KRZYSZTOF Kasprzak's debut looked like being a good one on the evidence of his first couple of races in Coventry colours - but we only found out just how good during the closing stages of the meeting.
The Buildbase Bees seemed in complete control on their first visit to the new-look Foxhall, they were coasting halfway through yet somehow were reeled in and could have gone down to a shattering defeat but for Kasprzak's brilliance late-on
The Polish ace had already come up with a memorable Heat 13 5-1 with Chris Harris over Scott Nicholls, but his effort in the decider was better still as he overtook both Ipswich riders just when they looked set to combine for a Witches 5-1 which would have turned a 37-43 deficit into a dramatic win.
Bees won't be happy at making such hard work of closing things out, and they will probably feel that this meeting offered them the chance to take four points rather than three - but, as was the case at Swindon earlier in the month, any away win is to be welcomed and once again it puts them back in the ball-park with several of the other clubs around them in the table.
Ipswich, missing Robert Miskowiak and Dawid Stachyra, were reduced to five riders on the night when Bees asset Olly Allen crashed in Heat 6 and damaged his shoulder - but countering that, Bees were without both regular reserves and Stachyra's replacement, the hugely impressive Linus Sundstrom, was only booked for the meeting as a replacement for the Pole.
When Chris Harris won the toss for gate positions, it wasn't long before this looked like a good early result for the Bees as it was clear from early on that gate four was going to be a significant disadvantage. And it got Coventry off to a flyer as Harris and Ben Barker trapped superbly in Heat 1 whilst Nicholls, from the outside, was delayed behind Allen for two laps and did not have the time to make a serious challenge on the Coventry duo.
Given the gates, a 3-3 from Heat 2 was certainly an acceptable outcome with Sundstrom serving notice by winning in a time only just inferior to Harris, but his team-mate Carl Wilkinson came to grief on the third bend under pressure from Bees guest Steve Johnston, who did well to avoid the fallen rider.
Bees then took further advantage of the gates with Danny King unable to get anywhere in Heat 3 as Claus Vissing split Edward Kennett and Lewis Bridger after a close early battle for second place - and it then appeared somewhat surprising that the Witches' top man Nicholls took a rider replacement ride off gate four in Heat 4. Less surprising was the fact that he made the first bend behind Kasprzak and Johnston, and although he split the pairing his late challenge on Kasprzak couldn't stop the Coventry pairing.
Harris did become a gate four winner in Heat 5, but this was less about the start and more about his speed off turn two as he spectacularly shot to the front, past both King and Vissing, with Barker salvaging third from the Dane on the third and fourth bend to put the Witches straight into tactical ride territory.
Nicholls, off gate two, was an obvious choice for black and white, but he was outgated by Kasprzak inside him and a 4-4 was looking the likeliest outcome when Aaron Summers drove inside Allen on the third bend, and the Bees loanee went down which was where he picked up his injury. The blue disqualification was inevitable, and the re-run saw a repeat performance - but most impressive was the way in which Kasprzak pulled clear having held off an initial challenge from Nicholls.
Ipswich finally gained a heat advantage in Heat 7 with King winning and Sundstrom holding off Bridger for third place, but Bees still appeared well in control especially after a good first two turns from Barker in Heat 8 to navigate his way to the front despite coming off gate four. The Witches pairing had been delayed by a fast-starting Johnston, although the Australian lost third place midway through the race to a recovering Sundstrom.
That left Bees eight points up after eight races, a position maintained by a 3-3 in Heat 9 after a tight first bend, Kasprzak emerging ahead of King with Summers baulked by a lock-up from Vissing, and although he re-gained ground late in the race the chequered flag came just too soon.
It always looked clear from the racecard that Ipswich needed something significant from Heat 10, and they got what they wanted with Sundstrom gating and Nicholls clearing Kennett in the early stages to follow his partner home with Bridger, after almost taking himself out exiting turn four, crashing going into the third bend for the last time.
But that 5-1, on paper, could well have been cancelled out by the Bees in Heat 11 - only for Vissing to somehow get away with an enormous flyer from gate two, which left Coventry chasing. Once again, Harris displayed prodigious speed to turn back inside Vissing on the second lap, but as Barker attempted to follow him through next time around he found himself baulked and Sundstrom cleverly took advantage of the situation to steal third place.
So the gap remained four with four heats to go, and Bees found themselves under more pressure in Heat 12 when Kennett missed out at the start, and with King up-front the scores briefly looked set to go level with Sundstrom riding a storming first lap to move into second place. Fortunately for Bees, he then made probably his only mistake of the night, over-sliding slightly and that enabled Summers to make what turned out to be an absolutely crucial passing move for second place.
With the Witches effectively 'sacrificing' Wilkinson in Heat 13 as rider replacement, the home side were clearly pinning their hopes on Heat 14 and hoping to share the former race - and from the gate there looked a huge upset on the cards against Coventry's unbeaten pairing, with Nicholls making the start and Wilkinson gating third, initially battling with Harris. But what happened next was stunning, with the speed of Harris again taking him to the front past Nicholls - and Kasprzak rode a brilliant turns three and four to complete a fourth-to-second pass, leaving Nicholls no doubt somewhat surprised to find himself in third place and facing a 5-1.
So Bees had a 43-37 lead with two to go and they deployed Summers in Heat 14 as a replacement for Johnston - but winning the meeting still wasn't a simple matter as the Witches made it to the first bend in front from gates two and four, Sundstrom raced away for a clear win, and Bridger's attempts to pass Vissing met with no reward as the one time he did pass the Dane on the fourth bend, he overshot and Vissing quickly turned back on the inside and regained the place.
Totally against the expectations from what had gone earlier, Bees therefore faced last-heat decider from which they required three points to make sure of a win. And with the toss again having been won, gates one and three acquired, and an unbeaten combination at the tapes, it had to make them strong favourites... but it so nearly went spectacularly wrong.
Harris didn't make it from gate three, a set-up change having proved the wrong move, and nor could he generate the speed from earlier in the meeting - and King threatened to become the Witches hero by outgating Kasprzak and holding the lead as Nicholls surged around the outside and made it into second place at the end of the first lap.
Fortunately for Bees, the two Ipswich riders were on the same line going into lap two and that meant Nicholls couldn't take quite the speed he would have wanted, and if he had made it alongside King it would have been curtains. As it turned out, there was room for Kasprzak to reply on the inside and he made it back into second place in what appeared to be a draw-saving move. What happened next, though, was probably the moment of the Bees' season so far as on lap three, Kasprzak held a tight inside line exiting the second bend and positively fired himself beyond King and into first place to complete a dazzling paid maximum.
Rarely can a team who have led all night be considered to have pulled off such a 'great escape' to make sure of a win, but that was the case on this occasion in a meeting which also showcased the improvements to the racing at Foxhall this year. Three points in the bag for the Bees, a dream debut for Kasprzak, and now they need to build on it at home.
IPSWICH 45 Scott Nicholls 1 2 4^ 2* 1 1* = 11+2 Olly Allen 0 X = 0 Daniel King 0 2 3 2 3 2 = 12 Claus Vissing 2 0 1* 2 2* = 7+2 Robert Miskowiak Rider Replacement Linus Sundstrom 3 1 1* 3 1* 1 3 = 13+2 Carl Wilkinson F 0 2 0 = 2
BUILDBASE BEES 47 Chris Harris 3 3 3 3 0 = 12 Ben Barker 2* 1 3 0 = 6+1 Edward Kennett 3 2 1 0 = 6 Lewis Bridger 1 0 F 1 = 2 Krzysztof Kasprzak 3 3 3 2* 3 =14+1 Aaron Summers 2 1 0 2 0 = 5 Steve Johnston 1* 1 0 = 2+1