Peterborough Panthers pipped the reigning champions to announce their return to the top level of British speedway in style last night (April 15).
The city side prevailed 46-44 in an engrossing SGB Premiership curtain-raiser against Poole at the East of England Arena which came complete with an exciting finish.
A 5-1 from reserve Aaron Summers and middle-order man Charles Wright in the penultimate race proved decisive for Panthers on a night when the two teams were never split by more than four points.
Back-on-song skipper Hans Andersen then collected the second place required in the finale to ensure the league campaign began with a win while the Pirates headed back to Dorset in possession of a deserved consolation point.
It was seriously fast as well as nail-bitingly close with all 15 races completed in sub-60 second times . . . and there was a new Alwalton track record for the second time in three home meetings in 2019.
Poole ace Brady Kurtz scorched to heat four glory in 57.8 seconds - knocking a tenth off the previous best set by his fellow Australian ace Max Fricke of Belle Vue a fortnight earlier in the opening race of the season.
Panthers team boss Carl Johnson said: “It’s a fantastic result to beat the reigning champions in what we always knew would be a hard meeting. It went all the way to heat 15 again and the entertainment for the fans was excellent.
“Everyone chipped in with points and it shows what we can do on this league with this group of riders.
“We’re well aware of the fact we have a team that is three points under the limit, but that’s only there as a guide and it’s what happens on the track - not on paper - that matters.
“The boys are all doing enough to warrant keeping their places and we’re not just going to make a signing for the sake of it.”
Lasse Bjerre produced a tapes-to-flag triumph in a shared opener before Panthers hit the front as Summers and Ben Barker roared to a smooth 5-1 in heat two, but Poole quickly hit back to level.
Top-scorer Nicolai Klindt provided the visitors’ first victory in the third contest and it contributed to a first advantage as well with Richie Worrall tucking in for third in a 4-2.
Another one followed immediately as Kurtz powered to glory in a new Alwalton best in heat four. He and partner Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen looked set to claim a 5-1 until Andersen darted down the inside of his Danish countryman to snatch second spot.
Panthers edged ahead again when Bradley Wilson-Dean claimed the scalp of former team-mate and current Poole number one Jack Holder to inspire a 4-2 in the hosts’ favour in the fifth instalment.
The away side replied in kind as Kurtz survived plenty of Rohan Tungate pressure to take victory while Nico Covatti forced his way past Bjerre at the back.
And the ding-dong duel continued as Andersen claimed the first race-win of his latest Panthers spell with a start-to-finish success in heat seven as partner Summers bagged third spot in another 4-2.
They maintained a narrow two-point lead as Bjerre scythed through the traffic on the opening lap of a shared eighth contest and the cushion doubled in a terrific heat nine when Charles Wright was too strong for the previously unbeaten Kurtz while Wilson-Dean worked his way past Covatti for third spot.
The impressive Klindt won a heat 10 deadlock but Poole halved their deficit in the next contest as Holder roared clear of Andersen with Josh Grajczonek easing past Summers for third.
And they turned their two-point arrears into a two-point advantage moments later when Klindt led home Busk Jakobsen for a 5-1 in heat 12.
Wilson-Dean gave valiant chase until suffering a spectacular fall when getting out of shape going through the final bend.
He walked away following treatment having suffered a bang to the head and a blow to the hip in the impact of the spill.
Panthers didn’t stay behind for long as Tungate brilliantly blasted past Holder in a heat 13 4-2 and a full-house from Summers and Wright in the penultimate affair put them in control.
Chosen pair Andersen and Tungate simply had to avoid conceding a 5-1 in the finale and they managed that thanks to Andersen in a race won by Holder.
Panthers return to action on Easter Monday (April 22) when hosting King’s Lynn in an A47 derby showdown (6.30pm).
PANTHERS: Hans Andersen 10, Charles Wright 8+1, Lasse Bjerre 7+1, Rohan Tungate 7, Aaron Summers 7, Bradley Wilson-Dean 4, Ben Barker 3+1.
POOLE: Nicolai Klindt 12, Jack Holder 11+1, Brady Kurtz 8, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 6+1, Josh Grajczonek 4+1, Richie Worrall 2, Nico Covatti 1.
1 – Bjerre (58.4), Grajczonek, Holder, Tungate. 3-3, 3-3.
2 – Summers (59.0), Barker, Busk Jakobsen, Covatti. 5-1, 8-4.
3 – Klindt (58.7), Wright, Worrall, Wilson-Dean. 2-4, 10-8.
4 – Kurtz (57.8), Andersen, Busk Jakobsen, Barker. 2-4, 12-12.
5 – Wilson-Dean (58.4), Holder, Wright, Grajczonek. 4-2, 16-14.
6 – Kurtz (58.2), Tungate, Covatti, Bjerre. 2-4, 18-18.
7 – Andersen (58.8), Klindt, Summers, Worrall. 4-2, 22-20.
8 – Bjerre (58.8), Busk Jakobsen, Grajczonek, Barker. 3-3, 25-23.
9 – Wright (58.6), Kurtz, Wilson-Dean, Covatti. 4-2, 29-25.
10 – Klindt (58.7), Tungate, Bjerre, Worrall. 3-3, 32-28.
11 – Holder (58.0), Andersen, Grajczonek, Summers. 2-4, 34-32.
12 – Klindt (59.5), Busk Jakobsen, Barker, Wilson-Dean (fell). 1-5, 35-37.
13 – Tungate (58.6), Holder, Andersen, Kurtz. 4-2, 39-39.
14 – Summers (59.2), Wright, Worrall, Busk Jakobsen. 5-1, 44-40.
15 – Holder (59.6), Andersen, Klindt, Tungate. 2-4, 46-44.