MEETING REPORT: Peterborough Panthers start their Championship season with a bang

Emil Grondal leads the way for Peterborough Panthers in the first heat against Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.
Emil Grondal leads the way for Peterborough Panthers in the first heat against Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.
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A terrific team effort ensured Peterborough Panthers made a successful start to the SGB Championship season yesterday (April 15).

A terrific team effort ensured Peterborough Panthers made a successful start to the SGB Championship season yesterday (April 15).

Simon Lambert is in front in heat four for Peterborough Panthers against Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.

Simon Lambert is in front in heat four for Peterborough Panthers against Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.

The city outfit were 51-39 winners against Redcar in an East of England Arena clash which went the full distance despite frequent rain creating testing conditions.

Guest Paul Starke provided an excellent spearhead for Panthers with a 12-point haul on a day where no member of the home team scored less than five.

They sealed victory with a couple of races to spare as number one Scott Nicholls and Ulrich Ostergaard combined for a 5-1 in heat 13 when the surface was at its most treacherous. A time of 68.4 for that race was some 10 seconds off the track record.

There were positives galore for Panthers with number one Nicholls enjoying his first race victories in the fourth meeting of the campaign.

Panthers skipper Ulrich Ostergaard ledas heat seven in the win over Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.

Panthers skipper Ulrich Ostergaard ledas heat seven in the win over Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.

Emil Grondal continued his super start to 2018 by going unbeaten by an opponent through his opening three rides while captain Simon Lambert also delivered a pair of triumphs down at reserve.

His bottom-end partner, Tom Bacon, also contributed well along with middle-order man Nike Lunna, who is clearly still sussing our the quickest way around the Alwalton circuit while also returning from a bad crash that cut short his 2017 season.

Panthers team boss Carl Johnson said: “We needed to hit the ground running and we’ve done that.

“Every rider had at least one paid win and that sort of strength from one to seven is very pleasing to see.

“We’re not a team built to rely on one man. We need everyone to do their jobs and they’re doing them well.

“The rain didn’t make it easy for the riders, but both teams put on a good spectacle given the conditions.

“We could probably have called it off towards the end, but Redcar were keen to continue while they could still get a point and our boys didn’t have a problem with racing on either.”

Grondal enjoyed an untroubled tapes-to-flag success in the opener which inspired a 4-2, but Panthers soon found themselves behind as impressive Redcar reserves Tobias Busch and Theo Pijper replied with a 5-1.

A Starke-led 4-2 immediately pulled the hosts level and they took command with a powerful mid-meeting surge.

Grondal took the flag in another 4-2 in heat six and then combined with his skipper to great effect for a 5-1 in heat eight. That provided a second successive full house after Ostergaard and Bacon breezed clear in the previous instalment.

Starke, who helped the club to two trophies last season and stepped in for the injured Michael Palm Toft, blazed round the boards to glory in a shared ninth heat and the next race also ended in deadlock as Nicholls claimed that first triumph by thwarting tactical substitute Ben Barker. Nicholls scythed through from third to first with a fine move on the opening lap.

Their lead would have increased had Ostergaard not tumbled out of heat 11 when within metres of taking the chequered flag. He deserved more for a fine front-running ride to keep a hard-charging Barker, who is now a Peterborough asset, at bay.

That spill gifted Redcar a 4-2 but Panthers were not about to see an advantage slashed as they did in their SGB Championship Shield season-opener against Lakeside last month.

They secured victory when Nicholls and Ostergaard tip-toed through the slime in heat 13 and Redcar’s hopes of a consolation point were ended when Busch retired from the penultimate race.

But that wasn’t the end of the drama as chosen Bears riders Mikkel B. Andersen and Barker were both excluded ahead of the finale.

They arrived in the wrong helmet colours and the two minutes had elapsed by the time the issue was rectified. Barker also earned himself a fine for petulantly riding through the starting tapes before having to compete from a 15-metre starting handicap.

Andersen was replaced by reserve Pijper who promptly powered to victory with Starke and Ostergaard packing the minor places.

Panthers now face a wait of almost three weeks for their next action – a re-arranged trip to Sheffield on Thursday, May 3. A clash at Edinburgh follows the next night.

Club bosses are still working to agree a date with Ipswich for their final Southern Group fixture in the SGB Championship Shield.

SCORES

Panthers: Paul Starke (guest) 12, Emil Grondal 8+1, Scott Nicholls 8, Simon Lambert 7, Ulrich Ostergaard 6+2, Tom Bacon 5+2, Nike Lunna 5+1.

Redcar: Tobias Busch 9+2, Ben Barker 9, Theo Pijper 8+2, Jonas B. Andersen 4+1, Matej Kus 4, Mikkel B. Andersen 3, Jordan Stewart 2.

HEATS

1 - Grondal, Stewart, Nicholls, Barker, 60.0 (4-2, 4-2)

2 - Busch, Pijper, Lambert, Bacon, 61.6 (1-5, 5-7)

3 - Starke, J. Andersen, Lunna, M. Andersen, 63.0 (4-2, 9-9)

4 - Lambert, Kus, Pijper, Ostergaard, 63.0 (3-3, 12-12)

5 - Barker, Starke, Lunna, Stewart (fell), 63.2 (3-3, 15-15)

6 - Grondal, Busch, Nicholls, Kus, 61.1 (4-2, 19-17)

7 - Ostergaard, Bacon, J. Andersen, M. Andersen, 62.3 (5-1, 24-18)

8 - Lambert, Grondal, Pijper, Stewart, 63.5 (5-1, 29-19)

9 - Starke, Kus, Busch, Lunna, 63.4 (3-3, 32-22)

10 - Nicholls, Barker (t/s), Busch, Grondal, 62.4 (3-3, 35-25)

11 - Barker, Bacon, Pijper, Ostergaard (fell), 64.0 (2-4, 37-29)

12 - Lunna, Busch, J. Andersen, Lambert, 65.4 (3-3, 40-32)

13 - Nicholls, Ostergaard, Barker, Kus, 68.4 (5-1, 45-33)

14 - M. Andersen, Starke, Bacon, Busch (ret), 66.6 (3-3, 48-36)

15 - rerun Pijper (M. Andersen exc 2 mins), Starke, Ostergaard, Barker (15m), 66.6 (3-3, 51-39)