‘King Ken’ again the Ace in Panthers’ pack
PANTHERS ................. 54 BELLE VUE ................. 40
Elite League B, Panthers 3pts, Belle Vue 0pts) A STUNNING start, a fabulous finish and a wonderful win - Panthers produced their very own summer sizzler to storm back into the Elite League play-off places last night.
Star turn Kenneth Bjerre was responsible for book-ending this meeting in quite brilliant fashion. In between the entire Panthers corps showed their class to see off a side packed with plenty of Showground prowess.
The Danish dynamo smashed the Alwalton track record for the third time in a fairytale personal season by knocking a staggering three-tenths-of-a-second off his own previous best with an opening heat exhibition.
That 58.5 second showing was a stunning return to action after a three-week absence from home shale and the high-class contributions kept on coming right up until Bjerre signed off in fine style by zooming past Aces star Peter Karlsson in a great final instalment.
The veteran Swede was the only man to claim the scalp of Bjerre - getting the verdict with a fine ride from the front when they met in heat six. But this was Panthers’ day as they leapfrogged their victims to return to fourth spot in the standings.
“It was a great night and a great result,” said team manager Trevor Swales. “I’m running out of superlatives for Kenneth. When you think he can’t possibly go much quicker, he takes another huge chunk off the track record.
“He was terrific and the whole team performed very well against dangerous opponents.”
Swales was right. Skipper Niels Kristian Iversen returned from injury with a paid 11-point haul while there were solid scores right across the Panthers card.
Latest recruit Norbert Kosciuch enjoyed an eventful debut lit up by playing his part in an important eighth-heat maximum along with Troy Batchelor.
Kosciuch opened his account at the first attempt with third place in heat two when the Pole was briefly on the tail of partner Mat Tresarrieu before Aces man Josh Grajczonek forced his way down the inside going into the third bend of the opening lap.
Kosciuch then dropped to the back in heat four after getting rather too close for comfort to the back wheel of Karlsson and that race sparked a quick turnaround in the meeting.
Panthers had pulled eight points clear after the opening three instalments but that was soon eroded as Karlsson provided the first Aces triumph of the night.
In the process the Swede ensured there was no fairytale winning return for Iversen after his 10-meeting lay-off with a shoulder injury.
And worse was to follow that 4-2 as former Peterborough hero Hans Andersen and James Wright teamed up for a Belle Vue maximum in the next after Panthers duo Rory Schlein and Krzysztof Buczkowski tripped over each other through the first couple of corners. It was a rapid downturn in fortunes after they had produced a third-heat 5-1 of their own.
Karlsson continued the Aces’ purple patch by defeating Bjerre before Iversen snapped the run of away winners as Panthers edged four points clear courtesy of a seventhrace 4-2.
Then came that maximum from Batchelor and Kosciuch as the Showground faithful willed their latest recruit home with Wright applying plenty of pressure.
Karlsson completed his hat-trick in the next but Belle Vue were soon in need of the black and white hel- met for a tactical ride.
A 5-1 procession from Bjerre and Batchelor in heat 10 cast the visitors 10 points adrift and led to Andersen going in pursuit of double points.
But his bid was thwarted by a fine ride from the returning Iversen who hit the front through the first couple of bends and held onto his advantage throughout.
Schlein’s victory in heat 12 kept the home cushion intact before a magnificent outing from their main men had them home and hosed.
Bjerre made a fine start from the inside trap and Iversen soon followed him past old Panthers pal Andersen while a distant Karlsson saw his copybook blotted for the first time.
Buczkowski claimed his first victory in the main body of the Panthers fold with a trademark round-the-outside surge to get the better of the double-points chasing Aces guest Ty Proctor in the penultimate contest. Reserve Tresarrieu grabbed the minor honours to complete a six-point performance made up of scoring contributions in all four outings.
The spotlight was soon back on Bjerre as he wore down Karlsson in a cracking finale. Despite his GP hiccup last weekend, Bjerre continues to shine on Pathers duty.
And now his team-mates are also starting to do that on a regular basis.
EN ROUTE TO THE RECORD: Kenneth Bjerre leads Troy Batchelor (left), Hans Andersen (back) and James Wright (right) on his way to the track record in heat one.
Picture: BEN DAVIS