Belle Vue Colts 61
GHT Bullets 29
Bullets’ were left counting the cost of men and machinery as their opening National Development League clash of the season ended in a heavy defeat.
Teenager Archie Freeman suffered a broken leg and Mason Watson was concussed forcing their early withdrawal from the meeting while Josh Embleton – one of only two Berwick race winners at the National Speedway Stadium on Good Friday afternoon, was withdrawn from his final ride after suffering burns to a leg in an untidy tumble.
With skipper Greg Blair blowing one engine and suffering more mechanical gremlins with his second bike and borrowed equipment the visitors always had an uphill task against the fast-starting home side.
While the result was never in doubt as Sam Hagon roared to a full fiver-ride maximum while James Pearson and Jack Smith were both paid for full houses, Connor Coles, Danny Phillips and Jamie Halder – along with Embleton before his misfortune – made them work hard for their points, especially in the second half of the encounter.
Freeman made the best gate in the opening heat but seemed short on power as Smith and Luke Muff overhauled him. He visibly slowed as he moved to the inside line leaving Coles with nowhere to go other than into his young team-mate.
Coles fell heavily while Freeman slid off further around the corner but the damage had been done in the collision and when medical staff got his boot off a broken leg was quickly diagnosed.
In the rerun Muff lost his steel show allowing Coles to split the home pairing but the Colts made no mistake with a heat two maximum.
Phillips won the battle with Hagon over where to draw the line at the start of heat three and had the better of the race until the final lap when the former Oxford man made a clean pass.
Bullets, powered by STS, finally made a gate in four with Blair and Halder making the early running only for first Pearson to hit the front, Freddy Hodder clinching third on the last lap.
Coles worked hard to split the Pearson and Matt Marson in five but Blair’s startline engine explosion effectively ended his contribution to the afternoon.
Hard-working reserve Jamie Halder. Picture: Taz McDougal
Belle Vue steadily opened up a gap and Berwick were further hampered when Watson ploughed into the third bend fence in seven, Phillips managing another second place in seven.
Finally there was something for the Bullets to cheer about as Embleton and Halder gated together in eight and were never troubled.
Embleton was challenging again in the next heat only to fall awkwardly, the bike flipping on top of him and the hot exhaust burning through his kevlars.
Phillips and Halder split the points behind Smith in 11 while their sole representative in 12, Coles, kept Paul Bowen at bay but couldn’t catch Pearson.
With Embleton in some discomfort the hard-working Halder was on his own in 12 but couldn’t prevent another 5-1 for Hagon and Hodder.
Another followed in 13 as even aboard Embleton’s bike, Blair couldn’t complete the four laps.
Phillips led from tapes to flag in 14 to share the spoils but he was left at the back in the nominated riders’ race, Coles’ gating well but unable to recover after Hagon moved him out to the fence on the first bend.
“There was no way back after losing Archie and Mason so early in proceedings,” team manager Gary Flint said after the meeting.
“It’s such as shame for Archie who had shot ahead but really seemed to slow dramatically leaving Connor nowhere to go and he basically ran over his leg. It was the impact which caused the damage rather than the fall and initially the concern was for Connor who hit the fence heavily.
“A few of the riders made a mistake with their gearing in the early races – Belle Vue is a unique circuit and the home side really benefits from knowing what is quite a tricky set-up to get right.
“Once they added a couple of teeth to the gears then they were much more competitive.
“Initially Mason seemed to have recovered pretty well from his Tai Woffinden impression into the third bend fence but he came to me in the pits saying that his vision was a bit blurry.
“We’ll take no chances with head injuries so that was him out for the meeting and for the next nine days.
“Josh was beginning to look good but then fell, the crash was innocuous enough but the hot exhaust burned his leg and we rested him from his final rides because he was in quite a bit of discomfort.
“Jamie probably wasn’t expecting seven rides from his first meeting of the season but he was one of the bright spots of the afternoon while Danny and Connor showed flashes.
“Anyone can suffer a blown engine, that is just bad luck, but Greg’s second bike wasn’t really up to the task and he struggled all afternoon when we could have expected a few more points from him.
“Look you cannot deny that it was a heavy defeat but one of the things about this level is learning and moving on.
“That’s exactly what we have to do with just a few hours before we are back on track at Leicester.”
Colts: Smith 11+1, Muff 3+1, Hagon 15, Marson 5+2, Pearson 14+1, Bowen 4+1, Hodder 9+1
Bullets: Coles 8, Freeman 0, Watson 0, Phillips 9, Embleton 4, Halder 5+2