AUSTRALIA SELECT 50 REST OF THE WORLD SELECT 43
From the Oak Tree Arena
SOME of Speedway's biggest stars took to the Somerset track to pay homage to one of the sport's great servants in Mark Lemon for his 20th Anniversary Testimonial Meeting.
They produced racing befitting the occasion in front of one of the largest crowds ever seen at the Oak Tree Arena.
The tone of the meeting was set from the opening heat when Australia's Troy Batchelor headed Hans Andersen into the first bend, clamping the GP star on the white line and then rode an excellent four laps to keep Andersen pegged back in second place, despite his adversary trying every which way to find a way past into the lead.
By the end of heat four, the Australians had quickly established a six-point lead, the main focus of interest coming in the fourth heat when the current Oak Tree Arena track record holder, Leigh Adams, came to the tapes, the crowd eager to see if he could lower the 56.08 seconds record time he set at the start of the 2007 season.
As soon as the tapes rose, one could tell that Adams had that record in his sights but, with Peter Karlsson putting him under pressure in the opening lap and a half, it took vital tenths off Adams' final time of 56.52 seconds, which was to be the fastest time of the night.
A first heat advantage to the Rest of the World in heat five saw them cut the deficit to four points and the two sides were soon all-square, with a maximum 5-1 to the Rest of the World courtesy of Peter Karlsson and James Wright.
The Aussies immediately hit back with a brace of maximum heat wins of their own to re-establish an eight-point lead, Lemon winning heat eight in fine style.
But, like two heavyweight boxers slugging it out in the ring, so the Rest of the World came back at the Australians once again as the Karlsson and Wright combination posted their second successive maximum heat win to bring their side back to within four points of the Australians.
But that was as good as it got for the Rest of the World septet and further heat advantages for the Australians saw them stretch their lead out to 10 points by the end of heat 12, prompting Rest of the World team manager and 1993 world champion Sam Ermolenko, to send his number one, Hans Andersen, to the tapes in the black and white helmet colour for a double-point, tactical ride move.
Andersen did not let his team manager down, winning the heat in fine style after cleverly blocking off Adams' attempt on an outside run in the first turn, the resultant 7-2 heat win for the Rest of the World side bringing them right back into the match, just five points shy of the Aussies.
A 4-2 race win by Rene Bach and Emil Kramer in the penultimate heat took the meeting into a last-heat decider, the Australians holding a slender three-point lead.
The Australians were not, however, going to let this meeting slip from their grasp and, as the tapes rose on the all-important 15th and final heat, Troy Batchelor and Steve Johnston sped from the tapes to get to the first turn in the lead.
They then combined to hold off Bach, who tried in vain to split the Aussie partnership, the 5-1 heat win to the Australian's seeing them run out the 50-43 winners of an entertaining meeting.
The individual contest that followed the main event was won by Hans Andersen, the Poole rider snuffing out Adams' challenge as the pair took to the first bend.
Andersen's move allowed Lemon to come around the outside and into second place, a position he held on to despite being put under intense pressure by Adams, with Travis McGowan coming home in fourth place.
Somerset finished in sixth place in the Premier League table, missing out in a place in the play-offs.
However, they are still in the Young Shield, where they will take on the Stoke Potters.
The first leg takes place in Stoke tomorrow and the return leg on Friday, October 2, at the Oak Tree Arena.