TIGERS EARN THEIR STRIPES
Double joy for Brookwood
A season that has promised so much for Brookwood finally delivered this week, the Tigers claiming the league and KO Cup double after rounding off the campaign unbeaten in their final month of fixtures. Beaconsfield kept them honest in the league, they taking the race down to the final day with a penultimate round victory over York, but with the Tigers winning at Wimbledon, 44-46, it was Paul Wyer’s Yorkshire outfit that were firmly in the driving seat heading into the deciding fixtures. A draw or better at home against Long Eaton would take Brookwood across the finishing line, whatever the Bandits result at Bradford, but the Rifles didn’t make it easy on them. The meeting was a tight tense affair, that is for the first 11 heats when the result could have gone either way. A 5-1 double for the hosts in heats 12 and 13 broke that tension though, suddenly from sweating about the result they were celebrating a certain victory with still two races to spare! Fittingly it was Ray Hunt (15)—whose improvement this season to became the club’s number one has been a major factor in their success—who won the second of those 5-1’s, he going on to complete his 12th league maximum of the season with another winning 5-1 in the final race. Now the new champions had two trophies to parade to their delirious fans, for three days earlier they’d got their hands on the KO Cup at Birkenhead. Trailing by ten from the first leg the hosts of the return meeting of the final had every chance of taking the silverware on paper, but in the end the Bombers were never in contention. They led the second leg for just two heats, disappointing returns from their lower order costing them any chance of success, their bottom three beating just one rider between them all night! The trios combined tally was in stark contrast to the Tigers back-up riders, 15 points in total going to their opposite numbers, seven alone to Mike Miller who raced to victories in heat two and seven 5-1’s. Brookwood’s aggregate victory was assured by a second place from Paul Wilson in heat 12, the meeting going on to peter out into a draw, the Tigers overall winners by ten.
After three individual GP successes in the first four round’s Exeter’s Dusan Matas (11) suffered a heart-breaking end to the series at Krakow. Again the 31 year old would finish in double figures, but his third place in heat 18 behind Brits Paul Wilson and Tony Williamson would see him finish adrift of Sandor Waltner (13) in the World Championship standings. Waltner retained his status as World Number one by a point after winning the Polish GP for the second successive season, the Stannington star grapping the glory with a heat 19 victory over Michal Bilek. It was a dogged performance by the Hungarian in taking the title, earlier he’d battled by Matas for the three points in heat ten, that victory proving crucial to the final outcome.
A final day victory over Berkshire was more than enough for South Molton to take the Division Two title, they requiring only a point from the meeting to be certain to return to the top flight as the second tier Champions. Exeter go up in second, they securing the runners-up spot with a 42-48 victory at Stirling, 5-1’s from the unbeaten Dusan Matas (15+3) and Andrew Hill (13) in heats nine, 13 and 15 taking them to what was only their second away league victory of the season. It’s certainly been a year where fortunes have favoured the Scott Hooper side for once, they having finished well in the bottom half of division two in the previous three campaigns. Joining the top two in the top flight next season are Lincoln and Reading, home wins enough to secure their final spots in the promotion places, the Gravediggers returned on the final day against Stirling, 54-36.
Eight different teams had a chance of being relegated from the top flight going into the final two rounds of racing, in the end though it was the four that started the week in the drop zone then ended it there. The failure of the quartet to pick up any points away from home throughout the season proved to be their downfall, although Sedgley would have been saved but for Bradford’s final day 46-44 victory over Beaconsfield, a heat 14 5-1 securing the Speedsters place at the top table for another season. Wimbledon join the Sprites in division two having lost both the final fixtures, the pair going down along with the already relegated York and Milton Keynes.
Points difference in the end separated third placed Totton and fourth placed Birmingham in the division one table, the £20,000 prize money disparity between the positions won’t make too much difference to the Brummies, the European Cup place that went with third will. Totton won both of their remaining bonus points, taking the one of the final day at Stannington by just two points on aggregate.
As expected England had no trouble wrapping up their second successive International League title, a 60-30 victory against number two seeds Finland highlighting the gulf between the Lions and the rest of the major speedway nations. Sean Robson (14) ended the season as the top English rider, averaging 10.17 over the course of the campaign.