Barely a cloud in the sky, barely an empty seat in the grandstand and barely a dull moment in a marathon meeting – Peterborough Panthers captain Ulrich Ostergaard was treated to a tremendous testimonial yesterday (March 13).
The Danish ace’s ’10 Year Spectacular’ featured stars of the past, present and future on the East of England Showground shale and in front of a fine crowd. It was just the sort of occasion a rider about to start his 14th consecutive season of racing in Britain deserved.
In fact the only thing missing was some points for the main man himself. Ostergaard found himself last in the overall standings after managing just one third place from his five rides.
At the other end of the scoring spectrum, former Panthers men predictably dominated.
Niels Kristian Iversen delivered a flawless maximum to take victory from his 2006 title-winning skipper Hans Andersen with Polish thriller Krzysztof Buczkowski occupying the final step on the podium.
Ostergaard said: “It was a long day, but a great one and I hope everyone enjoyed it.
“I’m so proud to have been able to put on such a good meeting and I’m so thankful to everyone who attended.
“The racing was brilliant at times and it was nice to have everything from youngsters to past stars in the same meeting.
“It’s just a shame I finished last. You never want that to happen, especially in your own meeting!
“It would have been nice to score a few points and win a couple of races in front of all the fans who turned out, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.
“The main thing was that everyone had a great day.”
Iversen was left needing second place in the last of the 20 heats, which made up the main individual meeting, to secure victory.
But the Yaxley-based racer wrapped it up in style by completing his full house with a smooth success over King’s Lynn team-mate Rory Schlein.
Andersen was an admirable second as he claimed a hat-trick of heat wins while Kenneth Bjerre looked to be the biggest danger to Iversen until following up three successive race victories of his own with just one further point.
The other man to reel off three-in-a-row was Buczkowski, who is still as spectacular as ever around the Showground.
The Pole would actually have won four straight races had he not been narrowly pipped by Iversen following a titanic heat seven tussle – arguably the highlight of the afternoon.
There was plenty of promise to be taken from the performances of the current Panthers as well.
Michael Palm Toft was the highest-scorer with a 10-point haul capped by a smart victory in his final ride. Nicklas Porsing also took the chequered flag once – when having Palm Toft, Great Britain international Danny King and Bjerre in behind – on his way to eight.
There were also half-a-dozen entertaining junior races as the Young Lions provided a glimpse into the future.
Arguably the closest finish of all arrived in the very first race of a packed schedule as two of those youngsters served up a treat. Sam Bebee eventually picked Kean Dicken’s pocket by a matter of millimetres.
At a somewhat more sedate pace, the great Hans Nielsen completed a couple of laps of Alwalton. Ostergaard joined his hero for a pre-meeting autograph and photograph session with supporters.
It was also terrific to see Olly Allen back on a bike for a final few laps at a track where he started his career back in the late 1990s. He joined Sky Sports expert Chris Louis for a demonstration race.
The focus now shifts to the Premier League season with Panthers launching their competitive campaign on Easter Monday (March 28) when they host Ipswich in a League Cup Midland Group clash (2pm).
ULRICH OSTERGAARD 10 YEAR SPECTACULAR
Scores: Niels Kristian Iversen 15pts (max), Hans Andersen 13, Krzysztof Buczkowski 12, Kenneth Bjerre 10, Michael Palm Toft 10, Rory Schlein 9, Danny King 8, Nicklas Porsing 8, Kenneth Hansen 7, Anders Thomsen 7, Simon Lambert 6, Emil Grondal 5, Mads Korneliussen 4, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 3, Piotr Swiderski 2, Ulrich Ostergaard 1, Tobias Thomsen (res) 0.