Adrian Flux Arena lights up for Rory Schlein’s testimonial
- Credit: Ian Burt
The new season exploded into life last night as Rory Schlein delivered the sensational show he promised his testimonial would provide.
King's Lynn Stars' skipper, embarking on his 15th season in British speedway, vowed to put on a spectacle as top riders and fans came together to celebrate the larger-than-life Australian's stint in the UK which started at Edinburgh in 2001. 'Roo-Boy' was true to his word as the Adrian Flux Arena became awash with colour, noise, smoke – and world-class action – to the delight of supporters who ignored the cold to pay tribute to the Aussie's career.
The estimated crowd of 1,500 were not left disappointed as the 12 sliders gave their all and somehow still took centre stage despite all of the other eye-catching attractions on offer.
Schlein, who finished fourth in the five-man final, said: 'I hope everyone enjoyed it. If someone can take something away from it to push on British speedway then that's all that matters.
'The top five shoot-out was something different. We've seen it with the sprint cars in Australia, and it brings something different which makes it a bit interesting. Everyone's stayed safe, they've got a few laps in, and enjoyed themselves. I just hope everyone that watched enjoyed it too as that's all that matters.'
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The main man's arrival into the oval circuit before tapes up wouldn't have been out of place at Las Vegas' MGM Grand if he was on a multi-million pound boxing card. Strobes pierced a skyline which was bombarded with fireworks and flames from the illuminating start gate.
The innovative nature of the occasion – one that the 30-year-old wants to help raise the bar for promoters – continued from there with Aussie motorsport mouthpiece Wade Auger providing commentary over the top of the action. That racing was breathtakingly competitive, given it was a friendly, with Lynn favourites Niels-Kristian Iversen and Kenneth Bjerre excelling. They were just two of the men who didn't give their skipper any favours during his big night.
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The top five scorers from the four-ride, 12-heat showcase, eventually progressed to the quick-time session which saw them battle it out in a qualifying process to earn gate selection for the grand final. Their most blistering 'hot lap' counted with Bjerre's 14.84secs effort wowing the spectators to allow him to choose the second slot at the tapes.
And it paid off as he pipped Iversen, looking excellent on his comeback from a serious knee injury, to triumph. Chris 'Bomber' Harris finished third.
Junior action also provided some light relief and a glimpse into a future that can still be positive for a sport that, in all reality, is trying to drag itself off its knees. But as last night showed, fans will still come when they don't feel they're going to be short-changed – something the committed Schlein could never be accused of when he's taken to the shale, or looks set to never do if he becomes a promoter when he finally hangs up his kevlars.
Niels-Kristian Iversen (11 points), Dakota North (10), Kenneth Bjerre (8), Rory Schlein, Chris Harris, Simon Stead (7), Chris Holder, Bjarne Pedersen (6), Scott Nicholls (5), Jason Doyle (4), Troy Batchelor, Olly Allen (0)
Quick-time best lap: Bjerre (14.84 seconds)
Final: 1 Bjerre, 2 Iversen, 3 Harris, 4 Schlein, 5 North