THERE is plenty more action to come in 2008, but when the winter nights drawn in once again this may be regarded as the match of the season.
It was a Bank Holiday afternoon meeting which had simply everything with drama on and off track, and quite probably the fairest result of a point to each team after the third Brandon draw this year.
Ipswich were always expected to provide stern opposition for the injury-hit Buildbase Bees, who had already had to re-jig their line-up to include rider replacement for broken collarbone victim Simon Stead in the No.2 riding position.
With Robbie Kessler ruled out with his hand injury, Bees gambled on a smooth-running meeting at Rye House in the afternoon to still be able to bring Ben Barker into the team - and via promoter Allen Trumps' car, he made it just in time for Heat 2.
Barker was always going to find things somewhat tougher than on Friday against Peterborough, but the point he scored in Heat 11 fully justified the Bees' strategy - taking nothing away from club asset Josh Auty who travelled down on stand-by and whose sole job turned out to be arriving at the tapes for Heat 1!
With Barker en route, the meeting started at the appointed time set by the live television coverage, and it opened up with Auty breaking the tapes and being replaced by Filip Sitera, who lifted at the start and found himself stuck behind Tobias Kroner as Hans Andersen classily rounded Piotr Swiderski off turn two to continue his winning form from Friday.
Sitera's two on the trot suddenly became more relevant with Barker in the vicinity, and he duly arrived at the stadium just as the two minute clock started ticking. Other members of the team helped him to complete preparations, he boarded a Chris Harris machine and remarkably made it to the start in time.
Perhaps under the circumstances it was no surprise that the set-up wasn't quite right and Barker lifted to put himself out of contention in the early stages, but Sitera made a good getaway only to be rounded by an impressive Chris Schramm on turn two. Steve Johnston then put his experience into play by switching inside Sitera going into lap three, and the Witches had the first 5-1 of the meeting.
That was a result which they managed to unexpectedly repeat in Heat 3 with Billy Janniro moving slightly at the start, and Harris being edged out by Jarek Hampel and Robert Miskowiak. Hampel then team-rode superbly, being overtaken at one stage by Harris before fighting back on turn three to put the Witches eight-up.
Bees needed to fight back and they did just that in Heat 4, possibly unexpectedly, with Olly Allen making a brilliant start from gate 4 and Sitera shooting out with him, holding off an early challenge from Schramm and then doing a terrific job to see off former Coventry man Rory Schlein.
Ipswich's lead had been cut to four points, but they got it back to six in Heat 5 with Swiderski making the bravest of moves on the back straight as Harris allowed him just enough racing room, and the Pole took it with Kroner third ahead of Janniro.
But Bees hit straight back and once again Sitera was superb in swooping around the outside of Schlein and Johnston off turn two and then defending his position against Schlein once more throughout the race. Andersen was up-front and clear, the 5-1 enabling Bees to cut the gap to two points.
After that spate of heat advantages, two shared heats followed although Bees had cause to thank some fortune in Heat 7 which seemed set for a 5-1 from Miskowiak and Hampel after Allen had erred at the start - but Miskowiak was smoking throughout the race and his engine finally gave up on the last lap allowing the Bees through for a 3-3.
Allen took control of Heat 8 with a neat move on the second bend to take Kroner wide and come around Schramm, and Bees levelled in an exciting Heat 9 which saw Schlein pass Janniro off turn two and then briefly catch Harris on the inside on turn four, only for Harris to surge back into the lead at the start of the second lap.
Johnston suffered mechanical failure on the start-line in that race, and the Witches suffered a further problem in Heat 10 when Miskowiak crashed on turn four and was slow in clearing the track. He had been at the back at the time, and the result of the re-run was exactly the same as at the time of the stoppage, Andersen denying Hampel in the battle of the unbeaten riders with Janniro third.
That put Bees in front for the first time, and they held the lead in Heat 11 - the race which fully justified Barker's inclusion as he and Allen went either side of Swiderski in exciting fashion coming off turn two. Up-front, perhaps surprisingly, was Kroner, who did a good job of limiting the damage for the Witches of Swiderski's last place.
Back came the Witches with a good 4-2 in Heat 12 as Hampel held off Harris's challenge once again, and behind them Johnston came under increasing pressure from Sitera who almost managed to make it around the outside - only for Johnston to once again show the value of experience to put himself in the right place at the right time.
Heat 13 was shared as the bad luck switched to the Bees with Allen dropping a chain on the way to turn one, probably after contact with Swiderski He may well have been able to score in the race, too, because of a strong move by Andersen to block out Schlein coming out of turn two which slowed the race down, and a fast start from Allen could easily have seen him in the big points - sometimes a re-start would be ordered in those circumstances, but it wasn't an entirely obvious call to make.
So all-square with two heats to go, but Heat 14 saw the Witches edge back in front with Miskowiak trapping well on his second bike and Schramm almost causing a major upset with he switched inside Janniro on turn four, only for the Bees man to respond on the next lap around the outside.
Ipswich therefore led by two points with one heat to go, and the pressure was on Harris and Andersen to try to bring home a match-winning 5-1 - and Heat 15 turned out to be one of the races of the season.
Andersen was confident of making it from gate one but he found himself squeezed out in the charge to the bend - and Harris was the man who emerged in front after some fierce battling.
That was by no means the end of it, however, as last-placed Andersen surged inside Swiderski to move into third place on lap two and then threw everything at Hampel - who himself was trying to go around Harris. On the run to the line, the result was still in doubt as Andersen tried on the inside again, but fair credit to Hampel who was superb on the day and held on to the second place which clinched a draw for the Witches.
Excellent speedway, something for everyone to talk about and doubtless plenty more to be debated in the days to come.
BUILDBASE BEES 45 Hans Andersen 3 3 3 3 1 = 13 Simon Stead Rider Replacement Chris Harris 1 2 3 2 3 = 11 Billy Janniro 0 0 1 1 2 = 4 Olly Allen 3 2 3 2 R = 10 Ben Barker 0 1* 1* 0 = 2+2 Filip Sitera 0 1 2* 2* 0 0 = 5+2 Josh Auty T = 0
IPSWICH 45 Piotr Swiderski 2 3 0 1* 0 = 6+1 Tobias Kroner 1* 1 1* 3 = 6+2 Jarek Hampel 3 3 2 3 2 = 13 Robert Miskowiak 2* R X 3 = 5+1 Rory Schlein 1 0 2 2 = 5 Steve Johnston 2* 1 R 1 = 4+1 Chris Schramm 3 0 2 1 = 6