TWO wins in three days by the Eastbourne Lifestyle Eagles would normally have me jumping for joy, especially as one of those was an away win.
And, although pleased at the success, my heart is still heavy when I think of speedway. We are all still mourning the death of Hastings-born and former Eagles captain Lee Richardson, reported in last week’s issue.
Before the start of Saturday’s match at Arlington, the crowd stood in silent tribute to Lee. It was immaculately done, with the only sound around the motor-sport stadium being that of bird song.
After the silence, there was a prolonged period of applause – and the sounding of air horns – to celebrate his life and contribution to the world of speedway.
During the interval riders went into the crowd to make a collection for the Richardson family. They gathered in more than £2,800, with Bob and Eric Dugard making it up to £3,000 – a tremendous total.
Team manager Trevor Geer also mentioned during the meeting that the possibility of holding a meeting to benefit Lee’s family was also under consideration.
With those sadnesses in the air, the Eastbourne v Swindon Elite League match turned into quite a battle, with the result in the balance until the closing stages.
As the match reached its conclusion, the Eagles got a wriggle on and Timo Lahti won three races to give the Eagles all three points in a 51-39 win. Lahti finished with 15 points plus three bonus: his best performance for the Eagles.
On Monday night, he was in similar form as the Eagles took three league points away from Belle Vue with a 49-victory – Lahti topping the charts with 16 points.
After heat ten, the Eagles were set to go home with nothing. They were 35-27 adrift and struggling to stay on terms.
What happened in the last five races (four actually) was nothing short of sensational as the Eagles cashed in when a number of Belle Vue riders found themselves excluded for crashing and causing races to be stopped and failing to beat time allowances.
A 4-2 in heat 11 set the ball rolling and then Lahti and Simon Gustafsson took a 5-1 from the gate to slash the gap to two points.
Much depended on the outcome of heat 13 and although the Eagles duo were set to get the drop on their opponents the race was quickly called to a halt as the home team’s Chris Harris lost control and took a nasty tumble heading into the first bend.
The Team GB rider was duly disqualified, handing the impetus back to the visitors – and they weren’t destined to disappoint as Mads Korneliussen led from the outset, with Lewis Bridger coming through to join him, having demonstrated a superb outside pass of Charlie Gjedde on the approach to the final lap.
Eastbourne were now 41-39 ahead with just two races left on the card.
Lahti capped a fantastic performance throughout the night by teaming up with Cameron Woodward for not only a third successive maximum 5-1 for the Sussex side but also the one that secured overall victory and a guaranteed three Elite League points.
Heat 15 saw Belle Vue take a 5-1 but it could not save them from victory… so the Eagles had turned it all round in four races. Normally, that’s the cue for wild celebrations but on this occasion the champagne stayed very much on ice. Yes, the show goes on but I think there will be few in speedway who are still sad over Lee Richardson’s death and concerned for his young family.