COVENTRY are now seven points clear at the top of the Elite League table after a 48-42 win over Belle Vue at Brandon on Friday.
The Buildbase Bees completed the double over their Manchester opponents in a meeting which they always looked likely to win but could never completely shake off their opponents.
The Aces got some reward for their night’s efforts with a late rally to salvage a league point, thanks largely to a 5-1 in Heat 15, but under the change to the scoring system this season any home win is worth three points, so the damage to Coventry’s healthy position from that race result was negligible.
It was a rock-solid team performance from the Bees on a night where fortunes ebbed and flowed, so much so that eleven of the 14 riders suffered at least one last place, whilst nobody from either team made it into double-figures.
Reserve strength was again crucial as the Bees outscored their opponents 13-8 despite two early wins from Steve Worrall, with Jason Garrity and James Sarjeant both stepping up in the second half of the meeting.
And with gate 1 proving problematic, the Aces were left to reflect on a series of mid-meeting races where they arguably did not take full advantage of the starting positions as Coventry generally held a lead of six to eight points.
World Championship leader Matej Zagar endured a dismal start to the meeting as he conceded maximum points to Hans Andersen and Stuart Robson in Heat 1, and there was nearly a second 5-1 in Heat 3 only for Scott Nicholls to squeeze in front of Chris Harris down the back straight after the Bees skipper had looked set to follow Danny King home.
Joonas Kylmakorpi passed a fast-starting Stefan Nielsen to prevent an Aces 5-1 in Heat 4, but successive 4-2s brought the visitors back into play with Robson coming through inside Max Fricke in the latter after Belle Vue had engineered another promising position.
What they didn’t bargain for was a 5-1 from Kylmakorpi and King over the combined power of Zagar and Nicholls in Heat 6, which meant even though Andersen was relegated to the back of the next race, a win for Harris kept Bees in full control.
Kylmakorpi, who is providing some fine action around Brandon, went round Worrall for third place in a shared Heat 8 before arguably the race of the night as Garrity, who had changed bikes, forced his way inside Kyle Howarth going into the second lap of Heat 9 after a previous attempt had been rebuffed.
An eight point lead suited the Bees down to the ground, as it offered no tactical options to the Aces with Heats 10 and 11 both shared.
And once again it was their star reserves who put them on the brink of victory with Garrity and Sarjeant charging clear for a 5-1 in Heat 12 to extend the margin to 12-points.
The hitherto unimpressive Zagar then showed a touch of true class in Heat 13 as he reeled in and went inside Andersen for a terrific win, whilst guest Grzegorz Zengota grabbed a victory from the profitable outside gate in Heat 14.
That left the match and three league points completely safe for the Bees, with the Aces requiring a 5-1 from the last race for a consolation, and they were to achieve that aim as Zagar dominated from the front and Nicholls pounced on a momentary slip from Kylmakorpi on the lap two to give his side something to build on.
It was Belle Vue’s first away point of the season and unlikely to be anything to overly concern the Bees at this stage, as with both sides having raced six matches the difference between them in the league standings is a massive 14 points.
Garrity said: “It’s another good win for us. I didn’t start off the best because I was lacking a bit of power, but I swapped bikes and got two wins so I’m really happy with that.
“If you go out and have a bad first race everyone just picks you up in this team. I knew I had to do something, I had a chat with the boys and some of them have been doing it a lot longer than me, so it’s great to be able to take a bit on board from them.
“Coventry wouldn’t be the same without the fans who come here and support us, that plays a big part in speedway, so a big thanks to all the people who earn money at work and come out to support us, the lads all really appreciate it.
“I’d also like to say a big thanks to Mark Grayson, he spends his life with me as mechanic, and he’s a great guy.”
COVENTRY 48: Joonas Kylmakorpi 8+2, Jason Garrity 8, Danny King 7+1, Hans Andersen 7, Chris Harris 7, Stuart Robson 6+2, James Sarjeant 5+2. BELLE VUE 42: Matej Zagar 9, Scott Nicholls 8+1, Steve Worrall 7, Kyle Howarth 6+1, Max Fricke 6+1, Grzegorz Zengota 5, Stefan Nielsen 1.
BUILDBASE BEES 48 Hans Andersen 3 0 2 2 = 7 Stuart Robson 2* 2 1 1* = 6+2 Danny King 3 2* 0 2 0 = 7+1 Joonas Kylmakorpi 2 3 1* 1* 1 = 8+2 Chris Harris 1 3 3 0 = 7 Jason Garrity 2 0 3 3 = 8 James Sarjeant 1* 0 2 2* = 5+2
BELLE VUE 42 Matej Zagar 0 1 2 3 3 = 9 Max Fricke 1 1 3 1* = 6+1 Grzegorz Zengota 0 2 0 3 = 5 Kyle Howarth 3 1* 2 0 = 6+1 Scott Nicholls 2 0 3 1 2* = 8+1 Steve Worrall 3 3 0 1 = 7 Stefan Nielsen 0 1 0 0 = 1