REPORT Friday 8th April 2022, 11:12pm
There was some very good racing in the first meeting of the new season at Armadale tonight, the home heat leaders were in very good form, but the majority of the plaudits certainly have to go to the very impressive Berwick Bullets (52-38 winners) and in particular, spectacular 15 year old debutant Ace Pijper.
The Grant Henderson Tankers Bullets took the lead in heat 2 and gradually extended it during the evening, not allowing the home side a single race advantage.
Stellar Devils' manager Alan Budzynski was naturally disappointed but added "We kept ourselves in with a chance until near the end. Willie Lawson was amazing and Tom Woolley was very good, but there were too many first night nerves. I'm sure we can go down to Berwick next week and do a better job."
It was a very cold evening and the first heat took a while to complete, but the rest of the match was raced through in not much more than an hour to allow the fans to head off to get thawed out. That was surely appreciated.
In that opener Kyle Bickley broke the tapes and Kieran Douglas became entangled in them, switching machines then switching back. Referee McGregor probably gave him some leeway with the time allowance but that was fair enough as it was not really his fault. When the heat got under way again, it was a tremendous ride from Bickley to come from 15 metres and pick off the men in front, catching Danny Phillips on the last lap.
That was quite a start but heat two was perhaps even more notable, with Ace Pijper in his first ever league match, rocketing from gate 4 and winning in the fastest time of the night. Everyone watching will have felt they were looking at the start of something big. "I surprised myself" was Ace's only comment at the end of the night.
Eight of the next ten heats were shared but the big problem for the Devils was that they just could not get an advantage. The closest they came was heat 3 in which the home riders Tom Woolley and George Rothery crossed the line ahead of their rivals, but during the heat Rothery had a big loss of control and impeded Greg Blair. For that his exclusion light came on.
There were some excellent battles for race wins between the heat leaders, and further back in the races there was generally a good tussle going on for the minor places as well. Woolley lost out to Bickley after passing and re-passing in heat 5, Lawson had to come from the back a couple of times and there was something worth watching in the great majority of the heats.
The problem for the Devils was that their backup riders, whilst not out of things, were regularly losing out in these important battles for the minor places and that's what allowed the Bullets to gradually pull clear.
Lawson dropped just the one point to Bickley (heat 11) and gained revenge in heats 13 and 15. Tom Woolley just lost once until the final heat in which he finished at the back. Danny Phillips contributed decent points and new signing Josh Embleton looked solid and will surely contribute well as the season goes on.
The other three team members scored just a single point each so they will have to overcome these opening night nerves and step things up.
For the Bullets there was success throughout the side. Greg Blair and Luke Crang gave strong backing to top man Bickley but everyone else was scoring well, with only two last places all night.
In years to come though it is likely the meeting will be remembered as the debut of sensational Ace Pijper.