OCTOBER 26, 2017 marks the ten-year anniversary of Coventry’s sensational 2007 team clinching the top-flight Treble.
Celebrations had already taken place at Brandon when the Buildbase Bees wrapped up the Elite League title in front of a reported 7,000 crowd on October 1 – but that was just the start of a month of glittering success.
In fact, the Bees raced in a total of nine meetings during October, prior to the end-of-season Diamond Jubilee Brandonapolis, and each of those meetings took them a step nearer the Treble.
Fresh from claiming the league title, Bees overcame Arena-Essex 97-86 in a competitive KO Cup semi-final with the Hammers having been boosted by the signing of Andreas Jonsson at No.1
Confirming progression to the Craven Shield Final was a more straightforward affair as the Bees scored 49 of a possible 60 points available at Wolverhampton, to go through by a 34-point margin with Ipswich second in the mini-group.
The Final itself saw Bees do plenty of hard work in the away legs, winning by five points at Poole on October 17 with Swindon a further two points adrift.
Then they put in a brilliant performance at Blunsdon to score 45 points, ten ahead of the hosts with Poole losing touch on 28.
All of that put the Bees into the third leg at home with a seemingly impregnable 17-point lead over Swindon – only for them to put in one of their worst displays of the season.
Incredibly whilst Coventry floundered to 15 points at the halfway stage of the meeting, the Robins had scored 28 from a possible 30 and were in line to complete a remarkable comeback.
Crucially, Scott Nicholls snatched victory on the line from Sebastian Ulamek in Heat 10 as the Bees pegged the Robins – but when guest Fredrik Lindgren and Tomasz Chrzanowski raced to a 5-1 over Chris Harris and Martin Smolinski in Heat 13, the pressure was back on.
Swindon shared the points with Poole in Heat 14 to level the aggregate score with Coventry, but the Bees did have the cushion of a race in hand.
Nicholls and Billy Janniro collected four points from Poole in Heat 15, but a Robins maximum over Jason Crump in Heat 17 actually put them in front on aggregate – although only by one point.
That meant Bees needed two points from Heat 18 when they faced Poole, and although Bjarne Pedersen took the flag, Steve Johnston and Rory Schlein completed a 3-3 ahead of Steve Boxall for Coventry to finish a narrow two points clear overall.
It was far too close for comfort, and a reminder that Swindon were still highly capable of spoiling the party, especially as the sides were to meet again in the KO Cup Final.
Once again Bees put themselves in the box seat away from home, with a terrific display on one of their least favourite tracks to draw 45-45 and set up effectively a one-leg shootout for the silverware at Brandon.
It turned out to be one of the most dramatic and extraordinary matches in Coventry Speedway history.
There was general amusement before the start of the second leg with the Bees promotion placing a number of unconnected telephones around various areas of the pits, a nod to Swindon boss Alun Rossiter’s unhappiness at various refereeing decisions in previous weeks.
Rossiter, who was well liked at Brandon and would agree to work for Coventry two years later, took the joke in the spirit intended, but the first five races of the meeting were no laughing matter for the Bees.
A first-heat 5-1 from Ulamek and Leigh Adams merely appeared a case of history repeating after the play-off Grand Final, but on this occasion the Bees failed to hit back until it appeared almost too late.
The Robins’ Damian Balinski crashed out of Heat 2 but team-mate Andrew Moore was a shock winner of the re-run, and a Swindon 4-2 followed in Heat 3 with Adams and Ulamek then repeating their 5-1 feat over Chris Harris and Johnston to put the Robins 20-10 up.
The visitors appeared yards faster from the start and they forced the Bees to dig deeper into their reserves of determination, both mentally and physically, than at any other stage of the season.
Nicholls took a tactical ride in Heat 6 and vitally partnered Johnston to an 8-1 to give Bees some hope, and Billy Janniro raised the roof with a Heat 7 win over Adams – but the fast-gating Ulamek defeated Schlein in Heat 8 to extend the Robins’ lead back to five points.
Harris and Johnston grabbed a maximum over Charlie Gjedde in Heat 9, but just as Bees looked set to take the lead, they were frustrated by Balinski’s win over Nicholls and Janniro in Heat 10.
With Ulamek unbeaten from four rides and again paired with Adams in Heat 11, it looked like advantage Swindon but the next two races transformed the Cup Final.
First, Janniro and Schlein raced to an astonishing 5-1 over the powerful Robins combination – and with the visitors reeling from that setback, a tough first bend in Heat 12 saw Janniro and Harris emerge ahead of Chrzanowski and Balinski.
Suddenly Coventry were seven points up, and they moved to the brink of triumph when Nicholls headed Adams for a 4-2 in Heat 13.
Rossiter’s only option was to send out Adams as a 15-metre handicap ‘golden double’ in Heat 14, but he failed to make any progress as Johnston sensibly dropped anchor in third place – whilst Janniro completed an incredible string of race wins, defeating Chrzanowski as Bees retained the Cup, and with it secured the Treble.
The pressure was off but there was still a brilliant Heat 15 to enjoy as Harris reeled in and overhauled no less a man than Adams to end a spectacular night on a massive high.
Swindon had put together a side which were many people’s favourites to sweep up the 2007 silverware, and whilst they did enjoy an excellent season, it was the Bees – unchanged from 2006 with the exception of a mid-season switch when Johnston came in for Morten Risager – who were top of the pile in all three major team competitions.
It was a truly unforgettable campaign.
COVENTRY 53: Billy Janniro 15+1, Scott Nicholls 11+1, Chris Harris 9+1, Rory Schlein 9+1, Steve Johnston 7+2, Martin Smolinski 2, Olly Allen r/r.
SWINDON 40: Leigh Adams 12+1, Sebastian Ulamek 11+1, Damian Balinski 7, Tomasz Chrzanowski 4+1, Andrew Moore 4, Charlie Gjedde 2+1, Lee Richardson r/r.