Birmingham Monarchs were crowned as the 2023 Cycle Speedway Knock-Out Cup champions following a hard-fought victory over Kesgrave in Exeter, with just four points separating the two teams.
Birmingham were runners-up in this event last year, and this was their first victory for 62 years, sparking emotional celebrations after the conclusion of the day’s 18 heats. Kesgrave battled valiantly on only their second appearance in the competition, and will have high hopes for victory in 2024.
Kesgrave defeated Poole convincingly by 104 points to 76 in the first semi-final, while Birmingham beat Ipswich 96-80 to set up the afternoon’s grand final.
How it happened
Birmingham took the first heat of the final with a win for Mark Winwood, after Torsten Jolly was excluded for taking Winwood off the track. Chris Timms (Birmingham) and Ryker Jolly (Kesgrave) clashed on the re-run, but Jolly was back on his bike quicker to take second, and the heat would set the tone for the final to come.
Heat three saw Birmingham’s Paul Heard take his first win of the match, but he didn’t have an easy ride with Charlie Parr (Kesgrave) pushing the current British champion all the way to the line.
Torsten Jolly made amends in the fourth heat by taking the win to keep Kesgrave within three points of Birmingham, with the score 21-18.
Heard then took his second win of the day, with Kesgrave’s Noah Woodhouse taking second, but behind them there was a fierce battle for third, with Scott Millward (Birmingham) and Leon Mower (Kesgrave) going pushing each other throughout the four laps, with Mower getting to the line first.
Heat eight, and the penultimate heat of the half, saw Chris Timms (Birmingham) ride Woodhouse into the fence. The Kesgrave rider dusted himself down to take the point, but with Winwood claiming his second win of the day Birmingham had further extended their lead.
Birmingham’s Ricky Johnson took his first win of the match in heat nine, and with Will Jeffery rolling in third Birmingham had established a seven-point lead and some breathing space going into the interval – with the scores sat at 48-41.
A tough heat straight after the interval saw Winwood excluded for taking Ryker Jolly off the track. Mower looked set for a Kesgrave win, but determined riding by Jeffery saw him pass Mower and secure another heat win for Birmingham.
An exclusion in the twelfth heat for Heard and victory for Woodhouse then brought the margin back down to just three points, with Birmingham on 60 and Kesgrave on 57
The following heat saw two former Horspath team-mates go head-to-head, with Jeffery and Zac Payne fighting it out for the win. Jeffery took the victory to add four important points to Birmingham’s score.
Ricky Johnson battled well in the fifteenth to allow Heard to ride off for another Birmingham win, and with an exclusion for Mower the match once again turned in Birmingham’s favour. However another win from Woodhouse in the following heat, his fourth from six heats, saw Kesgrave again bring themselves back into contention, narrowing the gap to four points with two heats to go.
The penultimate heat saw more great team riding by Scott Millward, keeping Mower in fourth place, with the Kesgrave rider unable to find a way round. With Timms taking the win, barring any incident the trophy was going back to the Midlands.
A win in the final heat for Kesgrave’s Payne wasn’t going to be enough, and with Ricky Johnson holding second for Birmingham the Midlands team finally added the missing trophy to their cabinet, with the match finishing 90-86.
Victory for Birmingham also capped off a sensational season for Birmingham’s Heard, who also won the national individual title last month. The trophy was presented by the Exeter-born 1975 British individual champion, Geoff Patman, who ewas attending his first cycle speedway event for many years.