Poole clinch Elite League Pairs crown at King’s Lynn
King's Lynn's duo endured a night to forget as Poole claimed the Elite League Pairs at the Norfolk Arena.
The Stars' Danish spearhead Kenneth Bjerre and Niels-Kristian Iversen failed to reproduce their impressive league form on home shale as Lynn old boy Darcy Ward and British GP winner Chris Holder emerged victorious against the top flight's best.
Bjerre's mechanical woes left the grand prix ace pointless in three of his four qualifying outings after the hosts had opened with an encouraging maximum against a depleted Birmingham who tracked Young Star Jake Knight.
Neighbours Peterborough topped Lynn's section but Troy Batchelor's exclusion in the first semi gifted Belle Vue a final spot but Poole's heavyweight pair turned the finale into a procession after Ward swooped around British number one Chris Harris.
Peterborough officials protested to referee Stuart Wilson – claiming Batchelor's semi-final spill was caused by Rory Schlein – but the race was awarded with team mate Nicki Pedersen clear.
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'I couldn't turn because someone was sticking the bike inside me. When there's nowhere to go you can't do anything,' said Batchelor. 'To award the race just added insult to injury because even in the re-run one of the Belle Vue riders could've failed to finish.'
Batchelor looked in ominous form on his return to the track where he helped Lynn clinch a Premier League grand slam after powering clear in the opening race of the night to signal the Panthers' intent. Schlein made full use of trap four to fire into turn one with Belle Vue team mate Harris flying down the back straight to maintain the early maximum surge.
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Batchelor maintained his impressive start in heat five but three time world champion Pedersen paid for a sluggish gate in the rear which allowed Swindon duo Scott Nicholls and Nicolai Klindt edged a heat advantage. Lee Richardson stunned Poole's high class duo in heat six but Holder underlined his appetite for the battle ahead with a last bend pass on Adam Shields.
Freddie Lindgren erased some of the pain from his lacklustre opener to fend off Ales Dryml with Knight a spectator in the rear for the Brummies. Harris looked imperious in heat eight but Schlein had to work overtime to hunt down Ryan Fisher on the last lap after the American was forced into a solo effort when Coventry ally Edward Kennett tumbled.
Bjerre's engine failure stunned the home fans in heat nine with lone raider Iversen unable to pierce Swindon's defensive shield – Klindt and Nicholls showing impressive speed to inflict a shock 7-2 maximum defeat on the hosts.
Poole's Aussie aces came to the party in a heat ten thriller – Holder stalking Cameron Woodward before diving into turn one with Ward almost telepathically sensing an opening to dip into his compatriot's slipstream.
Pedersen grabbed his first flag of the contest in heat 11 to move the Panthers within touching distance of the semi-finals. Belle Vue then completed a hat-trick of maximums in the next with Schlein blasting out of the final bend to eclipse Shields. Bjerre's engine troubles continued in heat 13 but Iversen looked to have minimised the damage until Swedish GP ace Lindgren edged out the Stars' rider in a photo finish. Holder and Ward wrecked Belle Vue's qualifying perfection in a dress rehearsal for the final after Harris paid for a rare aberration exiting turn one.
Lynn's night ended prematurely with a derby defeat to Peterborough in heat 17 - Bjerre again pulling up lame in the rear to cap a truly miserable evening for the Stars' number one as Batchelor smoothly cruised to the flag.
Wolves and Swindon met in heat 19 for a winner-takes-all showdown to accompany Peterborough into the last four. Lindgren claimed his third race win with one-time Lynn guest Ty Proctor pinching a priceless two points to edge Wolves through after both finished deadlocked on 21 qualifying points.
Ward and Holder then blew Coventry away in the final qualifier to top pool B before underling their mastery of the Saddlebow shale at the business end of a gruelling battle.
• Final: 1 Ward (Poole) 2 Holder (Poole) 3 Harris (Belle Vue) 4 Schlein (Belle Vue)
• Semi-final one: 1 Pedersen (Peterborough) 2 Harris (Belle Vue) 3 Schlein (Belle Vue) 4 Batchelor (Peterborough).
• Semi-final two: 1 Lindgren (Wolves) 2 Ward (Poole) 3 Holder (Poole) 4 Proctor (Wolves)
• Qualifying (20 heats, four races per team)
• Group A: Peterborough 25 points, Wolverhampton 21, Swindon 21, King's Lynn 14, Birmingham 9.
• Group B: Poole 26, Belle Vue 23, Lakeside 18, Coventry 12, Eastbourne 11.