FOUR points from Good Friday will certainly go down as a decent outcome for the Buildbase Bees, their efforts at the Showground earlier in the day being backed up by a maximum haul at Brandon in the evening.
Another bumper crowd enjoyed plenty more drama, the two meetings as a whole throwing up so many talking points, and there were plenty of incidents to discuss – especially Heat 11!
For Bees, using the rider-replacement facility in place of their unavailable top-five doubling-up riders, they needed a solid showing from their six remaining team members, and they got exactly that even though there was a slightly concerning period mid-match when the Panthers reeled off a succession of race wins.
What the visitors couldn’t ever seem to do, though, was get two riders to the front of races at the same time, and that meant that their only two heat advantages came as 4-2s in the very first and very last races of the night – whilst Bees clocked up plenty in between.
But it was certainly close early on, with Nicki Pedersen charging from the outside gate to take the opening race with Bees guest Chris Harris squeezed out early on although quickly taking third place. It looked like a 3-3, but second-placed Przemyslaw Pawlicki made an error on the second lap and went too wide, and that allowed Linus Sundstrom through for third.
Pawlicki found himself chasing again in Heat 2, but this time he was more successful as his pressure led to race leader Norbert Kosciuch almost hitting the fence on the exit of turn two at the start of the last lap, Pawlicki taking full advantage to shoot through for a win in a shared heat.
There was an impressive ride by Krzysztof Buczkowski in Heat 3, especially after a big scare at the end of lap one when he got out of shape and offered the chance for Ryan Fisher to move inside him going into the pits bend. Buczkowski, though, kept things wound on around the outside and re-emerged in front, with Fisher and Kenni Larsen holding off Kacper Gomolski for a 3-3.
Having trailed by a couple of points, Bees got themselves back level in the next race with the in-form Edward Kennett producing an excellent first lap, on the outside of Troy Batchelor for most of the way but getting himself ahead going over the start-finish line. With Nick Morris in third place this time over Richard Lawson, it was all-square at 12-12.
Heat 5 produced the first big talking point, with Fisher storming to the front on lap one and holding off the challenge of Sundstrom – whilst behind them, it was Pedersen who was going backwards and eventually slipping into the clutches of Larsen, who made his move on the inside at the start of the last lap and took a super third place ahead of his top-line fellow countryman.
Bees built on that success with Harris moving to the front of Heat 6 ahead of Batchelor, and then the chase was on with Pawlicki throwing everything at the Australian. After a couple of laps of chasing, Pawlicki seemed to have locked up coming off turn four, but he still picked up the speed he wanted, and he surged inside Batchelor for a brilliant paid win.
That was the end of the Coventry race wins for a time, though, and Heat 7 began with a hectic first bend with Kennett initially taking the lead but Buczkowksi going too wide and slamming into the fence on turn two. Morris went down as well slightly further round the bend, but he was quickly out of the fence and it was Buczkowski’s disqualification light which shone – but his team-mate Gomolski prevented any further damage for the visitors with a terrific ride in the re-run, fending off every challenge from Kennett for a great win.
Sundstrom had shown enough early on to suggest that he could be a force if he made the start, and he did just that in Heat 8 to win in the fastest time of the night, and further shares followed in the next two races – Batchelor holding Fisher at bay in Heat 9, and Buczkowski showing there were no ill effects with a fine defensive job against Harris in Heat 10, as Gomolski missed out on this occasion.
And so we came to Heat 11, which looked to be going perfectly according to an obvious script at the front as Pedersen led, with Kennett fairly close, and the main story appeared to be the third place that Morris held over Sundstrom.
However, just as in the recent challenge match between the clubs, it became clear that Kennett was quicker than Pedersen, and on the third lap he suddenly made plenty of ground, enough to challenge on the inside going into turn three. The two riders remained level around the bend but as Kennett got better drive, Pedersen slid further wide – too wide, and his rear wheel clipped the fence, with the excitement level increasing further when Morris, close enough to profit, shot through on the inside and proceeded to ride a perfect final lap to hold Pedersen at bay.
The Panthers skipper was clearly an angry man and made his feelings clear to Kennett after the race on the back straight, and the discussions continued once the two men had made it back to the pits – great drama, and the big crowd got fully involved in it all, whilst also noting that the two riders were due to meet again in Heat 13!
But before that there was a spectacular Heat 12 to enjoy as Gomolski again got himself to the front, only to receive a tough challenge from the Bees riders with Pawlicki making his way through at the start of the third lap and Fisher following his team-mate shortly after as riders moved all around the circuit in an attempt to read each other’s moves.
The consecutive 5-1s had put Bees into a 14-point lead, meaning the Panthers needed a big result from the tactical ride of Pedersen in Heat 13 – but he was outdone by Kennett again at the start of the race, and the problem for the visitors was that Pedersen found himself third behind Batchelor. Thy did manage to swap places, but not without losing momentum, and it always looked as if Harris could get himself into play – and he duly did off the last bend, coming through inside Batchelor to share the race 4-4, prior to further post-race debate between Kennett and Pedersen, culminating in a handshake.
Bees now had meeting victory in the bag with the Panthers’ final throw of the dice being a Buczkowski tactical ride in Heat 14 in an attempt to salvage a point. But that move went badly wrong with the Pole failing to make the start, and the penultimate race again turned out to be a very good one for Fisher and Morris, who got to the front with Morris again making no mistakes in second place to secure another 5-1.
All three points were now confirmed but there was still another highly competitive race to finish off with Pedersen clearly determined to end on a high against Harris, who will be a Grand Prix rival next weekend. The first two laps were explosive stuff as the riders contested the lead, Pedersen making the strongest of moves into the pits bend with Harris having the skill to hang on and try to respond, but in the end it was the Dane who had the final say with Sundstrom third ahead of Larsen, who had very much got the rough end of the first turn after making a good start.
But a 16-point win at the end of the night was a more than satisfactory result for the Buildbase Bees, who have seven points on the board from their first three Elite League matches – and Good Friday was certainly a whole lot better than in 2010!