Thrills and spills at the pairs event
PUBLISHED: 19:18 06 July 2007 | UPDATED: 11:15 24 May 2010
SEVERE traffic chaos, and subsequent road closures failed to spoil the biggest night in the relatively short history of Somerset speedway
SEVERE traffic chaos, and subsequent road closures failed to spoil the biggest night in the relatively short history of Somerset speedway.The traffic problems delayed the arrival of several riders, but all were in attendance at the start of the event. Some of the travelling fans were not so lucky, and consequently arrived late for the Premier League Best Pairs Championship. The Pairs Championship involves the top pair from each of the top 10 teams, based on the rider averages. On the night the pairs are split into two qualifying groups of five, and the top of each group contested the semi-finals, in which they face the runners-up of the opposing group. The first qualifying group ran in the odd numbered heats, and the second group the even numbered ones. The scoring system is slightly different from the usual league meetings, in that the winner gets four points, second place three, third place two, and the fourth nothing. This system puts the onus on team riding, as a pair finishing second and third, outscores their opponents, by five points to four.Group A, featured pairs from Somerset, Glasgow, Isle of Wight, Sheffield and Rye House. While Group B was made up of Birmingham, Kings Lynn, Newcastle, Redcar and Workington. The first group had a strong feel to it, with the home pair, Magnus Zetterstrom and Emil Kramer, being the highest average pair in the league. Glasgow, who are the defending champions of the last two years, fielded Shane Parker and new recruit Craig Watson. The Isle of Wight featured Chris Holder the Australian Under-21s champion of the last three years and currently on course to add the world championship at that level to his trophy cupboard. He was backed up by Jason Bunyan.Andre Compton and Ricky Ashworth represented Sheffield, who have long been one of the top teams in the league, as have Rye House who have been hit by injury and had to include a last-minute change, Tommy Allen partnering top man Chris Neath.The severe weather over the preceding days had played havoc with the track preparations, but track curator Ez Curtis and his team had worked wonders to produce a superb racing surface, although it was still a little wet for the opening heats. Group A got under way with the home side taking on the defending champions. Magnus Zetterstrom made the best start to lead at the first, but his partner, Emil Kramer, was slower away, and got filled in on the wet track. Despite this he stuck to his task, and on a couple of occasions was in a position to take a place, only to have his challenge thwarted by a loss of control. The Glasgow pairing played the team game and held out Kramer to take the heat advantage.In Heat 7, the Isle of Wight posted their intent with a good win over the Somerset pair, but it did not look on for a while. Chris Holder made the best start to lead from Zorro and Kramer. For over two laps the points were going Somerset's way until Emil Kramer locked up on Lap 3, allowing Bunyan up his inside. That gave the Islanders a 6-3 advantage, and an early grip on the group. Heat 13 saw the Somerset pair's fortunes turn, with a maximum heat win over Compton and Ashworth. Emil Kramer had changed machinery for this race, and it paid off with a storming ride around the outside of the Sheffield pair to join his partner in the lead on the back straight. He carried on his run and took the lead on the next turn, from then on it was all Somerset with Zorro riding shotgun for his fellow Swede.Somerset, having recovered from a slow start, were now locked in a battle for the second qualifying spot with Glasgow, and would need a maximum in their last heat of the group, but needed Sheffield to take points from the consistent Glasgow duo in Heat 17. Sheffield had been poor up to this point, so it was no surprise when they were unable to give the home fans anything to cheer about. In complete contrast to their first three rides, Parker and Watson took the available points in a 7-2 win to freeze out Somerset in their fight to qualify.Heat 19 may now not have had any meaning in the scheme of things, but pride was at stake for Zorro and Emil Kramer. There may not have been anything at stake, but no one bothered to tell the riders, as Kramer made a terrific start alongside Chris Neath. Kramer then powered wide outside Neath to take the lead running on to the back straight. Zorro, recovering from a slower start, then challenged Neath, tight up against the fence on the back straight, but failed to make it stick.With the Rye House pair in a winning position, Zorro kept the power on, and swooped wide and fast around the first two bends of the next lap, and in a stunning move rocketed from last into second spot. The move secured a 7-2 advantage, but still left Somerset one point short of qualifying for the semi-final.The semi-final line-up was complete, with the first contested by the Isle of Wight and Newcastle, the second by Workington and Glasgow. This resulted in a Isle of Wight-Glasgow final. Workington had to make do with a place in the Consolation Final for third place, where they joined Newcastle, for what was a battle of more than pride, and was won by Newcastle.The final epitomised the night, with a superb race, eventually won by the Islanders with the result in doubt right up to the final bend of the final lap.* The Rebels will be looking to put the disappointment of last week's Pairs Championship behind this weekend when they face Premier League new boys, Birmingham tonight at the Oak Tree Arena, and then travel to Peterborough on Sunday for the Premier Fours Championship.The Rebels will be represented by Magnus Zetterstrom, Emil Kramer, Ritchie Hawkins and Jordan Frampton, with Simon Walker travelling with the squad as reserve.