|Redcar 'Bears' v Sheffield PIRTEK 'Tigers'||Premier Trophy||13th April|
|André Compton ©||8.48||3||2||3||2||1'||11+1|
Arrived early only to have to queue along South Bank Rd for 20 minutes until they opened the car park. Then had to stand in a queue across the car park for another 25 minutes waiting for them to open the turnstiles. After all this waiting it was a bit galling to then have to wait a further 20 minutes after the scheduled start time because there were so many people still queuing to get in. Once the action started it became obvious that it wasn't only the organization which was shambolic, track conditions mirrored it exactly. The highly banked 3rd and 4th turns looked awesome but the problems lay in the first turn which caused many problems.
Ben Wilson was the first faller on the first turn of the first lap of the first heat with Richard Juul also sliding off. Ricky picked up second place in the restart but two-wheeled it through turn one on all four laps. Paul nudged the tapes to earn himself a 15 metre handicap but Benji over slid on the first turn and fell, only to be hit by the out of control Daniel Giffard. There followed a delay while the ambulance took Benji off to hospital during which time Glyn Taylor and his assistant attempted to improve track conditions, not helped when all the lights went out around the track, in the pits and the referee and announcers box. The Bears duo held Cooperman at bay for four laps when heat 2 eventually finished at 20:53, 1 hour 23 minuted after the scheduled start time! Emiliano was the early leader of heat 3 but he was another who chose to two-wheel the first turn allowing Kevin Little to close him down and then pass him on the third bend of the last lap. Kyle took a couple of laps to find a line which worked for him before passing Tomas Suchanek to share the heat. André won heat four in 56.7 seconds which was the fastest time so far and with Cooperman (deputizing for the injured Benji) comfortably outpacing the Bears the Tigers closed to within two points. Kevin Little was untroubled in heat 5 with Ben and Ricky just doing enough to stay ahead of Tomas. Ben survived an enormous wobble entering the first turn on the third lap and just managed to stay upright.
Gary won heat 6 (half a second faster than André's time) from a hard pressing André who might have had a better chance of making a pass if he'd been a little more confident about the first turn. Paul picked up third having blasted around Richard Juul on the third turn on the first lap. Chris Kerr trapped and never looked like being caught in heat 7, and Paul was equally dominant winning heat 8 with both heats being shared. André locked back and passed the field exiting turn two at the start of heat 9 surviving a wheelie as he did so, while Cooperman bravely rounded Suchanek at the start of the second lap and despite a spirited effort just failed to catch Kevin Little on the run to the finish line. Brian Havelock substituted Dan Giffard for Richard Juul in heat 10 and it paid dividends as the Bears trapped ahead and pulled clear.
Jack Hargreaves fell on the first turn in heat 11, but Chris Kerr won the restart with ease from a dispirited Tigers pair. Paul Cooper flew from the tapes to win heat 12 (0.1 outside Gary's track record) with Emiliano in close attendance and even Kevin Little couldn't get on terms. With the scores tied Gary scorched home ahead of André nearly a second faster than his previous best in heat 13. Chris Kerr took a comfortable third ahead of the most uncomfortable looking Ricky to restore the Bears lead. Brian Havelock chose not to give Dan Giffard an extra outing in heat 14 and the Tigers punished him for it. Paul Cooper led and Kyle emerged from the second bend on his tail. Paul went high and proud around the pits turn on the second lap and had to shut off as the fence loomed large allowing Kyle through into the lead, after which Paul was content to ride shotgun to the line and a two point lead. Gary Havelock completed his five ride maximum in the nominated heat but Kevin Little could only watch from the rear as the Tigers shared the heat and took their first away win of the season.
Great to see Paul with a big grin on his face, and a well deserved win in difficult circumstances by the Tigers. The return at Owlerton should be a mere formality but could see some interesting scraps between André and Gary. It will be interesting to see how Chris Kerr copes with the fastest track in the country. Fingers crossed that Benji isn't too badly hurt and is soon back in the saddle.
The track looks like it will offer tremendous racing once it has bedded down a little and riders can confidently attack the first turn. I'm told there are plans to relocate a spectator stand from the old Darlington football stadium which will solve lots of sighting problems and I'm sure the organization will improve with time. It would help if the stewards reported for work before the crowd arrived so the car park and turnstiles could be opened earlier. Lots of visitors from all over the country, (and Scotland) and many Middlesbrough alumni waited patiently at the start and were rewarded with some close racing and photo finishes. I will certainly be returning for another fix!
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