TWELVE races were possible at Brandon before the heavens did what they had been threatening to do for much of the day - and at the end of it all, the Buildbase Bees had their points and the below-strength Panthers had respectability.
This most protracted of fixtures therefore finished a little early, but with rain increasing in intensity after light drizzle for much of the match, a call-off prior to Heat 13 was no great surprise.
Bees could have won by more, and could reflect on a couple of last-bend disasters, but they got the job done in comfortable enough fashion without over-extending themselves in difficult track conditions. Meanwhile, it was good for the prospects of Team GB to see Simon Stead in such good form for the Panthers, winning his first three rides and only left trailing in his fourth when he missed the gate and conditions were becoming ever more tricky.
Coventry's star turn was reserve Martin Smolinski, who was yards from celebrating a five-ride paid maximum only to overcook things on the last bend of Heat 12 yet, due to a bizarre chain of events, he was able to re-mount for second place!
Stead has made a habit of winning Heat 1s at Brandon this season, and he started well again this time to hold off the attempted outside challenge of Scott Nicholls on the second bend, with Olly Allen in third place for the Bees.
The first 5-1 of the night came in Heat 2, although it was slightly unfortunate for Ulrich Ostergaard as he raced hard into turn three on the outside only to go too wide and allow room for Billy Janniro to come through on the inside and follow Smolinski home for maximum points.
Nicholls took Heat 3 in convincing fashion but there was action behind as Lukas Dryml and Piotr Swiderski got into a tangle on turn three, allowing Steve Johnston to pass Swiderski. The Pole fought back and re-claimed third place, and his body language after the race made his feelings clear towards his team-mate.
Ex-Bee Shaun Tacey was a late replacement for the previously declared Kyle Legault for the Panthers, but he spun out of Heat 4 on the tricky fourth bend as Chris Harris and Martin Smolinski banked maximum points - but the first Panthers advantage came in Heat 5, and for a couple of laps it was a 5-1 of their own as Stead led away from Dryml, only for Harris to find a way through on the inside.
Allen shot off gate 4 to hit the front in Heat 6 as Nicholls was briefly delayed in between Tacey and Daniel King, but from the moment he went clear another 5-1 was a formality. The tactical ride, though, went in the Panthers' favour with Stead again making a fast start in Heat 7 whilst wearing black and white - and Swiderski and Harris having a good battle for second before Harris finally prevented the 8-1 with an on-the-line pass for second place.
Allen again gated in Heat 8 but went a little too wide on turn two, eventually seeing off Ostergaard for third as Smolinski continued his impressive form by taking the lead from Dryml at the end of the first lap - and the German made it two wins on the bounce in Heat 9 as Bees again took maximum points from King and Tacey, Johnston getting himself off the mark in second place.
The Panthers' first slice of fortune came in Heat 10 which was set up for a routine Coventry 5-1 when Nicholls seized his engine coming out of the final bend. Allen went through for the win, and with Nicholls having lost all power, Swiderski and Ostergaard were able to take second and third.
Stead was unable to make gate 1 work in Heat 11 and lost a great deal of ground to Harris and Janniro in the early stages, with Dryml getting things wrong on turn four and falling. That was another Bees 5-1, and what turned out to be the final race ended with a touch of farce. Smolinski again appeared to be the untroubled leader, but he lost it on the last bend and, as Swiderski avoided him to take the win, Johnston laid his machine down. A Peterborough 5-1 would, therefore, have been a possibility - or possibly a 4-2 if Johnston had been awarded second place - but referee Margaret Vardy had no need to make any decision because King had pulled off the track on lap earlier, so the Bees duo both re-mounted for their points!
That turned out to be the end of the racing as discussions took place in the pits with the rain getting heavier, and whilst Bees did not do enough to put the aggregate point out of reach, they are still more than capable of defending that margin at the Showground. They have enjoyed a highly productive week with four Elite League points and the possibility of advancement in the Knockout Cup - so now for the World Cup break... and hopefully some sunshine???!
COVENTRY 45 PETERBOROUGH 30 Friday 13th July 2007 - Sky Sports Elite League 'B'
BUILDBASE BEES Scott Nicholls 2 3 3 0 = 8 Olly Allen 1* 2* 1 3 = 7+2 Rory Schlein R/R Steve Johnston 0 0 2* 1* = 3+2 Chris Harris 3 2 2 3 = 10 Billy Janniro 2* R 2* = 4+2 Martin Smolinski 3 2* 3 3 2 = 13+1
MRI PANTHERS Simon Stead 3 3 6 1 = 13 Lukas Dryml 0 2 1 2 F = 5 Niels-Kristian Iversen R/R Piotr Swiderski 1* 1 2 3 = 7+1 Shaun Tacey 0 0 0 = 0 Daniel King 1 1 1 R = 3 Ulrich Ostergaard 0 1 0 1* = 2+1