Robins reach for the Stars
SWINDON Robins produced a stunning display as they became the first team to take maximum points from runaway Elite League leaders King’s Lynn this season.
After a series of collapses in recent weeks looked to be wrecking the Robins’ chances of making the play-offs, they won the final five heats 22-8, providing all five race winners, to eventually secure a 50-40 win over a Stars team who picked up losing bonus points in both of their two previous losses this season.
After taking the opening heat 4-2, the hosts didn’t lead again until after heat 12 but from then on were on an unstoppable surge which eventually ended with Peter Kildemand and Troy Batchelor combining for a heat 15 maximum which sealed a top drawer 10-point win.
The Robins’ top two produced performances closer to those which saw them reach the Danish GP final on Saturday, after both being below-par at Wolves on Monday, with Batchelor the pick of the two despite Kildemand outscoring him.
After a slow start, skipper Batchelor combined with Nick Morris for a heat 11 maximum which brought the hosts level, before winning a highly pressured heat 13 ahead of Niels-Kristian Iversen and Kennth Bjerre after Kildemand was excluded for a first corner incident.
Other notable performances came from Dakota North and Simon Gustafsson, who both recorded two heat wins to end on seven and eight respectively, while Charles Wright proved to be a suitable guest for absent reserve Steve Worrall with 9+1.
Team boss Alun Rossiter was proud to see his side deliver after challenging them to stand up and be counted in the lead up to the meeting, and believes the 5-1 from Batchelor and Morris proved the turning point.
“This really is fantastic,” he said.
“We’ve collapsed so many times at the end of meetings and to go on and win like this is fantastic.
“We nearly won at King’s Lynn earlier in the season so I knew we could do it, but to win this one and to take all the points was great.
“Troy Batchelor was outstanding tonight, he came to the party and produced some great stuff which was really good to see. His 5-1 with Nick got things started and to win heat 13 when he was on his own was brilliant and he team rode really well.”
Kildemand and Iversen last met in the final of Saturday’s Danish GP, with the Lynn man winning, but it was the Robins number one who took the honours this time as he jumped away from the gate to take a superb victory. He was initially joined for a maximum by North, but Iversen used all his skill to find a way past the Australian to limit the damage.
The first reserves heat didn’t go to plan as first Nathan Greaves retired and then Wright drifted very wide while leading into the final corner and was passed by Lewis Kerr on the line.
Batchelor’s return to action at the Abbey following his exploits in Denmark was far less glorious than Kildemand’s as he pushed all the way but couldn’t pass Rory Schlein who was backing up Bjerre for a Stars 5-1 in heat three, but Gustafsson quickly ensured the Robins stayed in touch as he leapt from the gate to win heat four with ease.
Kildemand was warned to stay still in the original staging of heat five but made an electric jump at the second time of asking to win heat five with ease ahead Schlein, levelling the scores, before Iversen notched his first win ahead of a hard-charging Morris in heat six as the Stars took the lead once again.
The Robins’ deficit stayed at two as first North for Swindon and then Schlein for the Stars won shared heats in races seven and eight, before the second reserves race of the night saw Wright take the victory he should have secured in heat two. It looked as though Greaves was going to back him up for a heat advantage as he continually got the better of Simon Lambert coming out of almost every corner, but eventually missed out on the line.
Schlein beat Kildemand by the length of a straight to edge the visitors further ahead by the end of heat 10, before the meeting was turned on its head.
With the pressure on, Morris and Batchelor both made great gates before Morris made the most of an emerging dirt line to storm around his partner, with Batchelor fending off Iversen well for a maximum to level matters.
Swindon didn’t stop there, as North was the next to make a start before guiding reserve guest Wright home for a second maximum on the trot which gave the hosts for the first time since the end of heat one.
In the first turn of a pressurised heat 13 both Kildemand and Bjerre hit the fence as all four riders made it there together before, with the quartet all invited back for the re-run, Kildemand hit the deck for a second time in turn one of the re-run and was subsequently excluded.
In the absence of his partner, Aussie Batchelor produced a start like those which grabbed the headlines in Saturday’s Grand Prix as he beat both Iversen and Bjerre home for what looked set to be a crucial victory.
Gustafsson as good as made sure of the win with victory in heat 14, with Wright backing him up, before the top two produced the goods in heat 15 to send the fans home happy.
The Robins head to Coventry tonight full of confidence, but will then be without Worrall and are yet to book a guest given so many riders from the draft list are unavailable. Rossiter is likely to be forced to use a rider ranked below 20 in the list, while Worrall has recently risen to number four.
“It’s a joke really,” Rossiter said.
“I’ve got a rider (Worrall) who is scoring me double figures every week but I can’t replace him with someone of a similar level because of the rules.
“I’m going to have a rider from a mile down the list which is so frustrating, I should be allowed a like for like rider in this situation.
“Lewis Kerr is available but I’m not allowed him because he’s higher on the list than Steve.
“I wouldn’t say he’s better than Steve Worrall on current form, so it’s ridiculous I can’t use him.”