Wolves back on top
Willenhall’spursuit of a second league title ended in success with three rounds of top flight racing to spare, fittingly they crossed the line against Peterborough, the side they ultimately failed to chase down for the crown in SL22. Pirates boss David Heydon somewhat grudgingly handed over the silverware to his counterpart Danny Powis in the centre green presentation following his side’s 54-35 defeat in Willenhall, it was all tongue-in-cheek stuff though, Heydon having been the first to shake the hand of the home promoter when Mats Wowoah confirmed the first of three league points—they only required the one—gained by the Wolves on the night when taking victory in heat 12. In the process Wowoah become the fifth different winner in the televised clash for the hosts, Aaron Macaulay (15) and Ronnell Hawtin (10+1) celebrated the success in front of the season best crowd with a 5-1 in the next. Both Matthew Joyce (12) and Macaulay would end the meeting with maximums—their sixth and tenth of the league season respectively—after winning heat 14 and 15 in turn. However this wasn’t a night to celebrate personal achievements, the title won by a group of 12 riders who have all played their part, with Powis skilfully rotating his squad to get the best results possible. Only Macaulay and Hawtin have been ever-presents in the SL23 campaign, the title wouldn’t have been won without then, but also not without the contributions of the likes of Matthew Davey—who scored a match winning paid eight at Wimbledon early in the season—and more latterly Antony Southgate and Wowaoh who made the difference in victories at Huntingdon and Telford.
A squad effort to win the league, but the 4TT in it’s nature is all about the best of the best, and Willenhall have top talent in abundance. Mark Butcher—absent from the title clincher with Peterborough—joined up with heat leaders Aaron Macaulay, Ronnell Hawtin and Matthew Joyce to claim the Wolves second trophy of the week and their third of the season. After finishing as runners-up in the competition in both the last two years, Danny Powis’s Wolves at last getting their hands of the fours silverware for the first time. Inconsistent performances from their opponents meant strong second place finishes in the legs at Stowmarket (88), Huntingdon (84) and Leeds (92) meant that Willenhall held the lead in this years final heading into their home meeting, a situation usually only dreams are made off. With the pressure off and the Wolves fans already in a party mood following their title win it was of no surprise that Willenhall’s quartet dominated the ‘decider’, between them they raced to 11 of the 16 heat wins and picked up 40 points in the meeting to take their aggregate tally to 120.
Grzegorz Kowalczyk (14) had already ridden in league, KOC and 4TT meetings prior to heading to Leeds for the British GP, however the Stowmarket and Polish star looked fresh as a daisy as he continued his defence of the world crown with a second GP win of SL23, four wins plus a second place when beaten by Ronnell Hawtin (9) seeing him finish three points clear of a pack headed by Henri Myllyniemi. It’s Myllyniemi—who beat Aaron Macaulay and Aleksandar Komljenovic in a race-off to claim second on the podium—though who leads the series heading into next weeks final round in Poland, the Finn heading the standings by two—in which the top six are separated by just four points—from leading Brit, Aaron Macaulay.
Already promoted, but Leeds now know they will go up as second tier champions, the Jaguars ending Dudley’s bid for top spot by racing to home and away wins this week. Nathan Kay top scored with 16 in the latter, a 44-46 success in Verwood, a meeting in which the visitors twice found themselves six down on their hosts. The defeat, their second at home this season, leaves the Vipers four points adrift of safety in the division two relegation zone with two league meetings to go, the first of which is a trip to Devon, the side directly above them in the standings. Elsewhere Gorleston eased their own relegation worries with a 44-46 victory at Brickhill secured with a last heat 5-1, the Tigers—who had led by ten in the meeting—slip three points off the promotion places as a result. All is not lost for Glen Ford’s side though as they take on third placed Ramsgate in their next meeting, a 17 point win over the Robins would see them head into the final day above them in the standings, with Ramsgate still then to host Leeds.
In division three Earley confirmed their first ever promotion with a 50-40 win over third tier Champions Linlithgow, the Lions plus David Grainger’s side likely to be joined in division two next season by Exeter, who now require just a point to be certain of a top three finish.