International Pre-Season Cup: King’s Lynn Stars 50 Sparta Wroclaw 46
The Stars produced a stirring fightback and won a last-heat decider to get their hands on some pre-season silverware.
Lynn found themselves eight points behind after seven races but turned the meeting on its head with a string of 4-2 heat advantages as Wroclaw lost their way. The Polish visitors recovered to take it to the wire but lost the final action of the evening as home guest Scott Nicholls and Mads Korneliussen rammed in a maximum 5-1 triumph to wrap up a gritty win.
While it was a morale-boosting finish for the Adrian Flux Arena faithful, many left disappointed at being denied the chance of a high-profile showdown to round things off. The much-publicised top scorers' finale became a nominated ride with no explanation as world champion Tai Woffinden sat out four laps he had seemed a certainty for.
Perhaps the injury to Lynn's Niels-Kristian Iversen – who was collected by Maciej Janowski's bike after being knocked off his own – changed the approach of the 16-heat and eight-man challenge match's ending. But Korneliussen's spirited showing to hold off Tomasz Zedrzejak at least immediately restored plenty of happiness as the hosts ensured they lifted the International Pre-Season Cup to gain momentum ahead of Thursday's home Elite League opener against Lakeside Hammers.
All eyes had been on Woffinden from the off as he took to the tapes for a rare appearance in his homeland. But he couldn't live with fellow Grand Prix rival Iversen in the opener as Lynn's biggest-hitter held down the inside to relegate one of the sport's biggest names to the back.
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Woffy showed plenty of pace to fight his way back to a second-placed finish and he continued to display that excellence throughout – especially in heat 14.
The meeting's magical moment arrived when Iversen pushed the Scunthorpe-born ace right out to the fence coming off the second. Yet he still someshow squeezed past after holding on in the dirt to tear away and triumph. The move was perhaps worth the admission fee alone.
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Supporters who braved the cold and damp conditions saw plenty of other excellent action as recently-turned 18-year-old Pole Maksym Drabik threatened to steal the show.
His first two outings produced stunning victories that underlined his potential as one of sport's hottest prospects. But he blotted his copybook by taking off Iversen and then Carl Wilkinson – who banged in an impressive seven points from reserve for the hosts – to pick up back-to-back exclusions.
Drabik responded in fine fashion to take the chequered flag in his final appearance as last season's Polish top-flight runners-up tried to recover from a disastrous mid-meeting spell.
A series of fallers had certainly allowed Lynn back into things and, to their credit, they took full advantage.
At one point the Stars even looked like they might run away with it until Robert Lambert's machinery packed up on him while Lynn were roaring to a 5-1 in the 13th.
In the end those mechanical gremlins didn't come back to haunt Lynn as they powered on to go one better than they did against Zielona Gora in the competition's first staging a couple of years ago.
While too much shouldn't be taken from the result, Lynn certainly showed the sort of fighting spirit they'll need moving forward if they are to earn a prized play-off finish that they missed out on last season.
Lynn: 1 Iversen 10, 2 Schlein 5+1, 3 Nicholls (Guest) 10, 4 Korneliussen 8, 5 R Lambert 5, 6 Huckenbeck 3+1, 7 Rose 2+1, 8 Wilkinson 7
Wroclaw: 1 Woffinden 10, 2 Morris 5+2, 3 Wozniak 6+1, 4 Jedrzejak 4, 5 Janowski 7+1, 6 Drabik 9, 7 Drozdz 5, 8 Gala 0