COVENTRY surged to the top of the early Elite League table with a stunning 51-42 away win at Leicester on Saturday.
The Buildbase Bees made it two wins in two league matches, becoming the first team in the top flight this season to be victorious on the road – and the icing on the cake was a maximum four-point haul.
As a contest, this was always likely to be completely different to the East Midlands Bowl clash of mid-March when Bees lost 27-63 at the same venue, without their No.1 and with the problematic No.4 position still unresolved.
Fast forward three weeks and the visitors had Hans Andersen dropping just two points from five rides at the top of the order, with recent signing Joonas Kylmakorpi piling up 12 in the middle order – and that made a massive difference.
With the whole team chipping in for a solid all-round display, including guest Cameron Heeps, Bees totally turned the tables on their local rivals and sounded out a major warning to the rest of the league.
Heeps and Andersen got them off to a dream start with a 5-1 over what appeared a super-strong Lions opening pairing of Jason Doyle and Rory Schlein, and with the home side seemingly uncertain over track conditions, Bees made hay in the early stages.
A reserves’ race 4-2 headed by Jason Garrity was followed by another maximum from Kylmakorpi and James Sarjeant in Heat 4, the Bees No.7 defeating Polish youngster Szymon Wozniak and again making a mockery of his current draft list ranking.
Prior to that, skipper Chris Harris had overhauled Bjarne Pedersen for third place in Heat 3, all of which left Leicester deploying an early tactical ride and gaining a 7-2 from Heat 5 as Schlein took the maximum six points.
But the reliable Harris/Andersen combination immediately restored control for the Bees as they pounced on an early error from Grzegorz Walasek in Heat 6, for a 5-1 to increase the lead to nine points.
Leicester began to improve their gating and then secured a string of race wins broken only by Garrity in Heat 8 – but Bees worked hard to share the points on most occasions and prevent serious damage.
All the Lions had to show for it were a pair of 4-2s in Heats 9 and 10, cutting the gap to five, with Sarjeant maintaining Coventry’s position by getting the better of Simon Lambert for third place in the closing stages of Heat 12.
Andersen and Harris relegated Pedersen to the back of a re-started Heat 13 after Doyle had fallen on the first bend, and victory was all-but secured in the penultimate race with another shared heat, this time from Kylmakorpi and Danny King behind Walasek.
And it got even better for Bees in the finale, needing a race advantage for the maximum four-point haul but facing Doyle, who had been unbeaten since his Heat 1 last place.
Fast starts, however, from Kylmakorpi and Andersen, left the Australian and Walasek trailing, and that took Bees to another 5-1 and the perfect away-day in front of a big travelling support.
Promoter Mick Horton said: “I knew it would be a completely different meeting to the first challenge match here. When it really matters, when the points are on the table, we are something else.
“Every single one of that Coventry team was magnificent, including Cameron who was a fantastic guest, and you look from one-to-seven and there are points everywhere. I’m so proud of them, and I’m sure all the fans are proud of them too.
“I know that the Bees team at full strength is going to be challenging for the title, and let’s not forget that Leicester are a good side. I’ll be surprised if they get beaten here again, that’s how good we were.”
LEICESTER 42: Jason Doyle 10, Rory Schlein 10, Josh Auty 9, Grzegorz Walasek 8, Bjarne Pedersen 3, Szymon Wozniak 2+1, Simon Lambert 0. BUILDBASE BEES 51: Joonas Kylmakorpi 12, Hans Andersen 10+3, Jason Garrity 8, Chris Harris 6+3, Danny King 6+2, Cameron Heeps 5, James Sarjeant 4+2.