A superbly prepared track at the East of England Arena threw up numerous thrilling races with Panthers showing the full spirit of their 2021 Premiership triumph as they shook off the Witches’ challenge.
Chris Harris led the charge with 14 points from five rides, Michael Palm Toft won his first three outings to finish on 11, and there was a sensational debut from Danish youngster Benjamin Basso who racked up paid 14 at reserve.
Palm Toft and skipper Scott Nicholls set the tone in Heat 1, both passing Cameron Heeps to open up with a 5-1, and Basso picked up a clear win in his first appearance in the reserves’ race.
After a brief setback when Troy Batchelor and Erik Riss hit back for the Witches in Heat 3, followed by a trading of 4-2s, the Palm Toft/Nicholls combination did it again in Heat 6 with Nicholls storming under Ipswich skipper Danny King to create the gap to allow his team-mate to follow him through.
Batchelor and Riss looked set for another 5-1 in Heat 7, but Harris blasted through past Batchelor with Basso also taking advantage of the Australian losing momentum.
Panthers went ten points up as Nicholls and Jordan Palin raced clear in Heat 8, but there was an immediate comeback from King and Paul Starke in the next at the expense of Ulrich Ostergaard and Hans Andersen, who endured a rare scoreless evening.
Palm Toft again came from the back in Heat 10, going from third to first past Batchelor and Riss, and the decisive moment came in Heat 11 when Riss took a tactical substitute ride, partnering former World Champion Jason Doyle – only for some superb team-riding from Harris and Basso to upset the visiting pair.
Basso marched on by winning Heat 12 ahead of a frantic scrap between Batchelor and Ostergaard as Panthers went 12 points up – and then as Harris dominated Heat 13, Palm Toft raised the roof again with a last-bend surge past Doyle for third place.
The penultimate race saw Basso come from the back again, roaring inside Riss off turn four, and Harris stormed clear in Heat 15 with Palm Toft securing third place at the expense of King.
Panthers team manager Rob Lyon said: “I couldn’t have asked for any more. It was a great team performance and to win by 16 points is an excellent start for us.
“Ben was very good, and quick, and he enjoyed it out here. It was a tremendous debut – as we’ve said before, he was our first choice, and I think everybody can see why now!
“Hans had a bad one tonight, but it’s a team effort and everyone else chipped in. As we saw last year, that could turn the other way next week and he could be the hero, so we’re happy with the team performance.
Panthers have a 10-day break before their next group fixture, which is the return against the Witches at Foxhall on Thursday April 14.
PETERBOROUGH 53: Chris Harris 14, Benjamin Basso 12+2, Michael Palm Toft 11, Scott Nicholls 7+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 5, Jordan Palin 4+1, Hans Andersen 0.
IPSWICH 37: Erik Riss 11+1, Danny King 8 Troy Batchelor 6+1, Paul Starke 5+2, Jason Doyle 5, Cameron Heeps 2, Anders Rowe 0.