Belle Vue Aces 48 – 42 Leicester Lions
Belle Vue moved back into second position in the Elite League table on Friday evening, after grinding out a tough 48-42 victory against a stubborn Leicester Lions side that was missing third of their main riders for the meeting and still pushed the Aces all the way to a last heat decider in tricky conditions. Both teams had a respective rider scoring 13+1 as the visitors had former Belle Vue man Michael Palm Toft collecting three race wins on his way to his score, meanwhile the Aces had Slovenian Grand Prix rider Matej Zagar on form too, as he helped his side overcome the Lions in the last heat of the night.
With inclement weather in the North West of England hitting the area in the past 24 hours, it saw the track needing to worked on and saw it being ‘bladed’ which saw a delay of 45 minutes to the start of the meeting. It saw the track staff working hard on the circuit to get it in any type of racing shape for the match, but credit to them for getting the track into a raceable shape as the match was in the balance at one point.
The opening race saw the hosts getting off to a great start thanks to Steve Worrall and Matej Zagar, with the Aces number one rounding the Lions pair to join Worrall for a 5-1 heat advantage. In the reserves race it saw a former Belle Vue man haunting his old side as Danish rider Michael Palm Toft picked up the race win, as he firstly got round Joe Jacobs then hunted down Richie Worrall till he made his move on the final bend of the race.
Craig Cook and Scott Nicholls then helped the home side open up a six point lead after three gone, then the Lions launched a comeback at the Aces with Palm Toft and Josh Auty recording a shock 5-1 scoreline for the visitors with Max Fricke trying to chase hard, but a bike problem put paid to his efforts and that allowed Auty through into second and put Leicester two points behind.
Heat Five saw the Worrall brothers getting out in front of their opponents, only for guests Hugh Skidmore and that man again Michael Palm Toft to pass Richie Worrall and see a share of the points. Another ex-Ace in Patrick Hougaard saw the Dane making a perfect gate in the following race, as Hougaard dealt with both Nicholls and Fricke moving them out wide and that then let his team mate Szymon Wozinak coming through into second place and gave the Lions another 5-1 and put them 19-17 infront.
Zagar and Cook then struck right back for the Manchester club in the next race, with the duo completing a 5-1 of their own and not only put the Aces back in front at 22-20, but saw the Slovenian equalling the track record with a time of 59.8. The Teams then traded 4-2 heat advantages in the next couple of races the meeting as the match was getting to the business end. Palm Toft who had had scored 1o points from his opening four rides in the meeting, then saw him making a mistake and penalised himself with a slight movement at the tapes in heat 11, and that error gave Zagar extra room with a good run to the first bend
With Zagar miles ahead of the rest of the field, it saw a 3-way battle with Steve Worrall and the two Leicester riders for second. Worrall and Wozinak both rode side by side for the opening two laps as Michael Palm Toft was waiting the wings for a gap to appear, as he was on their co-tails for the entire race and you could have thrown the proverbial blanket over the three riders for the whole race, as Wozniak edge Worrall out and saw them shaking hands after a cracking race.
As Heat 12 came around, it looked odds on that the Lions were favourites in the second reserves race, as the Leicester riders had outscored their opposite numbers 15-5, with Palm Toft scoring the bulk of the points for the away side. However it saw both the Aces riders making the gate and had Richie Worrall speeding off with Joe Jacobs doing his level best to keep the Lions riders behind him for as long as he could, with the Ipswich native’s bikes down on power on the night. Eventually both riders got by Jacobs on separate laps, as they both went into the dirt and powered around him for a shared race and see the Aces still having their 4 point cushion with three races to go.
Hougaard who came last in his opening ride was more than making up for lost time the meeting, after he won his third race in a row with a rocket of a start that could see neither Cook or Zagar able to touch him in the big hitters race of Heat 13. In the penultimate race of the night, it saw the Lions picking up a 4-2 advantage as Nicolai Klindt who had suffered a poor night with no points in his only two rides, then saw the him popping out with a brave move to pass Nicholls and Fricke around the boards and see the Danish taking the win. Meanwhile his fellow countryman in Michael Palm Toft, saw him rounded off his successful evening with a third placed finish as he passed the Aces captain for third.
Heading into the final heat, it saw the scores 43-41 in favour of Belle Vue and saw Matej Zagar and Craig Cook both bringing home the points for the home side with a stunning 5-1 after Zagar made an equally brave move like Klindt had done in the previous race, as he went close to the fence and was followed by team mate Craig Cook coming under Hougaard entering the first bend on lap 2 to see them both giving their side the match win.
Belle Vue team manager Mark Lemon spoke on his sides win to the club’s website saying: “As I’ve said before, you must expect the unexpected in the Elite League and Leicester turned up tonight with the unexpected in tow. They threw everything at us, even the kitchen sink!
“But it was our gritty determination that brought us across the line in the end. Obviously track conditions played their part in proceedings following those spells of late afternoon rain we had.
“We have to give full credit to the track staff for getting the meeting on and producing a very good race track that the boys could not only knuckle down with but also race on without holding back.
“I’ll admit I thought things were looking doubtful at 7:30pm but again the design of the track is what helped save our meeting, and we can now be quite confident when faced with inclement weather.”
The Aces boss was left puzzled by the bike gremlins that seemed to hit Nicholls and Fricke in the match, as the Australian explained: “A couple of the boys had mechanical dramas which was frustrating but as a unit we pulled together and maintained a solid performance which in the end got us the three points.”
“Both Max and Scott changed bikes during the course of the meeting. We’re not quite sure what happened to Max to be honest, whether it was an ignition or a carburettor problem. We don’t know.
“His bike has been quite literally in pieces in his pit bay but that happens sometimes. What I was most impressed with was how everybody responded to help fill the gaps where we were struggling.
“Meetings like this are proof of how demanding this track is not only on the equipment but also on the rider. That in turn demands all of the boys to step up their efforts in order to secure the win.
“It’s going to be a while now before we are racing back at home as a team, obviously with the World Cup break, but we’ve still got Swindon and Coventry away next week to contend with.
“I wouldn’t say they were meetings we must win but we do need to ensure we continue to pick up those vital points on the road to cement our intentions and further emphasise our push for the top.”
Belle Vue = 48
1. Matej Zagar 2′, 3, 3, 2, 3 = 13+1
2. Steve Worrall 3, 3, 3, 1 = 10
3. Scott Nicholls 1, 1, 1′, 0 = 3+1
4. Max Fricke R, 0, 2, 2 = 4
5. Craig Cook 3, 2′, 2, 1′, 2′ = 10+3
6. Richie Worrall 2, 0, 1, 3 = 6
7. Joe Jacobs 1′, 1, 0, 0 = 2+1
Leicester = 42
1. Patrick Hougaard 0, 3, 3, 3, 1 = 10
2. Hugh Skidmore (G) 1, 2, 1, 0 = 4
3. Nicolai Klindt 0, 0, 3 = 3
4. Paul Starke R/R (MPT 3, JA 1, SW R, MPT 1 = 5)
5. Szymon Wozinak 2, 2′, R, 2, 0, 0 = 6+1
6. Michael Palm Toft (G) 3, 3, 1′, 3, 0, 2, 1 = 13+1
7. Josh Auty R, 2′, 1, 2, 1′ = 6+2