THE Buildbase Bees urgently required an away win to enhance their claim to a top-two position this season after such a long break from Elite League matches - and they got it in emphatic fashion at Foxhall.
Skipper Scott Nicholls led the way with a superb maximum in a comprehensive victory against a team who had been unbeaten at home since the middle of April, and who had taken points off Swindon in their last outing. But on this occasion, an away win always looked likely, and but for a little controversy in Heat 9 the 19-point winning margin could have been much wider.
Nicholls set himself up for a good night by romping away with Heat 1 and equalling the fastest Foxhall time of the season so far, and Olly Allen's third place ahead of Kim Jansson got Bees off to a 4-2 opening. But it did take some time for them to pull clear despite several heat winners, Martin Smolinski holding off Tobias Kroner to win Heat 2 but Billy Janniro being unable to find a way past Marcin Rempala.
Witches skipper Chris Louis turned out to be the only home rider to win a race, and he took the first of his three victories in Heat 3 ahead of Rory Schlein, with Steve Johnston accounting for Zibi Suchecki in the early stages to maintain Bees' early lead. And their two-point advantage was doubled to four with another 4-2 in Heat 4, Chris Harris making the start and Martin Smolinski taking third after a good battle with Robert Miskowiak in the first lap of the race.
Nicholls showed that he had everything under control with a classy first lap in Heat 5, first of all clearing Suchecki on turn two, and then racing Louis into turn three and carrying enough speed around the outside to come through for another win. The unusually fast-gating Harris made it to the first bend ahead of Jesper B Jensen to win Heat 6, with another share of the points resulting as Jansson held off Janniro for third, but Bees made their big move forward with a tremendous 5-1 in Heat 7. Schlein and Johnston showed almost telepathic understanding as they exited turn two to block out the faster-starting Miskowiak, and the Bees riders continued to control every part of the track and allow no way through for either Ipswich man.
Coventry's lead was increased to ten points as Allen made a storming start and then rode a perfect line to hold Kroner off in Heat 8, Smolinski moving inside Jansson for third place on turn three, but then came one of the night's talking points with Louis on a tactical ride in Heat 9.
Janniro, who had struggled to that stage, made a terrific jump off gate 4 to hold a clear lead as Louis found himself out of position, trying to clear his team-mate Suchecki. As he did so, Harris split the Witches pairing on lap two, leaving Louis at the back, but things tightened up again at the end of the lap as Harris found himself between the Ipswich men going over the line. The Bees man simply had nowhere to go as Suchecki moved across on the straight, and that meant further contact as they went into the bend was inevitable. Suchecki went into the fence, Harris remarkably stayed aboard his machine, and referee Mick Bates decided that Harris had been at fault and switched on the green exclusion light.
The double-whammy for the Bees was that it meant Janniro, who had the race won, had to do it all again, and typically at the second time of asking it was Louis and Suchecki who hit the front for an 8-1 that could so easily have been a 1-5. The score, which could have been 20-34, suddenly became 27-30, and the Witches were right back in contention.
Bees, however, showed great spirit to overcome that setback and not allow the home side a sniff of a further recovery. Schlein made it around the outside from gate 4 to win Heat 10 from Jansson and Jensen, and then Nicholls superbly team-rode Allen home for a 5-1 in Heat 11. Rempala did the chasing rather than team-mate Miskowiak, but Nicholls covered Allen every inch of the way as Bees went into a much more comfortable seven-point lead.
Louis managed to become one of the few riders to make anything of gate 2 as he took the win in Heat 12, but Schlein and Smolinski were content to share the points and move Bees closer to their target. They required a heat advantage in Heat 13 to make sure of the win, but in the event they did far more than that as the lead rocketed from seven to 19 points with three straight 5-1s.
Heat 13 was the most spectacular with Nicholls determined to hold on to his maximum, and the Bees captain finding himself behind Jensen. After two laps of hard chasing, Nicholls made his move around the outside and snatched second place on the back straight to follow Harris home for the paid win in what was probably the passing move of the night.
The penultimate race was all about the Buildbase Bees as well with Smolinski and Johnston seeing off Rempala with more team-riding, which was very much in evidence throughout the night - and Bees ensured that the final scoreline was thoroughly reflective of the meeting with maximum points again in the last race, Nicholls and Harris doing the hard work this time at the start and on the first two bends before racing away from Jensen and Louis.
It was a match which Bees felt they should have won when it was initially washed out way back in March, and then again in June, but this was very much a case of third time lucky - and Coventry were convincing winners to give their play-off chase a most welcome boost.
IPSWICH 37 COVENTRY 56 Thursday 12th July 2007 - Sky Sports Elite League A
EVENING STAR WITCHES Jesper B Jensen 2 2 1* 1 1 = 7+1 Kim Jansson 0 1* 0 2 = 3+1 Chris Louis 3 2 6 3 0 = 14 Zibi Suchecki 0 1* 2* 0 = 3+2 Robert Miskowiak 2 1 0 0 = 3 Marcin Rempala 1* 0 1 1 = 3+1 Tobias Kroner 2 0 2 0 = 4
BUILDBASE BEES Scott Nicholls 3 3 3 2* 3 = 14+1 Olly Allen 1 0 3 2* = 6+1 Rory Schlein 2 3 3 2 = 10 Steve Johnston 1* 2* 0 2* = 5+3 Chris Harris 3 3 X 3 2* = 11+1 Billy Janniro 0 0 1 =1 Martin Smolinski 3 1 1 1* 3 = 9+1