Elite racing once again drew the crowds to a sunny Harbourside Park as another epic unfolded between Poole and Sheffield with the result in doubt right up until the closing heats.
British and Polish national champions clashed in the opening race with Andy Angel catching Matty Ganczarek by surprise to win an exciting opener with Dan Chambers clinching third to give the Yorkshire club an early lead.
Marcin Szymanski won a drawn heat 2 but the overall lead switched in a re-run heat 3 after Pawel Idziorek got his marching orders for crossing the inside line in an attempt to pass Thomas Reed. Greg Gluchowski outpaced Radek Hanke in the re-start but Reed took a first bend tumble and the Poole advantage was limited to a 6-3. Ganczarek drew loud applaud for a well executed pass on Dan Chambers to win heat 4 with Leyton Glover taking a valuable third after a battle with Aiden Owen.
Sheffield hit straight back with a 6-4 of their own in heat 5 courtesy of the irrepressible Angel and Lee Smith and one point separated the teams at 25-24. Then the powerful Reed/Gluchowski pairing notched the first 7-3 of the day in heat 6 before Hanke led home former team-mate Ganczarek who endeared himself to the crowd on his home debut as he expertly team-rode partner Arron Morgan in heat 7.
Next on the menu was a mouthwatering clash between Angel and Szymanski and they served up a real treat with inches between them as the British champion claimed the win while Nowak won his tough battle with Chambers to draw the race. Just look at the John Burge action shot to see how much that win meant to Andy who has adopted a training regime not dissimilar to the Polish superstar!
Aiden Owen became the second visiting rider to earn an exclusion for crossing the inside line in heat 9 and Poole were fortunate that the race was re-started as Thomas Reed had taken another potentially costly tumble but he made no mistakes in the re-start as he held off hard charging Ryan Hoyland for a 6-3 and a 48-40 interval scoreline.
Whatever was said at the half-time team talk certainly worked for the Stars as Lee Smith and Jamie Ball came out brightly in heat 10 to hold off Gluchowski and Hearn for a valuable 7-3 with the suggestion of a strong fightback. An all Polish heat 11 saw Szymanski get the better of his old rival Hanke and Nowak hold off Idziorek to relieve home nerves with a 6-4 but the impressive Hoyland and Ball pairing hit back with a 6-4 over Ganczarek and Morgan to make it 61-57 and all to play for in the remaining 6 heats. The home side response was immediate and dramatic as Gluchowski and Reed teamed up to lower the colours of Andy Angel for the first time in the match with a well worked 7-3 which had the crowd roaring and put a big smile on the face of the Poole skipper.
Hardly had the dust settled than Sheffield returned the compliment with a 7-3 of their own as Nowak yielded under pressure from Lee Smith and Hanke after leading the race for three and a half laps. Poole responded with a 7-3 in the very next race as Sam Hearn stayed in the wheeltracks of his partner Szymanski to outpace the Stars duo to put the margin back to eight points. With race honours split in heats 16 and 17 thanks to wins from Reed and Ganczarek, there was to be no last heat decider but nevertheless, the Sheffield's top two riders. Hanke and Angel shaped up to finish on a high with a 7-3 from inside gates until Marcin Szymanski pulled off a brilliant manouvre to outfox the pair of them to round off a home victory in style.
Poole picked up the two league points to avenge their defeat at the Yorkshire circuit on the opening day of the season but the real winners were the crowd who generously applauded the lap of honoour by both teams. A number of them came forward afterwards to express their appreciation of the sheer quality of the racing which was fast, fair and highly entertaining. It was a great advert for the BCTG Elite League - no wonder they keep coming back to Harbourside in such numbers.
Poole 93: Marcin Szymanski 18+1 Thomas Reed 16+2 Maciej Ganczarek 16+1 Greg Gluchowski 15 Michel Nowak 8+1 Sam Hearn 8 Arron Morgan 7 Leyton Glover 5.
Sheffield 85: Radek Hanke 17, Andy Angel 16+1, Ryan Hoyland 14+1, Lee Smith 12+1, Jamie Ball 10+3, Dan Chambers 10, Pawel Idziorek 4, Aiden Owen 2.
Referee - Colin Simmons
Poole 81: Ben Donohue 15+1, Aaron Smith 15+1, Oli Sidwick 14+2, Wil Bristowe 12+2, Luke Armes 12, Chris Shylock 10+2, Niall Instone 3.
Sheffield 49: Louis German 13+1, Aiden Owen 11, Sandra Tambourska 7+1, Vicky Brown 6, Richard Hudson 6, Zac Smurthwaite 6.
Referee - Chris Morgan
This top of the table clash saw both teams probably thinking they could have done better.
The track which has been waterlogged a lot recently didn't appear to race well, with quite a few falls and even Mark Boaler having two, a rare occurrence. Horspath started the match with two 6-4's Mark Carmichael taking Marcus Wadhams in the first with Lewis Bates tucked in third, then Shaun Rudman and Lewis Osborne won over Konrad Pietak and Dominik Rycharski, which turned out to be Pietak's only defeat.
Chris Timms tapes to flag win in a drawn third. Another Hammers 6-4 with Steve Harris taking his new black bike to the win with Lewis Bates with another third, keeping Paul Heard occupied. Mark Carmichael / Lewis Osborne took a 7-3 in the 5th with Marcus Wadhams looking out of sorts. Two falls in the sixth - one each for Boaler and Harris - before the latter claimed a leg from Rycharski but to no avail and the Czestochowa pairing of Pietak and Rycharski inflicted a 7-3 for Birmingham.
The next race saw an exclusion for Chris Timms crossing the inside line on Mark Carmichael, the Welsh international combining with Lewis Bates for a re run 7-2. It was 6-6 in the eight with Rudman getting a win and Chris Osborne the third. Pietak grabbed another win with Heard third for a 6-4 reply to finish the half Horspath 50, Birmingham 39.
Lewis Osborne and Mark Boaler got Hammers off to a 7-3 in the tenth, Rudman got his third win in a drawn eleventh. Monarchs, then claiming the line, pulled back another with Pietak and Heard 6-4 and then Boaler was excluded for crossing the inside line with Jack Harold and Danny Harper taking the 6-3.
Rudman took his fourth win with Harris in a 6-4, Chris Timms won heat 15 but the Osborne brothers relegated Paul Heard to the back in drawn heat. Harris and Carmichael got a 6-4 to give Horspath a 14 point lead with two to go, Birmingham though hit two 7-3's to finish the match Pietak and Timms getting the better of Rudman, and Boaler's second fall bringing down Chris Osborne whilst chasing Heard which bought Millward through for the maximum win.
Horspath 92: Lewis Bates 9+1, Mark Carmichael 17, Chris Osborne 7+1, Shaun Rudman 18, Mateusz Szymczak 6+1, Mark Boaler 8+1, Steve Harris 15, Lewis Osborne 12+1.
Birmingham 86: Jack Harold 10, Danny Harper 3, Konrad Pietak 18+1, Dominik Rycharski 9, Scott Millward 10+1, Chris Timms 13+2, Paul Heard 12, Marcus Wadhams 9.
Referee - Robin Spicer (Dorset)
Last week's losing semi-finalists came head to head for this Elite League match at Whitton Sports Raceway.
The Suffolk club welcomed their rivals from the Midlands and soon came apparent that they would be fielding an under strength team, so you could be forgiving that the home team fancied their chances of a first win of the season even thou Wednesfield still could call upon the likes of Aris, Jewkes, Mould and Doherty to steady the team .
Ipswich themselves had a new look to their line up with injuries to Williamson, Lee Grange and Ian Grange unable to attend due to work commitments ,so there were first starts for
Nick Myhill making his debut and Jordan Stant being called into the line-up. The first three heats were all shared 15-15, heat four saw the home side draw first blood after a tape exclusion to Sam Parr ,Brooke and Stant managed to secure a 6-3 advantage with Jewkes splitting the Ipswich pairing. Heat five saw another 5-5 with a brilliant piece of team riding by Haddock and Holdcroft.
Heat six went the way of the visitors with Mould and Johnson taking full advantage of the second exclusion of the afternoon following Roberts exclusion 7-2 to move the Midland club in front by two points, heat saw another exclusion this Brooke was adjudge to move while under orders leaving young Ashley Hill to take Aris and Doherty and the young Suffolk rider didn't let his side down by managing to split the Wednesfield pairing 6-3 ,the final two heats of the half ended in shared heats . Half time score Ipswich 41, Wednesfield 46.
The first heat after the interval was shared, heat eleven saw the hosts claw back three points to close the gap back to two points following an exclusion to Doherty for legging. Chittock and
Mower saw off the challenge of Aris to secure a 6-3 win then in the next heat Mould and Johnson recorded a 6-4 win over Brooke and Hill to open up a four point cushion.
Ipswich weren't going to go away and immediately in heat thirteen Roberts and Cossey rode to a 6-4 over Jewkes and Haddock 62 - 64 to Wednesfield. A tactical reserve in heat fourteen provided dividends for the visitors with Parr coming in to partner Aris, they took full advantage went Stant came down coming out the fourth bend and was unable to remount so was excluded for cause of the stoppage, they went on to secure a important 7-2 to open up a seven point gap and put themselves in a winning position.
Heat fifteen did see Ipswich secure a 6-4 through Myhill and Chittock ,but could have been a lot better only for Doherty to saved a 7-3 against them after he managed to pass Chittock on the last bend.
The final three heats went the same way as the first three with Wednesfield making sure no errors and saw the match out with shared heats making the final score.
Ipswich 85: Brooke 15, Roberts 13, Mower 12, Chittock 11, Cossey 11, Myhill 11, Hill 9, Stant 3.
Wednesfield 90: Johnson 18, Aris 16, Mould 14, Jewkes 11, Haddock 10, Doherty 10,
Parr 6, Holdcroft 5.
Referee - Mike Legge (Dorset)