OCTOBER 1, 2017 marks exactly ten years since one of the most famous nights in Coventry Speedway history.
Brandon Stadium was packed to the rafters for the Elite League title decider between the Buildbase Bees and Swindon, and it was Coventry who came out on top in what turned out to be the first step towards the historic Treble.
The Bees had topped the table after 36 matches, finishing six points clear of Swindon, and the two sides had taken out Poole and Peterborough respectively in the play-off semi-finals.
But despite the fact that Bees had been the best team over the regular season, the concern was that Blunsdon tended to be their poorest away venue – with a 40-54 reverse in April being their heaviest defeat of the campaign.
In addition, the one loss at home had come at the hands of the Robins, who snatched a 46-44 win in May.
But on the positive, when the teams had met at Brandon a week before the play-offs, Bees had won 55-35, a result which took them into top spot – although Swindon responded with what was seen as the key signing of Damian Balinski at reserve to replace the injured Mads Korneliussen.
The first leg of the Final saw Bees mount a determined rearguard action to prevent major damage.
The scores were level after 11 races but Swindon suddenly found a second wind and notched 5-1s in Heats 12 and 13 to go 43-35 up.
Bees had little option but to deploy Chris Harris as a ‘golden double’ tactical substitute off 15-metres, and he managed to pass Balinski – and so nearly Tomasz Chrzanowski too – to ensure a 4-4 from the race.
There was drama in Heat 15 when Swindon’s Lee Richardson crashed out on the third bend, and in the re-run Chris Harris and Scott Nicholls managed a 4-2 over Leigh Adams, to narrow the gap to six points after the first leg.
A 43-49 deficit appeared to be job done but there was high drama at the start of the return, staged in front of a reported crowd of around 7,000 at Brandon.
Swindon’s Sebastian Ulamek crashed on parade, his bike clearing the air-fence – but then partnered Adams to a 5-1 over Nicholls and Billy Janniro in Heat 1 to immediately increase the gap to ten points.
Incredibly they were to be the only points Ulamek would score all evening, and the Robins were left frustrated when Balinski was excluded from Heat 2 for clipping Janniro on the second bend.
Bees collected 5-1s in Heats 2 and 4, both involving Martin Smolinski, and levelled the aggregate scores when Nicholls rounded Charlie Gjedde to win Heat 6.
The Robins suffered a massive blow when Richardson crashed out of the meeting on turn two in Heat 7, and the Bees went into overdrive with a stunning run of results.
The re-run saw them take the first of four successive 5-1s to take full control of the tie, the highlight being a remarkable Heat 10 when Nicholls and Steve Johnston pulled off identical double-overtakes of Balinksi and Chrzanowski on turns three and four on successive laps.
A tactical ride win from Adams in Heat 11 stemmed the flow, and Balinski won Heat 12 as team-mate Andrew Moore fell having initially gated on a 5-1.
That left Bees requiring one more race advantage to seal the title, and they did it in Heat 13 with an outstanding Rory Schlein – who dropped just one point in six rides – inflicting a first defeat on Adams, with Nicholls supplying third place.
That sparked celebratory scenes at Brandon, and two more 4-2s followed with wins for Johnston and Schlein to give Bees a thumping 19-point aggregate margin.
But amidst the excitement, there was also a steely determination amongst the team to go on and put themselves into the history books with a clean sweep of trophies.
COVENTRY 59: Rory Schlein 16+1, Martin Smolinski 10+2, Steve Johnston 9+2, Scott Nicholls 9, Chris Harris 8+2, Billy Janniro 7+2, Olly Allen r/r. SWINDON 34: Leigh Adams 15+1, Tomasz Chrzanowski 5, Damian Balinski 5, Sebastian Ulamek 3, Charlie Gjedde 3, Andrew Moore 2, Lee Richardson 1+1.