THE Buildbase Bees extended all of their recent records with victory at Ipswich to move to within touching distance of top place in the Elite League table.
What this result did achieve beyond all doubt was home advantage for the play-offs in the semi-final, which will be a meeting against either Poole or Peterborough a week on Monday - with the odds being firmly on the Panthers.
Bees had to ensure that they were not caught still celebrating after Wednesday's win at Wimborne Road, and although it would have been impossible to hit those heights again 24 hours later, this was a solid, professional display which again confirmed their reputation as the Elite League's top travellers.
Once more there was a setback with a controversial Heat 9 leading to an Ipswich 5-1 - exactly as it had back in July, but the Coventry top three generally held control of the meeting and recorded ten heat wins between them to limit the Witches' resistance.
It was certainly a better start than at Poole, as the Bees launched away for maximum points in Heat 1, Scott Nicholls winning by the proverbial mile and Billy Janniro fending off an enthusiastic challenge from Tobias Kroner, and it was a lead that Coventry were not to relinquish throughout the meeting.
Marcin Rempala, fresh from his best meeting in Witches colours against Swindon, was a convincing winner of Heat 2 but both Janniro and Johnston managed to battle their way past Zibi Suchecki, and there was more overtaking in Heat 3 with Chris Harris trailing Kroner for two laps before finding a way through on the inside and Chris Louis displacing Martin Smolinski at an almost identical moment.
Rory Schlein made a fast start to dominate Heat 4 ahead of Suchecki, with Robert Miskowiak rounding Steve Johnston on the second lap for a share of the points, but Bees extended their lead to six points with a 4-2 in Heat 5. Nicholls had to work hard to cover all angles and keep Louis beind him, whilst Smolinski was determined to beat his compatriot Kroner and took third place after a good battle early in the race.
The Witches did manage a 4-2 in Heat 6 as Miskowiak made the start ahead of Schlein with Jansson taking what turned out to be his only point of the night, but Bees were straight back in charge thanks to a spectacular first bend performance from Harris and Smolinski in Heat 7, the Coventry pairing going either side of Miskowiak to leave the Pole way out of contention.
The eight-point lead became ten with a 4-2 in Heat 8, Schlein winning his rider replacement ride and Johnston passing Jansson for third, and that meant the tactical ride for Louis in Heat 9 was inevitable.
The race produced a real talking point as Schlein and Janniro led away from the gate and held their advantage for a lap and a half before Louis nipped inside Schlein coming up the back straight second time around. The Witches skipper then held the kerb on turn four to get onto Janniro's inside as well, and as they went into the third lap there was contact between the pair and Janniro fell.
Referee Paul Carrigton's view of the incident was certainly not one which Janniro and the Bees agreed with as he put on the yellow exclusion light, and in the subsequent interval saw the official take the unusual step of leaving the referee's box and coming down to the pits in an attempt to explain his decision. Meanwhile, the re-run saw an all-too-predictable result as Louis and Kroner took full advantage of their second chance to bang in an 8-1, and despite dominating, Coventry's lead was down to 30-27.
Louis was the winner again in Heat 10 but only after being recalled for an unsatisfactory start when it appeared that he had penalised himself by attempting to anticipate it. There was no doubting the class of his ride in the re-run, though, as he worked on Smolinski for a couple of laps before making it past as they went into the last.
But Bees made a big move towards overall victory with a terrific 5-1 in Heat 11, thanks to Nicholls and a fired-up Janniro. It was terrific team-riding from Nicholls, who blocked every possible move of Miskowiak and protected his partner throughout, and with the lead back at seven and the tactical ride out of the way, that always seemed an advantage that Bees could hold on to.
Harris rode a fast outside line to hold Louis at bay in Heat 12, and the points were made virtually safe in Heat 13 which was impressively won by Schlein, Nicholls just unable to save his maximum as he could not quite make his way past Miskowiak despite a major effort around the outside on the run-down to the line.
With Ipswich not deploying a tactical substitute, Bees just needed finishers in the last two races, but there was a further incident in Heat 14 when Janniro and Kroner clashed on the second bend and both went down. The referee's view was to re-call all four, although Kroner appeared far from happy as he moved in Janniro's direction, but the German did ride a good race in the re-run as he found the speed on the back straight to move into the lead and stay ahead of Smolinski and Janniro.
The points were in the bag, but there was still time for another good race in Heat 15, with the Bees gating but Harris needing to get alongside Schlein in order to protect himself from attack by Louis. That part of the move went to plan as Harris moved into the lead, but Schlein was then caught by Louis on the last lap, as the hard-working Ipswich skipper snatched second place on the back straight.
That may have been a small frustration at the end, but the bigger picture was again a mighty fine one for the Buildbase Bees, whose away performances and results this season have been little short of spectacular. There is plenty more to be done - but things continue to go in very much the right way!
IPSWICH 41 COVENTRY 52 Thursday 6th September 2007 - Sky Sports Elite League B
EVENING STAR WITCHES Jesper B Jensen R/R Kim Jansson R 1 0 0 = 1 Chris Louis 1* 2 6^ 3 2 2 = 6+1 Tobias Kroner 1 2 0 2* 3 0 = 8+1 Robert Miskowiak 1* 3 0 1 2 = 7+1 Marcin Rempala 3 1 0 0 = 4 Zibi Suchecki 0 2 2 1* 0 = 5+1
BUILDBASE BEES Scott Nicholls 3 3 3 1 = 10 Olly Allen r/r Chris Harris 3 3 1* 3 3 = 13+1 Martin Smolinski 0 1 2* 2 2 = 7+1 Rory Schlein 3 2 3 1 3 = 13 Billy Janniro 2* 2 0 X 2* 1* = 7+3 Steve Johnston 1* 0 1 0 = 2+1