Bandits' owners pledge to race on after ending season on a high
'Let's do it all again in 2018,' .... that was the message from Berwick co-promoter Scott Courtney as the Bandits brought the curtain down on the 2017 season in style at Shielfield on Saturday.
In what has been a roller-coaster of a 50th year for the club, Berwick beat Championship league leaders Sheffield 50-40 to make it six home wins in a row at the Border track.
“It was a brilliant way to finish,” said Courtney. “So much has happened on and off track this season, but the lads have been superb over the closing weeks of the campaign, and to win six in a row at home is absolutely fantastic.
“It’s not been easy, but the riders have been great, the fans have stuck with us, and yes, let’s do it all again in 2018.”
Team manager Gary Havelock added: “After our lousy start to the season with all that bad luck and injuries we’ve finished this season like a steam train, and it really gives us strength and a real belief for the seasons to come.
“This group of guys have really come together to work as a single-minded unit, with a team spirit second to none, and we’re so pleased with that as we set out to be a ‘riders’ club,’ a one where the riders and supporters are the most important people we deal with and that has given us such a brilliant pits atmosphere that even now we’ve finished bottom of the pile (and I hope we actually get a wooden spoon mind!) we’ve done so much good ground work and hammered down a solid foundation for the future seasons to build and improve on.
“We wanted to get that firm base for this club to thrive on and we’ve achieved that with the supporters and behind the scenes staff who work tirelessly as volunteers, none of whom we could do without as they keep the daily club stuff going brilliantly.
“But what a great way to end the season, and I don’t think there’s many who want March next year to come round as quick as possible!”
Berwick Bandits 50
Sheffield Tigers 40
Berwick ended the season on a high with their sixth win in a row at home by beating league leaders Sheffield at Shielfield.
The makeshift Bandits, with only three of their regular team going to the tapes, defeated the Tigers with a solid, workmanlike performance, in which all all six riders, including the three guests, scored solidly.
They were missing number one Nick Morris, who was riding in the Premiership Riders’ Championship for Swindon and in-form reserve Jye Etheridge, who sustained a collarbone injury whilst racing at Swindon on Thursday.
The visitors, who have been tipped by many as favourites to win the Championship, will look at a blown engine for Jan Graversen when leading a 5-1 in heat eight, a retinal from Josh Bates in ten and a failure by Bates to make the start-line in 14 as all sources of possible dropped points, which probably cost them dearly.
Guest Stevie Worrall, who is usually so reliable around Shielfield, also had a poor night by his standards, running two last places in his four outings, which also didn’t help their cause.
In Kyle Howarth, who dropped only one point from five starts, and Lasse Bjerre, they had two riders who between them won seven races, and contributed more than half their team’s total.
But this was a night when the Bandits again rose to the challenge. Two 5-1s from guest reserves Ashley Morris and Alfie Bowtell in heat two and skipper Kevin Doolan and Dany Gappmaier in five, saw the home side take an eight point advantage at 19-11.
Sheffield managed to reduce the arrears slightly with a 2-4 in seven, but that was to be their only heat advantage other than in heat 15, and by then the Bandits were already home and dry, Doolan and David Howe having taken the Borderers past the point where the Tigers could even chase a losing bonus point.
Berwick: Doolan 13, Gappmaier 10+1, Douglas (guest) 8+3, Howe 8, Morris (guest) 7+3, Bowtell (guest) 4+3.
Sheffield: Howarth 14, Bjerre 12, Bates 5+1, Worrall (guest) 5, Graversen 2+1, Wood 2.
* Berwick number one Nick Morris scored eight points from his five rides in the Premiership Riders’ Championship at Belle Vue, whilst representing parent club Swindon.
Morris, who has been in superb form for the Bandits in the second half of the season, had one win, two second places and a third.
He failed to qualify for the race-off and the meeting was eventually won by Freddie Lindgren, with Max Fricke the runner-up and Craig Cook third.