COVENTRY are four points clear at the top of the Elite League table after another inspired away performance to win 51-39 at Belle Vue on Monday.
The Buildbase Bees have a 100 per cent record from three matches on the road, having gained a maximum of 12 points from those fixtures, and they have established a strong position in the early stages of this season’s race for the play-offs.
Pre-meeting talk had been of the unfinished business for the Aces after the Bees defeated them on all four occasions when the sides met last year – but with a number of Kirkmanshulme Lane specialists still in the Coventry team, this was always a meeting the visitors went into with confidence.
Reserve Jason Garrity underlined that with a back-to-form full maximum from four rides, whilst skipper Chris Harris provided the thrills with two superb blasts from the back on his way to paid-12, and Hans Andersen also hit double-figures in another fine display of track-craft.
Once again, Bees made a strong start to an away fixture with an opening 4-2 in Heat 1 signalling their intent as home No.1 Matej Zagar – the winner of Saturday’s aborted Grand Prix of Poland – was left marooned at the back.
Three shared races followed with James Sarjeant unable to make it past Steve Worrall in Heat 2 despite a strong challenge, the Bees reserve having been penalised for touching the tapes.
Wins for Scott Nicholls and Craig Cook gave the Aces hope of maintaining a tight contest, but the Bees stretched their legs in Heats 5 and 6, firstly with the returning Stuart Robson partnering Garrity to a 5-1 as they both overcame Max Fricke on the opening lap – and the trusty Harris/Andersen combination squeezed out Cook in Heat 6 to put Bees ten points to the good.
Belle Vue deployed the tactical ride in Heat 7 and went with their race-winner Nicholls, who did not have the favoured gate – and probably regretted that move as his team-mate Zagar won comfortably from the inside whilst the Bees pair of Danny King and Joonas Kylmakorpi team-rode superbly to block Nicholls’ every effort to score double points.
Bees were straight back on the front foot with a 4-2 in Heat 8, which was so nearly another maximum from Garrity and Robson only for a fine move by Cook to split them over the finishing line.
Sarjeant fell on turn two in Heat 9 but Kylmakorpi prevented damage with a fine cut-back to get the better of Worrall, although a chain break for Robson in Heat 10 allowed the Aces to claw two points back.
Heat 11 provided a moment of magic from Harris, who had initially been concentrating on keeping Zagar at the back before going past team-mate King and then reeling in enormous ground on leader Fricke and passing him around the narrowest of gaps on the run to the line.
Victory on the night was effectively secured in the second reserves’ race as Garrity completed his full house whilst Sarjeant collected third place when Stefan Nielsen fell on the second bend.
Harris was at it again in Heat 13, finding himself in third place early on but forcing his way past Zagar at the end of the first lap and then going inside Nicholls on the third to take another brilliant win.
A consolation Belle Vue 5-1 in Heat 14, Cook passing Kylmakorpi for second place, left Bees needing to avoid another maximum reverse in the last race if they were to take all four points from the meeting.
Heat 15 required a re-start after Harris and Nicholls came down in a congested first bend, but Andersen then fired from the inside gate to dominate the race, whilst Harris pressured Cook into an error on turn three and picked up third spot, rounding off an emphatic performance and victory from the team.
Manager Gary Havelock said: “It was another thoroughly professional job from the boys, and everyone is buzzing. The team spirit is better than ever.
“We talk a lot about the different aspects of the sport, and the psychology of it, and without giving too much away we knew we’d won here twice last year, and having kept the majority of that team I always knew we’d be in with a chance.
“I said to the boys that if we could start well, as we did at Poole and Leicester, it makes a massive difference not to have to play catch-up all the time, and when the home team are calling for black-and-white so early, you know you’re doing something right.
“Rider for rider, across the seven, we were the better team, and I felt that we could have ridden 100 heats and we would still have beaten them. That’s no disrespect to Belle Vue whatsoever, it’s just the mark of where I feel we are as a team at the moment.
“We’re making quite a habit of these away wins, and long may it continue as far as I’m concerned!"
BELLE VUE 39: Scott Nicholls 10, Craig Cook 8+1, Max Fricke 6+1, Steve Worrall 5+1, Matej Zagar 4+1, Josh Grajczonek 4, Stefan Nielsen 2. BUILDBASE BEES 51: Jason Garrity 12, Chris Harris 11+1, Hans Andersen 10+1, Joonas Kylmakorpi 6+2, Danny King 5, Stuart Robson 4+1, James Sarjeant 3.
BELLE VUE 39 Matej Zagar 0 3 0 1* = 4+1 Max Fricke 2 1 1* 2 = 6+1 Josh Grajczonek 0 0 1 3 = 4 Craig Cook 3 1 2 2* 0 = 8+1 Scott Nicholls 3 0^ 3 2 2 = 10 Steve Worrall 1* 0 2 2 = 5+1 Stefan Nielsen 2 0 0 F = 2
BUILDBASE BEES 51 Hans Andersen 3 2* 2 0 3 = 10+1 Stuart Robson 1 2* 1 R = 4+1 Danny King 2 2 1 0 = 5 Joonas Kylmakorpi 1* 1* 3 1 = 6+2 Chris Harris 1* 3 3 3 1 = 11+1 Jason Garrity 3 3 3 3 = 12 James Sarjeant 0 2 X 1 = 3