Photo Gallery: Elite League: King’s Lynn Stars 59, Eastbourne Eagles 31
Red-hot reserve David Howe dropped just two points as King's Lynn Stars breezed to a comfortable victory over Eastbourne Eagles in their 2012 Elite League opener.
Howe, who won the Star of Anglia this month, continued his excellent early pre-season form as he picked up 16 points from a possible 18 to inspire Lynn to glory while captain Mads Korneliussen remained unbeaten as his side's skipper for the first time.
Five maximums from heat 11 onwards secured the Stars' victory on a night that had looked set to be a close one after seven of the first nine races were shared.
After months of waiting patiently for the return of speedway, Stars fans packed the Norfolk Arena hoping for an explosive start. And the night certainly began with a bang – but not the one everybody was hoping for.
Seconds into the first heat of Lynn's Elite League campaign, Daniel Nermark and Joonas Kylmakorpi took a heavy spill after becoming hooked-up as a result of first-bend bunching.
The pair received medical treatment for some time with the Eagles' Finnish number one remaining on the Saddlebow shale for considerably longer than Lynn's Nermark.
After a delay of more than 30 minutes – that ended up with Kylmakorpi being taken to hospital in an ambulance with a suspected collarbone injury – the three riders, and replacement Denis Gizatulin, took to the track for the re-run.
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Wearing the number one jersey for the first time, Niels-Kristian Iversen bagged his debut race victory of the season as he lead from the first corner despite being on gate four to help Lynn pick up a 4-2 victory.
Polish superstar Maciej Janowski showed his promise as he picked up three points in his first ride for Lynn as the Stars won three of the first four heats from the outside gate.
And after three shared heats it was the world under-21's fantastic team reading that helped the Stars gain their first maximum of the season in heat five.
Showing experience beyond his tender years, the 20-year-old looked out for team-mate Kevin Wolbert and followed him home as Lynn extended their lead to 18-12 after five heats.
Lewis Bridger picked up the visitor's first win of the night in heat six in the race of the evening so far. While being hunted down by Iversen, as Lynn looked to pick up a consecutive 5-1, he overtook Nermark on the final lap after powering up the back straight.
The experienced Swede soon retired through illness while Janowski's flying start was halted in heat nine when his engine failed at the tapes. However, Wolbert made sure Lynn gained another race win as another heat was tied.
There was little to separate the sides through the early stages but the Stars' opened up a 12-point gap with a 4-2 win in heat 10 and a maximum in heat 11.
Howe, who was in sensational form all night, grabbed a point – as team-mate Iversen won heat 10 – before claiming his third win after gating excellently again and leading all the way from the front in the 11th.
Trevor Geer had to take a gamble to keep Eastbourne in the meeting but it backfired spectacularly when tactical rider Simon Gustaffson finished third and couldn't collect double points.
The Eagles floundered from there on in – as they inevitably struggled without number one Kylmakorpi – as the rampant Stars ended their night on a high by powering to five straight maximums to secure an emphatic win and gain a fine three points.
Lynn Stars: Niels K-Iversen 13 (1), Daniel Nermark 3, Maciej Janowski 7 (2), Kevin Wolbert 8 (1), Mads Korneliussen 12 (3), David Howe 16, Michael Palm Toft 0
Eastbourne Eagles: Joonas Kylmakorpi 0, Lukas Dryml 5, Simon Gustafsson 8, Cameron Woodward 3 (2), Lewis Bridger 7 (1), Denis Gizatulin 5 (1), Timo Lahti 3 (2)
- A picture gallery will follow