PREMIERSHIP champions Peterborough launch their title defence with a trip to Belle Vue today (Monday, midday – UK time).
The sides clash in a repeat of last season’s Grand Final, and there is added interest in the meeting with Matej Zagar making his return to the Aces.
Zagar has re-joined his former club as they strengthen after a disappointing League Cup campaign, whilst the Panthers also have their full septet with Michael Palm Toft now back from concussion.
Belle Vue star Charles Wright said: “We have had a rough start to the season but everything before now is irrelevant. We start afresh for the league campaign and all the boys are really looking forward to it.
“Having Matej in the side is going to benefit us massively. He’s a former GP rider and a strong heat leader and I think that will make a huge difference for us on track.
“Having that greater strength in depth will take the pressure off some of the other guys, so hopefully they will feel a little bit more relaxed and we’ll start to see what they’re capable of.”
Panthers favourite Chris Harris said: “Obviously as defending champions it’s always exciting because you’ve got a target on your backs and everyone wants to beat the champs!
“But we’re up for it. We’ve got a good side again, with only Bjarne (Pedersen) not with us from last year because of him retiring, and Benjamin (Basso) has settled in really well, so all the boys are up for it.
“The plan is for the same again this year, but we know it’s not going to be easy, there are some good teams out there.”
WOLVERHAMPTON and King’s Lynn clash at Monmore Green tonight (Monday, 8pm) in the first televised Premiership fixture of the season.
Whilst Wolves reached the play-offs in 2021, the Stars are looking to bounce back from a nightmare campaign and have very much done so in the League Cup, winning all four matches to qualify from the southern group.
Wolves are forced into a change with No.8 Joe Thompson stepping in for Leon Flint, who has a shoulder injury – and promoter Chris Van Straaten expects a tough encounter.
He said: “King’s Lynn are a far different proposition to the King’s Lynn we’ve faced here for the last couple of years,” he said.
“There are a lot of riders in that team with experience of the Monmore Green circuit – especially with Niels-Kristian Iversen who is the track record holder here. “There doesn’t appear to be a weak link in King’s Lynn’s side so far, so each one of the Wolverhampton riders have got to be firing and they’ve all got to be on top form.”
Stars boss Alex Brady said: “Wolves is a very tough place to go, we all know that, and they’re a team full of home track specialists.
“But we’ve got a lot of riders who go well there, and I’m really looking forward to it. “The brief will always be the same for us: try and get something away from home, whether it’s a point to start with, see where we’re at, and see what we can build on from there.”
GLASGOW made it a derby double against Edinburgh – but only after a tense last heat decider at Ashfield on Sunday.
The Tigers had no answer to Monarchs No.1 Sam Masters, who romped to an 18-point maximum, but the hosts just held on for a 46-44 victory.
Craig Cook top-scored for the hosts with 11, and reserve Connor Bailey picked up a vital 8+2. Masters was backed up by Kye Thomson (10) and Josh Pickering (9+1).
Tigers boss Cami Brown said: “It was exactly what I thought would happen. It was a combination of Edinburgh not being able to ride as badly as they did on Friday, and I knew we probably wouldn’t hit those heady heights again.
“Edinburgh rode very well and total respect to them for an excellent performance.
“We have beaten Edinburgh home and away and it’s a seven-point weekend so that’s perfect for us, and we showed we have a good 1-7 again when we really needed it.”
Edinburgh boss Alex Harkess said: “We just ran out of match. If there had been another couple of races, I’m sure we would have won. If we’d had James Sarjeant I’m sure we would have won.
“There are not many teams who will come to Ashfield and score 44 points. But – we were disappointed to only score 44 points! And we had them rattled.”
NEWCASTLE pulled off their first win of the Championship campaign by edging out Berwick 47-42 at Brough Park.
The Bandits were without Leon Flint after his incident on Saturday and also lost Ty Proctor in a Heat 2 crash.
But they still forced a close contest and took the meeting to a last-heat decider, where Paul Starke and guest Kyle Howarth secured a 4-2 but were split by Berwick No.1 Chris Harris to give the visitors a league point.
Starke top-scored for the Diamonds with 12 points and Howarth added 10+1, whilst Ricky Wells (12+1) and Harris (11) led the way for the Bandits.
Newcastle co-promoter Dave Tinning said: “We had to work so hard for this win tonight, a win which has finally given us points in the Championship table helped along the way by a guest who can score us points!
“Thanks to Kyle for his excellent efforts. Paul also had a night to be proud of with his 12 points. We’re getting there, albeit slowly and surely, but bit by bit, we’re getting there.”
Berwick boss Gary Flint said: “This was a tough night on Tyneside, very hard going and very hard work for us. We witnessed some huge crashes on a tricky surface but, the Bandits battled on to claim a league point.”
MILDENHALL are through the National League KO Cup Final after successfully defending their first leg advantage at Kent on Sunday.
The Royals managed to halve the initial deficit with a 48-42 win on the day, but the Fen Tigers progress by six points on aggregate.
A 5-1 to the home side in the last race would have set up a Golden Heat decider, but Alfie Bowtell was penalised for exceeding the time allowance, with Jason Edwards and Ryan Kinsley taking a 4-2 for the visitors.
Heat leaders Bowtell (12) and Ben Morley (11) both hit double figures for the home side, with Edwards scoring 12 for the visitors and reserve Josh Warren picked up a vital 11+1.
Warren said: “I felt really good today – I was calm and confident right from the off, getting that Heat 2 win and kicking on from there.
“I had Ritchie [Hawkins] in the pits with me and as ever he was a huge help.
“I’m really happy to have reached double figures for the first ever time and also the first time I’ve won two races in one match – the 5-1 I got with Sam [Bebee] when I was drafted into Heat 8 was absolutely vital to the team.”
BIRMINGHAM have put plans in place for additional racenight medical cover starting from this Wednesday’s home clash with Scunthorpe.
The Brummies had to abandon a recent meeting against Berwick after Josh Auty suffered a broken leg in a crash and ambulance delays meant it was impossible to continue. They will now have two ambulances and two paramedics on duty at Perry Barr.
Co-promoter Laurence Rogers said: “It is extra outlay for the club, but we do not want to be in the position we were in at the Berwick meeting again.
“What Birmingham are doing now is to ensure that we have this level of cover, which hopefully will never be used, but we have this insurance that if needed, we can continue with racing.
“I cannot praise the club owners enough for all they have done, and this extra was something that was not planned on, but they have reacted in this positive manner.”
MONDAY MAY 2:
PREMIERSHIP: Belle Vue v Peterborough 12pm, Wolverhampton v King’s Lynn 8pm
TUESDAY MAY 3:
CHAMPIONSHIP: Plymouth v Poole 7pm
WEDNESDAY MAY 4:
CHAMPIONSHIP: Birmingham v Scunthorpe 7.30
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT LEAGUE: Oxford v Berwick 7.30