1 October 2022
Leicester Lion Cubs 52 GHT Bullets 37 So now we know. Mildenhall…
Leon Flint enjoyed a perfect night as he added the British under-21 Championship to his Under-19 crown.
With all the action and occasional carnage going on in his wake the 19-year-old FTS Bandits, powered by Keenwood Karpets rising superstar went to the start line nine times at Perry Barr in Birmingham – and nine times he came out of the second bend in a race winning position.
He was untouchable through the 20 qualifying heats, finishing two points clear of defending champion Tom Brennan – the pre-meeting joint favourites going straight to the Grand final where they were joined by Leicester’s Dan Thompson and Glasgow’s Connor Bailey.
Having chosen the inside gate Leon once again shot into the first bend but his Great Britain team-mate Brennan picked up too much grip on the second lap and clipped the back straight fence before careering into the third bend airbags, Glasgow team-mate Connor Bailey dropping his bike on the straight to avoid further carnage.
With former Bandits Liam Carr and current team-mate Theo Pijper in his pits, Leon kept his cool and rolled off another stunning start in the rerun, Bailey overcooking the third bend to allow Dan Thompson through for the silver medal.
“In the past I would probably have spit my dummy when the red lights came on,” Leon admitted. “But tonight I had been calm and focussed and just concentrated on making another good start.”
After another tapes to flag triumph the young Northumbrian celebrated victory on the track where he began his professional career as a 15-year-old with a burnout in front of the main stand and a series of doughnuts which would have had another former team-mate Dani Gappmaier purring as he watched the livestream broadcast back in Austria.
“To be honest I didn’t feel especially quick, especially in the first four qualifying heats,” he admitted after receiving his trophy.
“Really it was all about riding the right lines and if the final wasn’t at Berwick I would probably have chosen Birmingham as a close second favourite track.
“Anyone who has followed my career will know that the inside isn’t normally my usual line but it worked well for me tonight. All those laps around Monmore Green (home of his Premiership club Wolverhampton) paid off when it mattered.”
Leon set the tone for the night when he roared home half a lap clear in the rerun opening heat while his main rival, Brennan had to battle from third past Joe Thompson and Drew Kemp.
Glasgow’s anglicised reserve Connor Bailey was Leon’s main rival in the opening exchanges but he performed an uncomfortable 360 on the slick first bend as he tried to reel in the impressive Nathan Ablitt.
Heat 13 was highlighted in the programme as a potential final decider but another huge start saw Leon clear of Joe Thompson with Brennan having to work his way from the back, the Glasgow man’s race challenge ended when he just managed to hold onto a huge wheelie after picking up drive coming out of the fourth bend.
Bailey may still have been suffering from the effects of his spill when he met the Berwick maestro in heat 18 with Kemp, who faded badly after a good start to the meeting, blocking his progress for three laps.
It wasn’t just the Bandits’ vice-captain making a name for himself in the second city as Ace Pijper – promoted into the meeting following the late withdrawal of Jordan Jenkins bounced back to finish the meeting strongly.
After a last in his first ride the 15-year-old was challenging Joe Thompson when he slid off on the third bend and third time out he was the victim of a first bend domino effect as Harry McGurk impeded younger brother Sam going into the first bend and he drove his former Berwick Academy team-mate into the fence.
In the rerun he opened his account but better was to come in heat 16 when he found the perfect line down the back straight to roar past both Atkins and Kemp for a stunning win.
The very next heat saw him gate level with Brennan and give the Glasgow man a tough couple of laps to end the night with six points under his belt in a championship in which he can have six more attempts over the coming years.
And he couldn’t have a better role model than the new double British champion who has also graduated through the Berwick Academy via the National League and Championship to being a serial silverware grabber and Great Britain regular.
Berwick promoter and team manager Gary Flint followed his son’s triumph and the fine showing from Ace via the British Speedway Network.
After the dust settled he said: “Words don’t really do justice to how proud I am of the boys tonight, as Berwick promoter, their team manager and Leon’s dad.
“In some ways it probably benefitted Ace to be called up late so he didn’t have too much time to think about it but the way he bounced back from a difficult couple of opening rides showed a lot of maturity for one so young.
“As for Leon. Well I know that the last ten days or so have been difficult for him as he suffered some self-doubt. Tonight shows what happens when he relaxes and just concentrates on riding his bike.
“Two British titles in one season. That is some achievement and I am just incredibly proud.”