CHRIS “Bomber” Harris scored a perfect 15 point maximum in Berwick Bandits’ biggest meeting in over 44 seasons –the Speedway World Championship Grand Prix Qualifying Round at Shielfield Park on Saturday night.
On the night there were many winners, Harris for the Gold medal – the Polyfoam fence for undoubtedly saving Linus Sundstrom from a majorly serious injury in Heat 20 – and the Berwick track staff and their track covers, all of whom worked like Trojans to get a meeting of 21 races completed on a night where 99% of all matches would have certainly been rained well and truly off.
The rain, exceptionally heavy at times, fell for most of the previous 36 hours or more, and most intensely between 3pm & 5pm.
Had it not been for the covers the meeting would have been off by mid-morning, but with a slight delay the meeting got underway, although with the unusual, but naturally heavy surface there was cause for more track grading than usual which got the track in reasonable racing condition, improving through the night.
Heat one was the worst victim of the heavy surface with Chris Harris taking a very tentative win as all four competitors fought hard to even broadside the bikes round the clumpy bends.
The following few races were also somewhat processional but the race times certainly started to speed up with the racing line nicely setting in as the meeting progressed.
Pre meeting favourite Harris added another victory to his tally in Heat Eight with a massive win over Australian Davey Watt, but behind Watt Dane Kenneth Hansen was motoring like a steam train and almost shocked the Aussie, just missing out on the pass coming off the final bend as the excitement level started to accelerate nicely.
Kenny Ingalls of the USA was holding a good second place in Heat Nine but the track knowledge of former Bandit Tero Aarnio shot the Finn under the American off bend three to steal the two points in a fine move which deserved reward.
With intermittent showers still falling all night, the winner of heat seven, Pole Krzysztof Buczkowski fell heavily on the third bend of Heat 11, but thankfully with no ill effect allowing Linus Sundstrom to take the three untroubled points.
Danny King, brother of Berwick’s Jason spun violently on the third bend of the opening lap of Heat 12, but as he spun Harris firmly caught King’s rear wheel and flew head over heels, crashing hard onto the shale, but perhaps surprisingly both were up on their feet within five minutes, walking back to the pits with King’s exclusion.
In the re-run Harris, who has a justified hard-man reputation from bouncing back from heavy spills with no ill-effects, took his third win off the belt to establish himself firmly in pole position with nine out of nine points whilst in the 13th Australian youngster Sam Masters made a brilliant inside pass under his more experience countryman Watt to take a big lead and deserved win.
Aarnio made a superbly brave outside pass up against the fourth bend fence round King, but the Elite League man blasted his way back round the Finn half a lap later to take a very well deserved win and put himself on nine points.
Ryan Fisher took an early lead in Heat 16 but Harris made it four wins from four by taking a wide pass round the American on the second bend, and with one race left to go each Harris led the way with 12, Watt on 10 and Masters, King and Sundstrom on Nine.
With the top nine going on to the Grand Prix 2013 qualification there was still all to play for with the racing reflecting the urgency despite conditions.
Hansen passed Kus in a tight move in Heat 17 off the fourth bend with the Czech falling once more but with Masters well out in front the Aussie finished on 12.
Fisher sealed his progression to the next round by winning Heat 18 well and ending on 11, whilst in the 19th Watt retired having already been guaranteed progression as was King who won the race in style for 10 well earned points.
Harris completed a perfect 15 point maximum in Heat 20, but coming out of the fourth bend of lap three, Sundstrom hit an unexpected patch of grip which flung him head first into the polyfoam fence – where last year’s wooden fence broke Alex Edberg’s back, but thanks to the soft fence Sundstrom was right back up on his feet worrying about damage to his bike.
A run off was still required to sort out second place between King and Masters, in which Masters made a fine gate to win and take the silver medal and King Bronze as his bike spluttered to the flag with water getting into places it shouldn’t.
BSPA management committee member David Hoggart, Sheffield’s promoter was full of praise after the event, saying: “We have to thank all the paying public for coming out to support this important event in their masses on a night where the weather might well have made them think twice about going out of their front door – let alone spending money on speedway in this weather.
“Huge credit must also go to Berwick Speedway and their tireless track staff who worked so hard against the weather to get this meeting on and make sure it ran to its full conclusion as well as the cooperation of our FIM officials here tonight. But mostly the fans who deserve massive thanks for coming out on an awful night!”