A Year in Summary : 2005
The Grand Prix
The story of the 2005 World Championship is wholly dominated by one man - Tony Rickardsson.
Tony started the season with five titles under his belt and hoping to clinch one more to equal Ivan Mauger's record haul. He started off in the right way by storming to seven consecutive race wins in the series opener at Wroclaw. The new formula saw each rider take part in five qualifying heats, then some progress to the semi-final and final. Tony won the lot and established himself as the man to beat.
Defending champion Jason Crump stepped up his campaign by winning the second round at Eskiltuna. His victory required a bit of good fortune as Rickardsson was leading the final only for a rerun to be called.
From then on in it was Rickardsson all the way. He triumphed at Krsko, Cardiff, Copenhagen and Marketa and looked like he would have the series in the bag with two rounds to spare. The Cardiff round was notable for a disastrous meeting from Jason Crump, the Aussie being excluded in three of his five races.
The expectation was that Tony Rickardsson would clinch his title on home soil at Malilla. For once things didn't go to plan as Crump won his second GP of the season and in doing so delayed the inevitable.
Rickardsson eventually clinched the title at Bydgoszcz in Poland, despite his eight point haul being his poorest return of the season. Local hero Tomasz Gollob once again proved too good for the rest around the Polish circuit.
Tony bounced back in style at Lonigo and won his sixth Grand Prix of the season. A quite remarkable seaonal record that will take some beating. Crump finished the season in second place with Leigh Adams, Nicki Pedersen and Greg Hancock completing the top five.
The Elite League
Coventry Bees overcame a terrible start to the season to end the year as Elite League champions. The Bees were rock bottom of the league at the end of May and were hit hard when they lost Rory Schlein to a fractured vertebrae. Somehow they managed to turn their year around and finished the league section of the competition in second place.
The only team above them was the revitalised Belle Vue Aces. The Manchester side were now under the control of Tony Mole and Ian Thomas and were a much more professional outfit than they had been in recent years. Jason Crump led the way for the Aces and they topped the league from early in the season until its conclusion.
Coventry and Belle Vue were therefore given home advantage in the play-off semi finals and they both progressed, disposing of Peterborough and Eastbourne respectively. Eastbourne were missing David Norris for their clash with the Aces, although this was balanced out by Kenneth Bjerre's absence in the Belle Vue side.
Coventry clinched the title in style by winning both legs of the play-off final. The first leg at Brandon saw them triumph by 54 points to 41. Jason Crump's 21 point maximum (from 6 rides) will be the abiding memory of that meeting. Coventry completed the job by winning the return by 47 to 42.
Belle Vue took some consolation from winning the Knockout Cup for the first time since 1975. Eastbourne Eagles were the defeated finalists.
Oxford and Swindon were also amongst the silverware by winning the Craven Shield and the Pairs respectively. Eastbourne's Nicki Pedersen won the Elite League Riders Championship at Swindon.
One of the major controversies of the summer related to transfer dealings between the Elite clubs. Oxford set it in motion by signing Greg Hancock and Billy Hamill without the permission of parent club Coventry. Coventry demanded transfer fees for both riders but Oxford insisted on loan deals. The knock-on effect was that Coventry refused to pay Ipswich for the full transfer of Scott Nicholls and Swindon refused to pay Coventry for Lee Richardson. The whole mess was resolved after much discussion between all parties, but it has surely hastened the end of the 'asset' system.
The Premier League
Rye House Rockets were pre-season favourites to win this year's league and they didn't disappoint. Their team building followed the familiar pattern of a championship winning side, it featured improving youngsters such as Chris Neath, Daniel King and Edward Kennett, alongside reliable and experienced performers - Stuart Robson and Brent Werner. They led the league throughout and never looked likely to miss out on the big prize.
The also won one of the league's other big competitions when they defeated Workington in the Premier Trophy final. The two sides had battled though the Southern and Northern qualifying groups.
A late season injury to Stuart Robson weakened the Rockets in other competitions. King's Lynn defeated the Rockets in both the KO Cup and Young Shield finals. The success of the Stars was just reward for the hard working Chapman family who have transformed the club in recent years. Sadly their year ended in tragedy when Ashley Jones was killed while racing in his native Australia.
Somerset Rebels won the fours competition, defeating home side Workington by a single point in the final. The Rebels' Magnus Zetterstrom also tasted individual success by winning the Champions Chase at King's Lynn.
Sean Wilson was another celebrating when he defeated fellow veteran Alan Mogridge to win the Premier League Riders Championship. As the meeting was staged at Sheffield the usual arguments about home advantage were trotted out, as they were when Glasgow won the pairs.
Sadly the league lost two long standing members when Hull and Exeter were kicked out of their rented stadia. Hull seemed to spend the whole season in financial disarray and even failed to complete their fixtures. The league has also now lost Reading to the Elite League, but that is balanced out by Mildenhall's promotion from the Conference League.
The Conference League
Oxford Silver Machine Academy's progressive youth policy was rewarded when they clinched the Conference League title. Let's hope that the new Oxford promotion will allow them to defend their title in 2006. Wimbledon and Weymouth finished in second and third place respectively.
Other winners were Armadale (Conference Trophy), Weymouth (Cup and Fours), Wimbledon (Pairs) and Steve Boxall (Riders Championship).
The league welcomed new member Scunthorpe and welcomed back Sittingbourne after a long absence. Many of the member clubs also staged a visit from the USA Dream Team, a fantastically successful tour that will hopefully be repeated in future years.
The World Cup
One of the biggest surprises of the competition occurred before the main event itself. Russia outgunning America in a qualifying round and joining Germany in the competiton proper.
Team GB got off to a great start by winning the first semi-final, staged at Swindon, ahead of the highly fancied Danes. The success was achieved despite the absence of big-hitters Mark Loram and David Norris. Lee Richardson led the way with a faultless 15 point maximum, despite him suffering from illness. His team mates were Joe Screen, Scott Nicholls, Chris Harris and Simon Stead. Stead was a late call up and actually had to return from holiday to take part.
The action moved on to Eskiltuna in Sweden for the second semi-final. It was an amazingly tight affair and the home side progressed with 51 points, just ahead of Australia on 50 and Poland on 49. Germany were somewhat out of their depth and managed only five points.
The second and third sides in the semis met up in Poland for the last chance qualifier. Poland, boosted by the inclusion of Rune Holta, won convincingly and moved through to the final. Denmark also qualified comfortably ahead of an Aussie side that was missing Jason Crump. Crump had been floored by a virus.
Hopes were high that the British side would mount a challenge in the final but it never really materialised. Instead the Poles were in a class of their own and racked up 62 points. Sweden finished on 34, Denmark on 31 and GB on 26. The winning side was Walasek, Holta, Protasiewicz, Hampel and Gollob.
The Poles also won the inaugural Under 21 World Cup. They defeated Sweden, Denmark and the Czech Republic in the final at Pardubice.
Scott Nicholls was crowned British Champion after defeating Chris Harris and Joe Screen in the final. Mark Loram took a tumble in the first staging of the final and was excluded.
Eddie Kennett won the British Under 21 final around his home circuit at Rye House, Daniel King coming to grief in the final.
The World Under 21 final was 'won' by Krzysztof Kasprzak on the toss of a coin. The meeting itself was abandoned and the track was too treacherous for a run off to be staged. Tomas Suchanek was the unlucky man who made the wrong call.
Edinburgh's William Lawson was a convincing victor in the British Under 18 final at Wolverhampton. The Scot scored a maximum 15 points.
This article was first published on 31st December 2005
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