MATCH REPORT: South West and Wales snatch victory from the jaws of defeat

You could be forgiven for thinking a match ran at the same time as England’s World Cup football campaign would offer up a lack lustre and poorly attended affair at the Supertrax Battle of Britain in Birmingham, but the Midlands and South West and Wales served up two excellent, hard fought encounters of elite Cycle Speedway for the healthy crowd.

Elite Men’s SW&W boss, Dave Murphy, named his strongest side to date, including Poole’s heat leaders, Dawid Bas, Matiej Ganczarek and Ben Mould. Sharp gating Mark Carmichael made his first appearance of the series in a robust side, which also featured ever-present 2015 British Champion, Zac Payne, with the steady support from Wil Bristowe and two of the best juniors in the country, Fraser Garnett and Will Jeffery.

The Midlands were almost unchanged from their second round tie against North and Scotland, save Mark Winwood stepping in for Ewan Hancox, as track specialist Scott Millward was sidelined with severe hay fever.

There was little between the sides in the opening exchanges, with only a tape exclusion for Lee Kemp separating the two teams in the first four heats. Another tape exclusion for Ricki Johnson saw South West and Wales take a 5 point lead, Carmichael and Bas gaining a 7-2 over Winwood.

The Midlands were straight back in it in the next race, with Ben Mould receiving his marching orders from the gate, Kemp and Heard relegating Bristowe to third to bring the deficit to one point.

The strong southern pairing of Ganczarek and Bas against Whetton and Jewkes delivered a 7-3 to the visitors to reinstate their 5 point cushion, but the Midlands hit back again, with Matt Smith and Lee Kemp returning a 6-4 over Carmichael and Garnett.

A shared heat before half time saw the visitors 3 points up at the break, but that was reduced back to one point again by Whetton and Jewkes, with Payne able to split the pairing for the SW&W.

The stalemate continued for the next four races until heat 16 saw Mould and Ganczarek increase the lead back to 5, with a 7-3 over Kemp and Smith. A strong Midlands response was needed, and duly delivered by Chris Jewkes and British Champion, Myke Grimes, who gated over Payne from 3 to join his team partner for a 7-3 and the scores back, again, to a single point.

A slice of luck saw the Midlands take the lead for the first time in heat 18, with Bas leading a 5-5, he washed out on the dry and dusty circuit, gifting Heard and Whetton a 7-2, after the Polish rider was excluded by referee Bob Prince for taking too many steps whilst remounting.

The Midlands, now 4 points up, just needed to close out the nominated heats. Grimes, only beaten once by Mould in heat 12, raced to his fifth win of the day, meaning, save an exclusion, the Midlands had a near-unbeatable lead going into the final heat, the SW&W likely to only manage a draw at best.

However, there was one more twist in this remarkable match. Ganczarek raced from grid one to lead, with Heard ahead of Mould. Coming on to the second lap, Mould raced up the inside of Heard going into the pits bend, with the Poole rider hitting the deck after tangling with the Great Britain captain.

Paul Heard (left) and Ben Mould (right) clash in heat 20. Photos by Peter Payne.

Referee Bob Prince excluded Heard for an obstruction with the leg, a decision contested by the Midlands camp but welcomed by the visitors. Mould dealt with Whetton on the first bend of the re-run, who gave up the chase after almost immediately, handing the South West and Wales their first win of the series.

Great entertainment for the neutral, which saw the South West and Wales edge head, only to be brought back a heat later, with the competition reaching new heights in the level of racing on offer thanks to two strong, but evenly matched sides.

Myke Grimes 23, Mark Winwood 4+1, Brandon Whetton 13+2, Chris Jewkes 15+1, Lee Kemp 8+1, Paul Heard 18+1, Matt Smith 9+1, Ricki Johnson 7

Maciej Ganczarek 18+3, Dawid Bas 14+3, Wil Bristowe 5, Ben Mould 19+1, Will Jeffery 8+2, Zac Payne 18, Fraser Garnett 4+1, Mark Carmichael 12

Elite Junior Class

Not to be out done, the elite junior encounter had as much incident and drama as the elite men.

As with every Battle of Britain junior match, it was a hotly contested affair, which saw the experience of South West and Wales’ young side over come the Midlands resistance.

The Midlands held a 4 point lead at half time thanks to a Tom Savage and Jimmy Wassall 7-3. That was after both sides traded 6-4s and 5-5s for the opening 9 heats.

The SW&W took command in the second half though, Will Jeffery and Fraser Garnett in untouchable form, leading their team to a 6 point cushion before the 3 nominated heats.

The visitors edged one point further ahead as Cameron Gill suffered a tape exclusion for the Midlands in the nominated heats, bringing the match to a close and a 84-91 win for South West and Wales.

It was an excellent team performance for the visitors, Poole’s Nathan Goulden looked exceptionally quick and the experience at this level will leave him in good stead, while Jack Ellis and Dan Wright displayed excellent team riding skills, young Owen Johnson didn’t get the rewards for his sterling efforts throughout.

The Elite Junior Class was action packed racing. Photo by Peter Payne.

Whetton, Gill, Wassall and debutant Tom Savage all claimed wins for the Midlands and the team battled hard all the way. The availability of Ewan Hancox might had brought a different result.

In many ways, we’re seeing how the natural evolution of the elite junior competition will offer up a fresh series each year as riders come of age and move up to senior level.

The Midlands, exceptionally strong last year, are effectively starting again this series, with younger, more inexperienced riders, who in time, will become strong once again because of the experience gained on days like yesterday.

Tyler Bould 11+2, Jimmy Wassall 19+2, Cameron Gill 14+1, Tom Savage 14+1, Josh Whetton 10+1, Bartek Pelacyzk 7+2, Alexsander Maslanka 3, Jake Steel 6

Fraser Garnett 23+1, Nathan Goulden 12, Jack Ellis 16+2, Dan Wright 11+2, Will Jeffery 24, Owen Johnson 5

League Tables

2018 Supertrax Battle of Britain | Elite Men’s Class

P W D L Pts
South East & Eastern 3 3 0 0 6
Midlands 3 1 0 2 2
North & Scotland 3 1 0 2 2
South & South Wales 3 1 0 2 2

2018 Supertrax Battle of Britain | Elite Junior’s Class

P W D L Pts
South East & Eastern 3 3 0 0 6
North & Scotland 3 2 0 1 4
South & South Wales 3 1 0 2 2
Midlands 3 0 0 3 0