Lublin’s hopes fade at Grudziadz; Częstochowa double Rybnik’s score; Wroclaw remain in the hunt
Ekstraliga Round-up – Midweek Special
In the midweek after Maciej Janowski continued his blistering form to win his second Polish national championship, three postponed meetings took place ahead of the season’s final regular weekend. Janowski’s unbeaten night in Leszno on Monday was immediately followed by a trip to Grudziadz on Wednesday night, 24 hours after Nicki Pedersen & Co hosted playoff-chasing Motor Lublin. ROW Rybnik hosted Czestochowa in the third of the meetings after the league took the decision to alter the location of the meeting in the wake of Czestochowa losing their license.
Here’s how the league set itself up for a thrilling finale…
GKM Grudziadz 46-44 Motor Lublin (Motor Lublin win 102-78 to win Team Bonus Point)
In the tightest battle of the year so far, GKM Grudziadz put a huge dent in Motor Lublin’s playoff hopes with a hard-fought 46-44 victory – just their fourth of the season to date.
After the sides traded maximums in the opening two races, neither side held a lead of more than two points at any point of the evening. And every time either team took a lead with a heat advantage, it was immediately cancelled out by the opposition.
The first corners provided the majority of the action in the early stages; many a lead was won and lost but in heat six, Jakub Jamrog became the unfortunate victim of some classic first-bend bunching. Artem Laguta had made a lightning start from the inside gate but in pushing the man beside him sideways, the domino effect took place, resulting in Jamrog heading backwards into the airfence. The visiting number one was fine to take his place in the re-run but this ended up his final appearance of the evening.
Heat nine saw a wonderful battle in the opening laps between Nicki Pedersen (13) and Grigorij Laguta; the Russian making his way past the three-time world champion at the end of the first lap, after which Pedersen fought back in his own inimitable style, forcing Laguta most of the way to the fence while remaining fair to give him racing room before holding on for the win.
The meeting’s big hitters all contributed to their respective sides; Artem Laguta once again overshadowed his brother with a brilliant 14 points – beating his brother twice in doing so – and Nicki Pedersen rode fantastically well, going unbeaten through his first four rides. Ironically, the Dane’s single point from his only defeat is the one that secured his side’s victory. Not for the first time, Kenneth Bjerre joined the party in the absence of genuine strength in depth, coming in with 10+2 of his own.
Jaroslaw Hampel’s up-and-down season took another upturn; the Pole winning his first three races on the way to a 13-point return and he was supported well by Grigorij Laguta and Mikkel Michelsen. A disappointing haul for Matej Zagar arguably cost Motor Lublin a victory but the strength of Grudziadz’ heat leaders just became too much. Their final meeting at Zielona Gora on Sunday is now a must-win…
|Heat 1||Pedersen, Bjerre, Zagar, Jamrog||66.21s||(5-1)|
|Heat 2||Lampart, Trofymov, Zielinski, Lobodzinski||66.51s||(6-6)|
|Heat 3||A. Laguta, Michelsen, Pawlicki, G. Laguta||64.86s||(10-8)|
|Heat 4||Hampel, Buczkowski, Lampart, Lobodzinski||65.56s||(12-12)|
|Heat 5||Hampel, Bjerre, Pawlicki, Zagar||65.79s||(15-15)|
|Heat 6||(Re-run) A. Laguta, G. Laguta, Jamrog, Zielinski||65.41s||(18-18)|
|Heat 7||Pedersen, Michelsen, Trofymov, Buczkowski||65.63s||(21-21)|
|Heat 8||Hampel, A. Laguta, Zagar, Lobodzinski||65.93s||(23-25)|
|Heat 9||Pedersen, G. Laguta, Buczkowski, Trofymov||66.04s||(27-27)|
|Heat 10||Michelsen, Pawlicki, Bjerre, Lampart||65.65s||(30-30)|
|Heat 11||(Re-run) Pedersen, Hampel, Pawlicki||65.90s||(34-32)|
|Heat 12||G. Laguta, Bjerre, Trofymov, Zielinski||65.82s||(36-36)|
|Heat 13||A. Laguta, Zagar, Michelsen, Buczkowski||65.05s||(39-39)|
|Heat 14||Bjerre, G. Laguta, Zagar, Pawlicki||65.63s||(42-42)|
|Heat 15||A. Laguta, Hampel, Pedersen, Michelsen||65.63s||(46-44)|
ROW Rybnik 30-60 Czestochowa (Czestochowa win 71-109 to win Team Bonus Point)
Czestochowa put their off-track issues behind them as they thumped a sorry ROW Rybnik side 60-30. The win keeps their playoff hopes in their own hands as they enter the final meeting of the season.
The tone was set in heat one when both Rune Holta and Leon Madsen both got past Sergey Logachev on the final lap after the Russian-born home star had led from the first corner. This was the first of five maximums for the visitors in the first seven races.
Heat 10 disappointed home fans further as, despite making the gate ahead of the Czestochowa pair, track conditions meant Vaclav Milik (6) repeatedly got too close to Logachev. This allowed Freddie Lindgren to ease past on his inside and then to make matters worse, Milik was then forced to retire with a puncture. 5-1 to a shared heat in seconds…
After the Lambert/Logachev pairing made the gate in heat 13, veteran Rune Holta suddenly became jet-propelled and looked as if he was going to go up the middle of the two mid-corner, but settled for getting past on the inside on consecutive bends to keep the away card blemish-free.
A truly embarrassing home performance – Logachev’s 9+1 notwithstanding – was further personified by the fact that the Bonus Point was settled after heat eight – that’s after just a meeting and a half – and improved upon Czestochowa’s league-high away win margin (previously their 59-31 at Zielona Gora).
Faster away from the gate on a track that did very little in the way of offering the riders overtaking opportunities, Piotr Swiderski’s men were ruthless from start to finish. Pawel Przedpelski (13+1) came in with his best figures of the season in solid support of top man Jason Doyle (13+2) and junior rider Jakub Miskowiak matched Madsen’s eight points.
The win leaves them in fourth position in the table, two points ahead of Motor Lublin and Sparta Wroclaw (see below). But they still have work to do to hold on a playoff berth, given that they travel to Unia Leszno on Sunday with an eight-point deficit to overturn and Wroclaw travel to relegated ROW Rybnik.
|Heat 1||Holta, Madsen, Logachev, Woryna||67.99s||(1-5)|
|Heat 2||Miskowiak, Swidnicki, Tudziez, Nowacki||67.63s||(2-10)|
|Heat 3||(Re-run)Przedpelski, Milik, Miedzinski, Lindgren||68.05s||(5-13)|
|Heat 4||Miskowiak, Doyle, Nowacki, Szczepaniak (dnf)||67.61s||(6-18)|
|Heat 5||Doyle, Holta, Milik, Logachev||67.30s||(7-23)|
|Heat 6||Madsen, Przedpelski, Tudziez, Miedzinski||66.88s||(8-28)|
|Heat 7||Lindgren, Woryna, Lambert, Swidnicki||66.83s||(11-31)|
|Heat 8||Doyle, Holta, Nowacki, Miedzinski||67.33s||(12-36)|
|Heat 9||Przedpelski, Lambert, Woryna, Madsen||66.07s||(15-39)|
|Heat 10||Logachev, Lindgren, Miskowiak, Milik (dnf)||66.57s||(18-42)|
|Heat 11||Madsen, Doyle, Milik, Woryna||65.44s||(19-47)|
|Heat 12||Logachev, Przedpelski, Swidnicki, Tudziez||65.91s||(22-50)|
|Heat 13||Holta, Lambert, Logachev, Lindgren||65.82s||(25-53)|
|Heat 14||Przedpelski, Woryna, Miskowiak, Lambert||65.33s||(27-57)|
|Heat 15||Doyle, Milik, Logachev, Holta (dnf)||65.66s||(30-60)|
GKM Grudziadz 36-54 Sparta Wroclaw (Sparta Wroclaw win 107-73 to win Team Bonus Point)
Sparta Wroclaw kept themselves in the hunt for the final playoff place with a convincing 18-point victory at GKM Grudziadz. The win sees them go into their crunch match at ROW Rybnik knowing their fate could already be sealed by the time the tapes next go up for them.
A shock in the opening heat saw Maciej Janowski hit the kerb on the inside on the opening lap, resulting in mechanical difficulties that eventually saw him fall the length of the straight behind, while his partner Chris Holder (9+2) was unable to land a blow on Kenneth Bjerre as the hosts took a first-race maximum. The superior junior pairing of Chuganov and Liszka immediately restored parity in the next race.
Heat five saw all manner of chaos as any of Max Fricke (9+1), Chris Holder and Kenneth Bjerre (7+1) could have either won the race or ended up in the airfence. After numerous bumps in the opening exchanges and multiple swaps for position, the Australian duo took Wroclaw’s third maximum in the opening five heats to establish a six-point lead. A completely breathtaking race that came totally out of the blue after a somewhat mundane set of opening duels.
Two heats later, Nicki Pedersen received some of his own medicine (RE: battle with Laguta against Motor Lublin) as Tai Woffinden sought to push Nicki Pedersen as wide as possible. It looked as if the Brit was about to put Pedersen into the airfence having squared up mid-corner, but both remained firmly upright. That was until the Dane decided to make a gesture towards Woffinden on the run to the chequered flag, for which he received a yellow card from the referee for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Unfortunately for Grudziadz, there was nobody showing the same fighting spirit as Pedersen or the hugely in-form Artem Laguta (14), who is widely tipped to be signing for Sparta Wroclaw for the 2021 season. In fact, after Pedersen’s yellow card, it was only Laguta who won a race for Grudziadz, as the visitors were afforded five heat advantages in the last six races to run off with a deserved victory.
The Laguta and Pedersen show once again accounted for the majority of Grudziadz’ points tally; a second 14-point total in as many nights further outlined the Russian’s World Championship credentials and a solid 10 points for Pedersen improved his average for the season but with such a lack of squad depth, they can almost consider themselves fortunate that ROW Rybnik have been part of the league in 2020, else they could’ve been in a bit of trouble. It was also interesting to see Artem take a lap of honour at the end of the meeting – goodbye, perhaps?
Sparta Wroclaw were solid throughout again; Tai Woffinden topping with 12 points with double-figure backup in the shape of Gleb Chuganov (10+2) and GP series leader Maciej Janowski (10+1). With Australian pair Holder and Fricke also contributing, Wroclaw could be a threat if they can sneak into the top four on Monday night.
|Heat 1||Pedersen, Bjerre, Holder, Janowski||67.66s||(5-1)|
|Heat 2||Chuganov, Liszka, Lotarski, Zielinski||67.88s||(6-6)|
|Heat 3||Laguta, Woffinden, Pawlicki, Drabik||66.19s||(10-8)|
|Heat 4||Fricke, Chuganov, Buczkowski, Lotarski||67.89s||(11-13)|
|Heat 5||Fricke, Holder, Bjerre, Pawlicki||67.43s||(12-18)|
|Heat 6||Laguta, Janowski, Drabik, Zielinski||67.29s||(15-21)|
|Heat 7||Pedersen, Woffinden, Buczkowski, Liszka||68.08s||(19-23)|
|Heat 8||Laguta, Holder, Fricke, Lotarski||66.08s||(22-26)|
|Heat 9||Janowski, Pedersen, Buczkowski, Chuganov||67.66s||(25-29)|
|Heat 10||Woffinden, Chuganov, Bjerre, Pawlicki (dnf)||66.75s||(26-34)|
|Heat 11||Janowski, Pedersen, Fricke, Bjerre||67.40s||(28-38)|
|Heat 12||Chuganov, Bjerre, Liszka, Lotarski||67.80s||(30-42)|
|Heat 13||Laguta, Woffinden, Holder, Buczkowski||67.34s||(33-45)|
|Heat 14||Holder, Janowski, Bjerre, Buczkowski||67.80s||(34-50)|
|Heat 15||Woffinden, Laguta, Fricke, Pedersen||66.77s||(36-54)|
Standings as of 9.9.20
|[PO] Unia Leszno||13||5||10||0||3||144||25|
|[PO] Stal Gorzów||14||5||8||0||6||66||21|
|[R] ROW Rybnik||13||0||1||0||12||-269||2|
Note – BP= Bonus Points, scored when following a team-mate over the finish line (Cannot be scored if finishing last in the race.)
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