Round 4 of the British Cycling Cycle Speedway Supertrax Battle of Britain series did not disappoint in Kesgrave, as the top-of-the-table clash between South East and East and the Midlands produced a classic in front of a large crowd.
It was a must-win match for the Midlands after losing out in the last heat to their round 4 hosts back in round one. Once again the match was hotly contested and also went down to a last heat decider.
The hosts started well and edged into a slender four point lead by heat five, but then suffered multiple exclusions for movement at the tapes and failing to finish.
In just three heats the away side converted a four point deficit into a lead of seven points, but then Leon Mower and Matt Hill registered a maximum heat advantage for the South East and East before the break, reducing their arrears to just three points at the half way stage.
Paul Heard and Lee Kemp extended the Midlands' lead in the first heat after the interval, which was followed by a selection of shared heats, but the South East and East came back at the Midlands after Myke Grimes was judged to have moved under orders and debutant Ewan Hancox was excluded for pushing SE&E’s Richard Fellgett off the track.
The two teams entered the last two nominated heats with just one point between them. The Midlands were held to a shared heat off the inside grids in heat 19, meaning the South East and East only needed a 6-4 to win the match.
Grimes and Ricki Johnson represented the Midlands in the final heat, with opponents Hill and Josh Brooke having the advantage of the inner gates.
An already tense encounter was ratcheted up even more as the referee, much to the Midlands’ disappointment, called all four riders back to the tapes for a restart following a fall for Hill at the first bend.
There was absolute silence as the riders were under orders at the tapes and it was Brooke who led away, but with Grimes pegging Hill in last place from the start, the Midlands were still in the ascendancy.
Any thoughts of the SE&E turning the deficit around were quickly dashed when Brooke slid out; Johnson and Grimes gratefully sweeping past to take victory for the Midlands.
The Midlands and the SE&E are now both on six points, and with just two rounds remaining, the fight for the title intensifies.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Midlands elite juniors took another step towards the title with a comprehensive victory over a weakened South East and East team who felt the effects of the school holidays!
Damien Pelacyzk and Carl Parfitt scored a 7-3 for the Midlands in the first heat and a rider from the Midlands then crossed the line first in all further heats, scoring a maximum seven in nine of the fourteen heats.
Heat 11 was the only heat in which the SE&E outscored the Midlands as Haydn Rowley was excluded for forcing Reece Johnson off the track.
With only two rounds remaining, the Midlands are in a strong position to be crowned champions witheight points; their closest rival, the North & Scotland, have four points.
Over in Newport, South West and Wales finally got their series off the mark with a deserved win over North and Scotland in the elite men's class in front of a sizeable crowd.
The scores were tied after 4 rides, with the North’s Jake Read opening with two fine wins on the fast grippy Welsh raceway, and home riders Dale Clark and Zac Payne combining well to get a maximum in heat five, to put their team into the lead.
The visitors were struggling to get race wins and the home team looked more of a unit, with all eight riders contributing well, enabling them to run out winners by 102 to 93.
Ben Mould was the top scorer on his return for the South West and Wales region, with a fine 23 points. He recieved solid backing from Payne and Steve Harris, while Clark had an excellent regional debut.
Earlier in the elite junior class, the South West and Wales just missed out on their first victory after a controversial moment, which saw Callum Goward receive a red card in the pits from referee Mike Legge.
The early exchanges were being won by the visitors, showing more pace to the first corner. Ed Morton and Adam Watson continually impressed, but the home team responded well with the Garnett/Ellis and Goward/Tinsdsle pairings hitting their straps, while Jeffery and Smith combined well in heat 10, helping the boys in orange to a four-point lead.
The North came back in the following heats and took the lead by two points, before Goward’s red card meant a points reduction for the home side; eventually leading to them losing the match by four points.
Round five of the Supertrax Battle of Britain takes place on Sunday 20 August. The Midlands welcome North and Scotland to Wednesfield and South East and East look to bounce back against South West and Wales at Great Blakenham.