IF it’s true that luck evens itself out over a season, then the Buildbase Bees are surely due a heavy dose of fortune in the not too distant future.
The problems which befell Kenni Larsen in particular at Poole on Good Friday should have been enough to last a season, and as it was they prevented the Bees from taking an eight-point mid-match lead at Wimborne Road – but then on the trip to another team with clear top-four potential, Swindon, Bees suffered even more misfortune en route to a final scoreline which in no way reflected the nature of their performance.
Even during the glory years of 2005-07, Swindon was often a venue where good runs would come to an end, and heavily so, and it’s clear that there are other venues in this season’s Elite League which should afford the opportunity of the Bees coming away with points. But it wouldn’t have taken a lot more for them to get some reward from this meeting and limit the Robins’ early charge away with Lakeside at the top of the table.
One fact which couldn’t be ignored was that Bees ended up with only four race wins at Blunsdon, in contrast to their early season form, but even then there were some mitigating circumstances and all in all it was another case of what might have been.
What might have been in Heat 1 was a 5-1, and what probably should have been was a 3.5-2.5 after a flying start from both Aaron Summers and Chris Harris took them clear for the first two laps of the race.
Troy Batchelor gave chase and found room on the outside to move alongside Harris and then ahead of him going into the last lap – and then his continued outside move seemed to take him ahead of Summers off the final bend. Batchelor certainly thought so, as his fist went into the air in celebration much too early with Summers coming back at him and they seemed impossible to split from the finish-line camera. Batchelor got the verdict, Bees having to be content with a 3-3 rather than a race advantage.
Adam Roynon continues to make good starts and did so again in Heat 2, and although the in-form Peter Kildemand flew around the outside Roynon held a comfortable second and in fact re-caught Kildemand over the last couple of laps. Henning Bager, though, got things wrong on the first bend and that left him trailing Robin Aspegren by a distance.
Heat 3 produced the unusual sight of all four riders heading into turn three virtually side by side, with early leader Jason Doyle being passed by team-mate Simon Stead and Kenni Larsen, whilst Edward Kennett ran out of room on the bend and slid off. Stead won for a second successive Swindon 4-2 to put them four points ahead – but that lead was doubled with a 5-1 in Heat 4 with Kildemand and Hans Andersen out-gating Scott Nicholls, who had plenty of speed but was unable to find a way past the Dane – this after receiving a somewhat unsporting welcome on parade, his crime presumably being to have made the effort to finish top of the Swindon averages in a season where the team finished rock-bottom of the table.
Bees urgently needed a race win to check the Robins’ momentum, and they got it in Heat 5 with Stead hitting the front on the first lap but Harris surging through on the back straight next time around for the three points. And the next race saw the visitors claw a couple of points back, with Nicholls first squeezing inside Batchelor on a tight turn two and then moving past Nick Morris at the end of the second lap, whilst Roynon also rode well to get the better of Batchelor with the Robins’ No.1 briefly challenging and then slowing at the start of the final circuit.
Andersen comfortably won Heat 7 ahead of Larsen and Kennett, the Robins’ only scare coming when Aspegren got out of shape at the end of the second lap and clattered awkwardly into the fence, but the Swede cleared the track and there was no threat to the Robins’ six-point lead.
Coventry’s hopes of taking anything from Heat 8 nosedived when Summers, from the outside gate, touched the tapes, and the decision was made that he would take the re-run from 15 metres. A Swindon 5-1 looked by far the likeliest outcome from the re-run, and that was what it was set up to be until Kildemand inexplicably came to grief whilst leading on the second lap, picking up some kind of leg injury and having to be helped off the circuit although he was able to continue for his last programmed ride.
Bager gated well in the re-run but Coventry know all about the talent of Morris, and he quickly switched through on the inside to end an eventful race with a 3-3.
It was then that the Bees’ fortunes took another turn for the worse as they conceded the cruellest of 5-1s in Heat 9, Nicholls riding superbly to work his way to the front past both Stead and Doyle after another sluggish start, only to suffer a broken primary chain midway round turns on and two on the last lap. With Nicholls coasting to a halt, the Robins shot through for maximum points and the lead was up to ten points.
The one small consolation from a team perspective was that Bees could then use a tactical ride to attempt to repair some of the damage should they secure an 8-1 – 5-1, 1-8 would have left them three points down whereas 3-3, 1-5 would have cut the gap to two – and despite facing a strong pairing on paper of Morris and Batchelor, all was going according to plan for the first half of the race, with the double-points Kennett leading, and Larsen comfortably in second place. That was until another freak failure – a broken exhaust leaving Larsen coasting into the third lap, Morris and Batchelor inheriting second and third, and Swindon escaping with a 3-6 and still a seven point lead.
Sharp-gating Andersen got clear of Harris in the early stages of Heat 11 in which the points were shared, and the lead became nine in Heat 12 as Kildemand returned to action with a win ahead of the hard-charging Larsen, who prevented a Swindon 5-1 by passing Stead on the inside on lap three.
Andersen again got ahead from the start in Heat 13 and missed out on all the action in a frantic scrap for second, third and fourth with Harris and Batchelor passing and re-passing with on the last lap Harris almost clamping Batchelor enough for Nicholls to pass on the outside. But the Swindon 4-2 put them into a comfortable position, eleven points clear, and that meant Doyle and Aspegren were happy enough to share Heat 14 behind Kennett, although it wasn’t without an enthusiastic challenge from Roynon who did all he could to split the Robins duo.
There was to be a final stroke of misfortune for the Bees, not affecting the result but certainly affecting the margin as Andersen, going for a paid maximum, jumped at the start of Heat 15 with replays clearly indicating that he hit the tapes with his front wheel. Swindon got a big break, though, with an all-four verdict, and Andersen and Stead managed to get their lines spot-on around turns three and four to clear Harris, who re-passed Stead briefly before going too wide on turn four and seeing his opponent go back past.
The events of Heat 15 certainly summed up the night, and there was a mood of frustration in the Coventry pits after the meeting – but also a quiet determination that such setbacks will not be allowed to interfere with the overall targets for the season.
SWINDON 54 Troy Batchelor 3 R 1* 1 = 5+1 Nick Morris 0 2 3 2 = 7 Simon Stead 3 2 2* 1 2* = 10+2 Jason Doyle 1 1* 3 2 = 7+1 Hans Andersen 2* 3 3 3 3 = 14+1 Robin Aspregren 1 F 0 1* = 2+1 Peter Kildemand 3 3 X 3 = 9
BUILDBASE BEES 39 Chris Harris 1* 3 2 2 1 = 9+1 Aaron Summers 2 0 1* 1* = 4+2 Kenni Larsen 2 2 R 2 = 6 Edward Kennett F 1* 6^ 3 0 = 10+1 Scott Nicholls 1 3 R 0 = 4 Adam Roynon 2 1 1 0 0 = 4 Henning Bager 0 0 2 = 2