REDCAR Bears need just three points from this evening’s return leg at South Tees Motorsports Park to make sure of Premier League Cup progress after being pipped at the post in South Yorkshire last night.
The only time the Ecco Finishing Bears were behind at Owlerton was after the 15th and final race when home pair Simon Stead and Leigh Lanham scored a 4-2 over Richard Lawson and Aaron Summers.
The visitors had led from the moment Lawson and Rafal Konopka put them 4-2 up in the first heat, save for the briefest of moments late on when the Tigers levelled it up at 33-33, only to immediately fall two points adrift again.
The Bears’ lead was up to six points for a time but with home No 1 Stead clicking into gear and former PLRC winner Andre Compton offering a sting in the tail at reserve, they saw that whittled away and ultimately overturned.
It was a match they could, and arguably should have won, but they gained a bonus point for their effort and a win of six points or more in their final group match tonight will rubber stamp their progress.
Four five of the seven Bears it was a very good night at the office, although Luke Crang and Rafal Konopka struggled to make an impression.
That said, Konopka made a flying start to the opening race and it took Great Britain international Stead three laps to find a way past, while Crang was all over newly-crowned British Under-21 champion Josh Bates in heat four and would surely have found a way past with the benefit of another lap.
Jan Graversen again looked exactly like the fearsome reserve we hoped he’d be, losing a place to Stead in heat six then battling past again while Hugh Skidmore continued his fine run of form at his former home track.
Aaron Summers dropped only one point from his first three rides and lost out to Lanham by the finest of margins in heat nine after passing Taylor Poole in the third of those, while Richard Lawson was never out of the top two, although he was passed by a determined Compton in heat 11.
Perhaps the best display of the night came from Carl Wilkinson, though.
Never anything less than spectacular and at home on Owlerrton’s wide open spaces, he too never finished lower than second.
If you’re after a race, Wilko is the man to give it to you as he demonstrated in breath-taking fashion in heat 14, squeezing through the narrowest of gaps between Bates and the airfence to ensure the teams went into the final heat all square at 42-42.
“We should have won that really with the lead we had early doors,” reflected promoter Brian Havelock, “but they came to the sales and one or two of our lads dropped away.
“Carl was going well and I was going to put him in heat 15 but his clutch was playing up. He rode very well.
“I think we’ll have a good result at home.”
TIGERS: Simon Stead 12, Leigh Lanham 10, Andre Compton 9, Josh Bates 7+1, Adam Roynon 6, Taylor Poole 2, Simon Nielsen 0
BEARS: Richard Lawson 11, Aaron Summers 9+1, Carl Wilkinson 8+1, Hugh Skidmore 7+1, Jan Graversen 7+1, Rafal Konopka 2+1, Luke Crang 0.