren as a result. Macaulay won the resulting race-off for second, and with Steve Johnson scoring just seven it’s now him that leads the overall standings.
Cradley Heath’s win over Willenhall secured their own top flight survival and condemned Leeds to division two racing in SL22, the Jaguars set to be replaced in the top flight by Iwade, whose top three finish in the second tier was confirmed by a home 46-44 win over Huntingdon. It’s the second successive promotion earned by Terry Meech’s side, who finished third in division three in their debut campaign. Paul Jarman’s Hunters went on to secure the second tier title with a 50-40 win over Kelso. At the other end of the standings Exeter, who have lost eight in a row, are now down and Brockmoor will likely join them, they four points adrift of safety with just six to ride for. However the third team to drop out is still anyone guess, with just one point currently separating the five clubs from Verwood in fourth to Derby in eighth!
Scott Lambell’s Devon side are the first side to be promoted from division three this season, a 20 point home win over Glenholt doing the necessary before their five meeting winning run was brought to an end by Coventry, 46-43. Beverley look almost certain to follow them up in second after they moved six clear of fourth placed Newport with a 42-48 win at Glenholt, with Newport themselves still looking at grabbing third from Claygate. The Exiles have now moved within two points of the Bears thanks to a 44-46 win at Keswick this week, Claygate were held to a third home draw in a row, this time by Coventry.