Peterborough Panthers were written off and slagged off - but that didn’t stop them carrying the SGB Championship Fours trophy off yesterday (August 6).
The city team were deemed to have no chance of success by many after allowing their number one - Jack Holder - to miss the annual event at the East of England Arena in favour of racing in Poland.
It was a move that also led to widespread criticism for both promoter Ged Rathbone and his highly-rated rider as they came under attack from the sport’s keyboard warriors and the head of the governing body.
British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) chief Buster Chapman
accused Rathbone of ‘selling British speedway down the river’ in astatement bizarrely released minutes before the start of the Fours extravaganza.
A few hours later he was one of many people left tucking into a slice of humble pie for their Sunday dinner as a depleted Panthers team roared to an emphatic success in a meeting featuring some simply sensational racing in front of a crowd estimated to be in the region of 3,000.
The quartet of Chris Harris, Ulrich Ostergaard, Paul Starke and late call-up Simon Lambert were excellent to a man as they ended a wait of more than a decade for team honours by wrapping up victory in the final with two races to spare.
Starke sealed glory with a fence-brushing triumph in heat 10 after the magnificent Harris had gone unbeaten on the day. The former British Grand Prix hero won both his rides in the first semi-final as Panthers took second place to follow Sheffield through into the showpiece - the first of them coming complete with a new SGB Championship-level track record of 58.6 seconds.
And he continued his rich vein of form in the final with three more marvellous wins - one of them gained with relative ease after a rocket start in the opening heat and the next two arriving thanks to some incredible track craft and bravery.
Skipper Ostergaard was also superb as he dropped only one point at the semi-final stage before reeling off a hat-trick of heat wins in the final itself.
He not only matched the feat of Harris in the showpiece, he also rivalled him for entertainment with a couple of astonishing rides - one of which came when the trophy was already in the bag!
Starke was his usual solid self with a run of third places before taking the winning ride, while Lambert delivered a valuable contribution of his own after only learning he would be playing a full part in the meeting late on Saturday night after Bradley Wilson-Dean was left nursing a hand injury following a crash for his SGB Premiership side, Swindon.
It all added up to resounding success as Panthers piled up 28 points in the 12-race final to finish 10 clear of closest rivals Redcar on 18. Sheffield (16) took third spot with Ipswich bringing up the rear on 10 despite looking like the team to beat after breezing through the second semi-final.
But it was all about Panthers as they marked the 40th anniversary of the club’s first-ever trophy success in fitting style.
It was an occasion made all the more sweet as the five men who helped the club to Fours glory back in 1977 - Ian Clark, Kevin Hawkins, Nigel Flatman, Andy Hines and Brian Clark - were present to share in the latest triumph.
Now the class of 2017 have etched their names into the history books...
SGB CHAMPIONSHIP FOURS RESULTS
SHEFFIELD 16: Josh Grajczonek 5, Kyle Howarth 4, Todd Kurtz 4, Josh Bates 3.
PANTHERS 14: Chris Harris 6, Ulrich Ostergaard 5, Paul Starke 2, Simon
WORKINGTON 11: Thomas Jorgensen 5, Mason Campton 4, Ty Proctor 1, Craig Cook 1.
SCUNTHORPE 10: Jake Allen 5, Lewis Kerr 3, Josh Auty 2, Michael Palm
Toft 0, Ryan Douglas (res) 0.
EDINBURGH 9: Erik Riss 5, Ricky Wells 2, Theo Pijper 1, Josh Pickering
(res) 1, Max Clegg 0.
IPSWICH 18: Rory Schlein 6, Justin Sedgmen 5, Cameron Heeps 4, Danny King 3.
REDCAR 13: Charles Wright 5, Ben Barker 3, Jonas B Andersen 3, Jason
Garrity 1, Ellis Perks (res) 1.
NEWCASTLE 12: Steve Worrall 6, Stuart Robson 3, Ludvig Lindgren 3,
Ashley Morris 0.
GLASGOW 9: Richard Lawson 3, Aaron Summers 3, Nike Lunna 3, Dan Bewley 0.
BERWICK 8: Kevin Doolan 5, David Howe 2, Jye Etheridge 1, Dany
Gappmaier 0, Luke Ruddick (res) 0.
PANTHERS 28: Chris Harris 9, Ulrich Ostergaard 9, Simon Lambert 5,
Paul Starke 5.
REDCAR 18: Charles Wright 7, Jason Garrity 6, Ben Barker 3, Jonas B Andersen 2.
SHEFFIELD 16: Kyle Howarth 6, Josh Grajczonek 5, Todd Kurtz 3, Josh Bates 2.
IPSWICH 10: Danny King 6, Rory Schlein 2, Cameron Heeps 1, Justin Sedgmen 1.