TIGHT AT THE TOP AS ZACH WINS
Youth would have its fling as Eastbourne ‘Forman IT’ Eagles’ season finally got under way with the hosting of the British Under-21 Championship Semi-Final.
At the end of 20 challenging heats, in rain affected conditions, Zach Wajknecht (Lakeside / Swindon) and Max Clegg (Rye House / Stoke) both finished top of the pile with 14-points.
Wajknecht was named the meeting winner as he triumphed over Clegg when the pair met in heat nine, writes Kevin Ling.
Connor Mountain (Ipswich / Coventry) finished in third place with 12 points, one point clear of James Shanes (Poole / Sheffield) who recovered from a fall in his first race to amass 11-points.
For Eastbourne it was to prove a bitter sweet evening as Tom Brennan suffered just one of those evenings and failed to make the cut finishing in 12th place on an uncharacteristically low 5-points.
The home disappointment was tempered in no small way, however, as the lively Jason Edwards won his final outing to claim the seventh and final qualifying place having finished on 9-points alongside fellow qualifier, Mildenhall’s Drew Kemp.
Former Eagle Josh Bailey (Mildenhall) included two wins in his 10-point total as he completed the successful seven that will progress to the competition final.
Another high-profile casualty as regards qualification was Mildenhall’s Jordan Jenkins who just failed to make the cut, finishing agonisingly short on 7-points.
Eastbourne’s other hopeful, Charlie Brooks did not enjoy the best of fortunes finishing with a single point from his five outings. However, he showed flashes of what is to come and the progress he is likely to make as the campaign unfolds.
Clegg began the evening winning heat one, Brennan recovering from a mid-race error that saw him slip from second to the rear of the field, the Eagle charging past Kemp in the latter stages to finish in third place.
The rain that had started just prior to the meeting continued to fall and looked to present a problem as both Shanes and Ryan Kinsley were ruled out in separate incidents following falls.
The onset of race four had the home fans cheering as Edwards made a swift start to head both Wajknecht and Jenkins out of the traps.
It took the senior rider a lap to make his way past but Edwards marked his first ride as a fully-fledged Eagle by keeping the Mildenhall rider at bay.
Shanes got his challenge back on track as he headed Edwards home for the win in heat six.
The big showdown followed in the ninth as Wajknecht got the better of Clegg, a race that ultimately determined the top rostrum spot.
All the time, Mountain was quietly piling up the points, 11-points from his first four outings, a solitary defeat by Wajknecht in race eight, seeing him well amongst the front runners.
Shanes defeat of Wajknecht in heat fifteen threw the competition open once more with Clegg and Mountain, as well as the Lakeside / Swindon man each having been headed once to the chequered flag.
The mist cleared slightly as Clegg headed both Shanes and Mountain home in race seventeen to finish on 14-points, meaning that Wajknecht had to do likewise and win his final race to force the count back.
This he duly did, defeating Bailey to record the win that effectively won him the meeting.
Edwards rounded off proceedings in fine style, leading the field home in heat 20 to claim the crucial seventh qualifying spot.
The contrast in fortunes from an Eastbourne perspective was emphasised in no small way however as Brennan slid into the fence at the second turn of the final race, eclipsing his fading hopes of progression in disappointing fashion.
In the final reckoning however, all riders should be applauded for the positive way they battled on and completed the meeting in the face of worsening conditions due to the weather.
Meeting referee Chris Gay was particular keen to demonstrate his appreciation of the fact.
1st Zach Wajknecht (Lakeside / Swindon) 14, 2nd Max Clegg (Rey House / Stoke) 14, 3rd Connor Mountain (Ipswich / Coventry) 12, 4th James Shanes (Poole / Sheffield) 11, 5th Josh Bailey (Mildenhall) 10, 6th Drew Kemp (Mildenhall) 9, 7th Jason Edwards (Eastbourne) 9,
8th Jordan Jenkins (Mildenhall) 7, 9th Luke Ruddick (Coventry) 7, 10th Jamie Halder (Coventry) 6, 11th Luke Harris (Coventry) 6, 12th Tom Brennan (Eastbourne) 5, 13th Ryan Kinsley (Mildenhall) 5, 14th Matt Marson (Mildenhall) 2, 15th Charlie Brooks (Eastbourne) 1, 16th Aaran Butcher (Birmingham) 0
Meeting Reserves: James Laker 1-point (1 ride), Rhys Laker (did not ride)