Returning Panthers rider Emil Grondal launched the new season with one of his best-ever performances – and he reckons it came complete with one of his finest rides.
The Danish ace piled up a paid 12-point haul as the city team enjoyed a winning start to 2018 when beating Lakeside 46-44 in an SGB Championship Shield clash last Sunday.
Grondal, back with Panthers after being overlooked for 2017, was the star turn with two victories and a thrilling second place from five outings.
And it was the latter effort in heat eight, when overcoming early problems to blast past both visiting riders and join captain Simon Lambert for a 5-1, which really wowed the Alwalton faithful.
Grondal said: “I couldn’t have dreamed of a start to the season like this. It was absolutely amazing and nice that all the hard work paid off.
“It’s great to have the feeling that your bikes are running quick and your mindset is right. It seemed that everything clicked for me on Sunday.
“Heat eight was one of the best races I’ve ever ridden in my career.”
Grondal’s display drew high praise from Panthers team boss Carl Johnson.
He has challenged the Dane to maintain that level of performance when the city club host East Anglian rivals Ipswich at the East of England Showground on Easter Sunday (5pm start) in their next Southern Group outing.
It provides Panthers with an early-season test against a Witches team they somewhat fortunately beat over two legs to lift the KO Cup at the end of the 2017 campaign.
Johnson said: “It was the perfect way for Emil to start the season and he really needed a performance like that.
“We made the decision to bring him back this year and we also stuck with him after his average was re-assessed during the winter, so it was really great to see him start so well.
“I was pleased with the solid team effort overall against Lakeside. It showed we’ve got plenty of scope for improvement.
“Every rider scored points and that was encouraging in the first meeting of the season.
“It’s a shame our lead got cut in the closing heats, but a win is a win and we can take confidence into the meeting against Ipswich.
“They are sure to want to beat us after we pipped them to the KO Cup last season.
“They still have a lot of the same riders in their team for this year.
“I’m sure they’ll want to get one over on us, but we also want to build on the result against Lakeside.”
Ipswich are being tipped as potential title-winners this term.
They are once again spearheaded by former British champion Danny King, a former Panthers rider who lives in Huntingdon.
Australian aces Rory Schlein and Cameron Heeps feature in a strong side along with Nico Covatti, who is back after injury.