After a week of terrible weather, including the inevitable late afternoon shower, Armadale had an opening meeting which was better than we had any right to expect as the Staggs Bar Monarchs beat a strong side of old friends labelled the Monarchs Champions by 48 points to 40.
Inevitably it was a friendly atmosphere in the pits but nothing could hide the determination of the current side to make a strong start at home. They all had their moments with everyone paid for at least 5, but perhaps captain Erik Riss and Max Ruml (on his home debut) were the standouts.
Team manager Alex Harkess said “It was a very good workout for the boys and I was really keen that they got on the track before the Shield match at Berwick tomorrow. The track staff worked wonders and I thought it was a very entertaining night. The only disappointment was an injury to Joel Andersson but it should not be too serious.”
Big things are expected from Erik Riss this season and tonight did nothing to dispel these thoughts. He was dynamic from the starts, and pulled off the pass of the night on Craig Cook in heat 11. He did have a fall while leading heat 7 but explained “My front wheel nut came off and the bike straightened on the bend! I was very happy to get off the bike. No real damage.”
Apart from that his only defeat was to the very impressive Rory Schlein in heat 15. Rory actually passed Riss early in the heat. Erik piled on the pressure to try to return the compliment, belying the fact that it was a challenge fixture in which the result was already decided, but he could not quite catch Rory.
Much attention centred on Craig Cook but the GP star fell while leading heat 1 and never quite looked like his old self. He said “It’s great to be back but I just wish I could have given a better performance. I’ve spent a lot on my equipment this year but I haven’t got it right, and in any case I don’t really have anything that works round Armadale these days. It’s all for Belle Vue and Poland, the engines just drive all the time.”
Maybe the most encouraging sign of all for the home side was Max Ruml’s performance. He was extremely unlucky in heat 1, holding second when Cook fell but having to adjust his line which allowed Ashley Morris through. On the next turn Ruml tried a bold inside pass but there just wasn’t quite enough room, which meant they both came off against the fence.
Undaunted, Max took a third in his next before enjoying his first race win quite comfortably in heat 8, heading the useful Morris. He tried so hard to back Ricky Wells to a 5-1 in heat 10, but fell victim to one of these lovely inside passes by Matthew Wethers, a move Matthew made his own in his Armadale days.
It was a terrific debut for the young American, and the other new boy Joel Andersson also won a heat. Joel’s night ended unfortunately in heat 14 when Jacob Buckhave surprisingly burst round the outside and headed down the back straight in front, only to fall right in Joel’s path at the next bend. Joel had no chance of avoiding him and went into the fence. He will probably miss the trip to Berwick with a shoulder injury but we should see him again next week.
Josh Pickering will probably be wondering why we have not mentioned him yet after a sound showing, 10+1 including a win in the heat 14 rerun. Bags of effort as always and gating… well not too bad.
Matt Williamson scored in every ride and Mark Riss would have done had he not fallen while leading heat 3. The track was certainly quite tricky early on.
Heat leaders Ricky Wells and Aaron Summers have both had better Armadale nights but returned reasonable scores.
So that’s the opening night out of the way and most supporters must have gone home happy.
Team Manager: Alex Harkess
|1. Ricky Wells||2||2||3||0||1*||8||1|
|2. Max Ruml||FD||1*||3||1||5||1|
|3. Mark Riss||0||2||1*||1*||4||2|
|4. Joel Andersson||3||0||2||5||0|
|5. Erik Riss||3||FD||3||3||2||11||0|
|6. Matt Williamson||1*||2||1||1||5||1|
|7. Josh Pickering||2||2*||1||2||3||10||1|
Team Manager: Alan Bridgett
|1. Craig Cook||FD||3||2||1*||6||1|
|2. Ashley Morris||3||1||2||0||6||0|
|3. Aaron Summers||1*||3||0||3||0||7||1|
|4. Matthew Wethers||2||XD||2||2||6||0|
|5. Rory Schlein||1||3||3||2||3||12||0|
|6. Max Clegg||3||0||0||0||3||0|
|7. Jacob Bukhave||0||0||0||FD||0||0|
As the Staggs Bar Monarchs enter into their 70th year what better way to start than by celebrating champions of our past (well maybe stuffing the Tigers and winning the Scottish Cup last week would have been but rain put paid to that.)
So we open our season with a challenge much billed as Monarchs vs Monarchs Champions and what a great trip down memory lane it will be.
Of course the Monarchs are the most successful club of the last era at Championship level and have an abundance of riders to call upon for occasions like this. Unfortunately as is the way in speedway other commitments means not all that wanted to be at the Dale could make it with Sam Masters, Max Fricke, Steve Worrall and Theo Pijper all being needed elsewhere and the likes of Kevin Wolbert, Thomas H Jonasson, Justin Sedgmen not in the country and most of the legends of our first ever title win now well into retirement.
That is not to say that a strong line-up of visitors will come to Armadale with a team that would be significantly over the points limit for a Championship team and with an unbelievable amount of Dale experience.
Leading the visitors is perhaps the best Monarch of this generation. A man who joined us as a promising second string but one that was at the crossroads in his career and now is reigning British Champion and soon to be GP regular Craig Cook. We will all have our favourite memories of a race of Cookie’s with mine probably being in an away match at Newcastle where having missed the 2 minutes Cookie lined up form 15 metres. As ever there was only one thing in Cookie’s mind and that was to blast it round the boards and win the heat and within 2 laps he was on the tail of the heat leader going into the third and 4th bend Cookie overcooked it and bounced of the fence. Did this deter him though….. Not a chance and by the next lap he was rounding the field the to take the win. Fantastic memories from a remarkable Monarch.
Backing up Cookie will be the one of our 2003 champions remarkably one of 3 still riding in the UK. It’s the Roo Boy Rory Schlein. Still a classy competitor even 15 years after our maiden title win. Rory is now an elder statesman and ambassador for all riders in the UK with his forthright views on rider safety and the like also listened to due to his experience and knowledge. A tough competitor on track it is always a pleasure to welcome back Rory to the Dale.
Third heat leader for the Champions select is Aaron Summers. A Monarch league winner in 2008 and a fantastic servant to the Northern clubs in the Championship level haven ridden for the Monarchs, Redcar, Glasgow and now Berwick. This is a big year for Aaron as he takes the mantle at number 1 at the Bandits after a couple of years as one of a powerhouse trio for the Tigers. Aaron is up for the challenge though and it would be a foolish man that would bet against him being reinvigorated by this.
Moving into the second string positions and its 2010 league winner Ashley Morris. Morris appears to have settled in well at Newcastle and is starting to realise the potential it was obvious he had all those years ago. Still only 23 Morris has plenty of time to kick on and this could be the year he does this.
Joining Morris in the second string position is the most decorated Monarch of all time in regards to league win as the only one to complete a hat trick, it’s Matty Wethers. Wethers is a teammate of Morris at Newcastle this year and how good is it to see him back in the league after missing out last year. If there is anyone who knows the quickest way around Armadale it is Matty and he will provide a stern test for our guys tonight.
Into the reserve berth and Max Clegg, Cleggy a league winner in 2015 has moved onto pastures new this year with Rye House in the Premiership and Stoke in the National League after the averages debacle at Lakeside cost him a Championship place. Perhaps the most exciting rider around the Dale of recent years could this be the year that a fresh start means Max starts to fulfil his undoubted potential.
Completing the ‘visitors’ is Jacob Bukhave. Bukhave is looking for a team spot in the UK this year and will be looking to put on a good show on a track he impressed on in the Caledonian Championship last year to make a few promotors take notice.
So a formidable looking line-up for our 2018 Monarchs to test themselves against in what will be the first competitive track action at the Dale for Max and Joel. The recent horrific weather means a lot of our riders will be going in a little rusty with only Ricky and Max having tasted any competitive action since our visit to Ashfield a fortnight a go so a competitive fixture with no bearing on league points looks like the ideal way to start.
Fortunately the forecast looks more promising in the East tonight than it does in the West so there is only one place to be for your speedway fix and that is Armadale with tapes up at 19.30………. see you there!!!
Friday 6th April 2018, 9:10pm
The 2018 Monarchs ran out 48-40 victors against the Champions Select this evening.
Thursday 5th April 2018, 7:58pm
With heavy snow falling in parts of Edinburgh and West Lothian, including Armadale, on Wednesday some doubts were cast on the likelihood of Friday's 70th Anniversary Challenge going ahead. The good news is that the riders are expected to come to tapes on Friday evening.
Wednesday 4th April 2018, 8:34pm
This Friday’s meeting at Armadale, sees a team of riders who have won titles with us in the Armadale era line up to provide a very strong test for our 2018 team.
Sunday 1st April 2018, 5:30pm
The Staggs Bar Monarchs will kick off their 70th Anniversary celebrations next Friday, 6th April, with a special fixture featuring the 2018 team against a select team from the Championship winning sides.