THE Buildbase Bees' winning sequence now extends to almost two months, and skipper Scott Nicholls continues to be at the very top of his form as he leads the team towards the play-offs.
Nicholls recorded his first full 15-point maximum of the season at Belle Vue last week and repeated the feat against the Racers with the Bees again overhauling Poole to move into second spot in the Elite League table.
Whilst Nicholls and his fellow top-five riders were winning eleven of the 15 racers against a battling Reading team, Billy Janniro was again breaking all records when it comes to bonus points, managing to finish directly behind his partner on no less than five occasions in a meeting which provided plenty of incidents.
Reading's Matej Zagar suffered mechanical trouble on the practice laps and had a major scramble to get his No.1 machine ready for Heat 1. When the tapes rose, the Slovenian was squeezed out as Nicholls and Janniro gave Bees the perfect start, Polish newcomer Krzysztof Buczkowski marking his first appearance at Brandon by almost falling on the back straight after clipping the fence coming out of turn two.
The second race took two re-runs before referee Craig Ackroyd was satisfied, and at the third time of asking Janniro missed the gate, as did partner Steve Johnston, which allowed Sam Simota and Jonas Davidsson to respond immediately with a 5-1 for the Racers. At that stage, with memories of Simota's performance in the 'A' fixture fresh in the memory, and Davidsson's World Cup display, it looked like the Racers could give the Bees a tricky night.
Rory Schlein was a comfortable winner of Heat 3 with Martin Smolinski picking up third place when, under pressure, Janusz Kolodziej locked up and then lifted coming off turn four - and despite a brave battle to stay aboard, he eventually parted company with his machine. Heat 4 meanwhile, was another Coventry 5-1, but this time it was a Chris Harris special as he and Johnston went either side of Simota on the back straight and Harris then clawed back a huge deficit to Travis McGowan in no time at all and overtook the Australian at the end of lap two.
Zagar was not to be upstaged in the overtaking, and the Slovenian produced a fine effort of his own in Heat 5, firstly slipping inside Schlein as they entered the second lap, and then moving to the outside and racing around Smolinski on the back straight of lap three to once again demonstrate how well he goes at Brandon.
But Reading's hopes of keeping things close then hit a major setback as Bees took control with consecutive 5-1s, the first featuring excellent team-riding from Nicholls and Janniro as McGowan was threatening throughout the race. The second saw Harris and Janniro - who gained extra rides with Bees using rider replacement for shoulder injury victim Olly Allen - launch away from Mark Lemon and Kolodziej early on as Bees roared into a 12-point advantage.
With Zagar the obvious candidate for a tactical ride but not due out until Heat 11, the Racers had to plod on with what they had, although they may have hoped for a share of the points in Heat 8 with Davidsson replacing Buczkowski. In the event, Johnston accounted for Davidsson on lap one and with Harris clear again at the front, the score moved on to 31-17.
The Racers had a let-off in Heat 9 as Davidsson and McGowan seemed certain to face a 5-1 from Schlein and Smolinski, but Schlein picked up some unwanted drive on turn two second time around and went over the back of his bike - dislocating his thumb in the process. Smolinski, however, was determined to win the re-run and did just that after a terrific first bend battle with McGowan which included plenty of contact but both riders staying on their machines and racing on.
Nicholls and Janniro hit the front once more in Heat 10, but this time Janniro made an error on the second bend and allowed Kolodziej to come through on the inside, leaving the scores at 38-22 ahead of Zagar's tactical ride.
And it looked like producing maximum dividends for the Racers with Zagar making a flying start from the inside, and Harris unable to do anything about an inspired Buczkowski, who had found a fast outside line on lap one and stuck to it. Unfortunately for the Pole, he got a little too excited on the last bend and spun and fell, turning an 8-1 into a 6-3 - but there will doubtless be plenty of entertainment to come from Reading's new signing.
That incident virtually wiped out any prospect of a dramatic comeback, and Schlein bounced back from his fall to win Heat 12 in convincing fashion to leave Bees 13 points ahead, with Nicholls looking to protect his maximum.
Heat 13 produced some Grand Prix-style riding on the first couple of corners as Nicholls and Zagar hit the bend together and Nicholls took his rival wider and wider, leaving him just enough room to get around the corner, but little more than that. Harris, of course, needed no second invitation to cut back and join his colleague at the front, and that was another Coventry 5-1 signed, sealed and delivered.
Lemon finished with a flourish by winning Heat 14 as the Coventry pairing engaged in more place-swapping on the final bend, but Heat 15 was to produce a similar outcome to Heat 13, with exactly the same line-up from exactly the same gate positions. This time, Zagar was in no mood to be taken out by Nicholls and appeared to hang back, but in doing so he caught himself in mid-track, blocked his team-mate McGowan and there was still enough room for Harris to cut back anyway!
So Bees' winning run now extends to seven in the Elite League, and eight in all competitions - and this was another strong performance in virtually every department. Bees will now hope that Reading can do them a favour or two against Poole this week, but they are unquestionably in the driving seat for a top two place - now they have to go on and take it!
COVENTRY 57 READING 36 Monday 13th August 2007 - Sky Sports Elite League 'B' BUILDBASE BEES Scott Nicholls 3 3 3 3 3 = 15 Olly Allen R/R Rory Schlein 3 1* X 3 = 7+1 Martin Smolinski 1 2 3 2 = 8 Chris Harris 3 3 3 2 2* 2* = 15+2 Billy Janniro 2* R 2* 2* 1 1* 1* = 9+5 Steve Johnston 1 1 1 0 = 3
READING RACERS Matej Zagar 1 3 6^ 0 1 = 11 Krzysztof Buczkowski 0 0 F = 0 Janusz Kolodziej F 0 2 2 = 4 Mark Lemon 2 1 0 3 = 6 Travis McGowan 2 1 1* 1 0 = 5 +1 Jonas Davidsson 2* 0 0 2 1* = 5+2 Sam Simota 3 0 2 0 = 5